So this article calls attention to a fascinating inconsistency shared by our two parties:
1. Republicans (particularly Paul Ryan) want to cut taxes for the rich. But they also want to means-test entiltements–such as Social Security and Medicare. That means the rich will pay less to the IRS, but get less (or ideally nothing) from those programs–because they don’t need government’s help to sustain themselves.
2. The Democrats (particularly the socialist Bernie Saunders) wants to raise taxes on the rich–mainly to help pay for entitlement programs. Bu they also think the rich, like everyone else, are fully entitled to all the benefits available from those programs.
3. Republicans (meaning, in the extreme case, libertarians) think that taxing the rich is literally counterproductive. The less they pay, the more incentive they have to use their talents and resources in productive ways. The resulting prosperity benefits us all. There’s also the libertarian thought that taxing productivity is unjust; free people deserve to keep what they earn through their industrious and rational exertions. What we have here, of course, is sometimes called SUPPLY-SIDE ECONOMICS–or, in a more unfriendly mode, TRICKLE-DOWN ECONOMICS.
4. Democrats tend to believe that entitlements should be thought of as something all citizens deserve–or not as charity. “Means-testing” would undermine support for these programs in a variety of ways–but, first of all, through a misconception of what they are.
5. The Republicans, it’s true enough, want to “demoralize” entitlements by viewing them as aid to the unfortunate. Then they become something the individual should think of himself or herself as working not to need. The ideal of “entitlement,” the problem is, leads us to think we have a responsibility to provide the program to everyone, no matter what we (meaning the government) can actually afford. Republicans don’t want entitlement programs thought of as “rights,” but as something, ideally, a free and prosperous society can minimize or get beyond.
6. The Democrats deny that taxing the rich is counterproductive. The Republicans say they forget that eroding the conditions that maximize productivity guarantees the implosion of those programs we may actually need.
7. Let’s conclude by wondering whether there’s a certain kind of noble consistency in insisting that the rich pay more in taxes and not be entitled to government payments they don’t even need.