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26.11.02

Low-Income Taxpayers: New Meat For The Right

Prepare yourself for the latest cause of the political right: You are about to hear a great deal about how working Americans at the bottom of the economy are not paying enough in taxes.

You'd think the tax-cutters on that page {Wall Street Journal editorial] would be happy with a policy begun under Ronald Reagan to lift the income tax burden from Americans struggling to get by on modest paychecks. But no, it seems that because of our tax structure, the favorite causes of supply-siders -- big tax cuts for wealthy Americans and investors -- are just not popular enough. "While we would opt for a perfect world in which everybody paid far less in taxes," the editors write, "our increasingly two-tiered tax system is undermining the political consensus for cutting taxes at all."


I think this would be a politically disastrous move for the Right -- the stereotype of the rich voting Republican and the poor voting Democrat, while true in a general sense, causes people to underestimate the number of poor conservatives out there. Low-income people who vote Republican because of social issues (school prayer, abortion, etc.) may think twice if the party is proposing to raise taxes on their already meager income (and this effect would be stronger on them than the reverse policy would be on rich Democrats, because they can more easily afford higher taxes and can look at it as a form of charity). Taking up a "tax the poor" position would play right into the hands of Democrats if they adopt the policy -- much touted in the blog world -- of ditching the highly regressive payroll tax and making up the difference by making the income tax more progressive.

But what I find interesting about the WSJ's rationale is how Marxist it sounds. In Marxist theory, the shift to communism is brought about by the contradictions within capitalism. The proletariat is so ground down by the system that they rise up against it. So extreme Marxists oppose policies like welfare and social security that alleviate the worst pains of capitalism, because they ease the pressure for revolution. The "tax the poor" plan works similarly -- we have to keep the hurt on the poor so that they'll support us with their votes when we want to get rid of the (taxation) system.

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