With all the nasty dialogue over the current tax reform proposal, a few simple words come to mind:
We should all agree to disagree.
This was the conclusion I shared after a recent dispute with a friend over which football game to watch. We had tickets to the Eagles and he still wanted to go, but with the weather not looking good I preferred going to a local sports bar. The discussion got heated but eventually we resumed to enjoying our breakfast. He took someone else to see the Birds and I went alone to the bar.
Later that week another argument ensued, this time with a relative at dinner over Social Security. She is supportive of the program whereas I am not. This, too, was spirited, until the same magic words were uttered.
This time, however, I was the only one who truly wanted to abide by it. The payroll taxes listed on my next paycheck will not reflect my opposition. Such is the nature of the fundamental difference between capitalism — pure, laissez-faire capitalism — and socialism, in all its degrees and forms. With the latter, even if I disagree, I am forced to comply.
You can see this playing out with the tax debate. To libertarians like myself, the GOP-backed bill passed Friday in the Senate is flawed in that doesn't go far enough, and the lack of accompanying spending cuts especially presents a concern. But the leftist complaints are downright silly, especially those from the "elites."
Start with the recent Tom Steyer op-ed in the Los Angeles Times: "I'm a billionaire. Please raise my taxes." (Yes, that really was the title.) The activist author of the piece accused the Republicans of both greed and selfishness, writing:
"[B]illionaires like Trump, and me, can more than afford to pay our fair share."
Which brings us to the Dec. 1 tweets of ABC political analyst Matthew Dowd:
"Any tax savings that I might get from this unfair and mean-spirited GOP tax bill I will donate to charities to help the poor and vulnerable. Who is with me?"
Dowd followed this up by accusing the Republicans of lacking compassion.
It is important to note, here, that neither gentleman needs politicians to achieve their wishes. They can simply agree to disagree and then demonstrate their disagreement by visiting https://www.fiscal.treasury.gov/fsfaq/fs_gifts_to_govt.htm to obtain the directions for mailing unconditional gifts to the U.S. Treasury. (Operative word here: unconditional.) I propose that, at the very least, on principle, they submit the amount they would owe in taxes pre-GOP tax bill. And following Dowd's example, they can solicit their like-minded friends to do the same.
Now please don't tell me how these guys and others of their ilk will simply hike up their charitable giving if the GOP bill passes. That doesn't count!
Dowd, for example, would be using his personal discretion to direct his own assets as he alone sees fit, just as the proponents of tax cuts hope to do, whether we wish to do the same and/or invest and/or spend it on ourselves and family.
Also consider that after last year's election, talk show host John Oliver encouraged donations to Planned Parenthood in the name of Vice President Pence. True, there are many like Pence who wish to ban abortion. But there are also many of us who don't, while still considering it a grave injustice to coerce others into funding an organization whose activities conflict with their own moral and religious conscience.
So here we have Oliver asking people to direct their wealth toward specific purposes that they personally deem appropriate. No opposition here!
This would not hold true in reverse, though. Fast-forward to 2021 under President Elizabeth Warren, when I submit the op-ed "Greg Manco: I'm a thousandaire. Please cut my taxes." I will have to write so convincingly that enough legislators read the essay and concur with my reasoning. Otherwise, I am out of luck. There is no Treasury website for me to visit to reclaim my losses when taxes go up against my wishes.
That's the whole point. People in a true capitalist society can agree to disagree and "opt out" by living in communes. So long as membership is voluntary, they have a right to adopt whatever social rules they want. Knock yourselves out. But in a statist society, those of us who advocate individual rights and liberty cannot set up our own shop. We must pay by our political opponents' rules, upon penalty of being forced to make license plates.
Whatever the case, I say to Steyer and Dowd: Nothing is easier than spending other peoples' money. There is zero compassion involved in doing that. And, please, once the GOP tax bill is signed into law, do check out that website and proceed accordingly with your unconditional payments to the Treasury.
Trust me, the government won't give it back.
Greg Manco is a mathematics professor at St. Joseph's University. firstname.lastname@example.org