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Harsanyi: Let’s Eat the Rich

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Some wiseguys at the Economic Freedom Network just released a survey alleging that the United States has fallen from the sixth-freest economy in the world to the 10th-freest. The survey is based on four foundations of a healthy capitalist society: "personal choice, voluntary exchange coordinated by markets, freedom to enter and compete in markets, and protection of persons and their property from aggression by others." Or what progressives might call greed, racism, unfairness and immorality.

He can afford it.

Some wiseguys at the Economic Freedom Network just released a survey alleging that the United States has fallen from the sixth-freest economy in the world to the 10th-freest. The survey is based on four foundations of a healthy capitalist society: "personal choice, voluntary exchange coordinated by markets, freedom to enter and compete in markets, and protection of persons and their property from aggression by others."

Or what progressives might call greed, racism, unfairness and immorality.

Certainly, this decline is no surprise. After imagined outbreaks of "unfettered" capitalism, these tenets have been on the outs around these parts. Technocrats want to coordinate markets and choices. And "having" is now the same as "taking." Hey, and the government has been monumentally irresponsible with that "budgeting" deal for a few decades, so it's time to hold someone responsible. Why not the rich?

When President Barack Obama unveiled his new un-passable "deficit reduction plan," many accused him of playing class envy. The plan ostensibly calls for $1 in budget cuts (cuts that would never happen) for every $1 in tax increases ($1.5 trillion). And if we're not willing to ask more from the rich, says the president, "then the logic -- the math -- says everybody else has to do a whole lot more; we've got to put the entire burden on the middle class and the poor."

This argument is offered by Obama in endless iterations, but it won't add up until we invent an Arabic numeral that signifies a lie. In no way, by no percentage, no matter how you quantify or qualify or twist it, does the middle class (or certainly the poor) pay more in taxes than the rich. As an Associated Press fact check put it, "on average, the wealthiest people in America pay a lot more taxes than the middle class or the poor, according to private and government data."

That doesn't mean a person can't argue the rich should pay more than the 80 or 90 percent of federal taxes they already do. Go for it. In that debate, Republicans can make many strong arguments about how tax-the-rich schemes (seemingly Obama's sole idea) are counterproductive. But there are three points that they can't make but should.

First, let's thank the rich for being so generous.

Because there is no shared sacrifice. If the wealthy were really paying their fair share of this out-of-control budget, the rest of us would be destitute tout de suite .

Taxes have not increased for the middle class in a very long time. The poor (by which we also mean people starting out and ending their careers) haven't been asked to "sacrifice" for that $3.7 trillion gift to humanity called a budget. If this immense government is so moral, patriotic and embedded in our national fiber, why not ask everyone to participate, Mr. President?

Life's not fair.

You'll notice that for many progressives, taking from the rich is not simply a necessity of budgeting but a moral imperative and a tool to institute fairness that capitalism supposedly hasn't. After Rep. Paul Ryan deconstructed the president's phony political deficit plan, Daily Beast (Newsweek) columnist Michael Tomasky asked whether the congressman is "stupid, a liar, or something even more malevolent, a morally diseased ogre who secretly believes ... that the rich deserve every handout government can offer them."

You'll notice that Tomasky is lashing out and moralizing as if someone had challenged his religious beliefs. ... Oh. Is earned money really a government handout? I guess that if you believe -- as Tomasky and others clearly do -- that the bigger the government the more moral the society, perhaps all of this makes sense somehow.

We don't need their money.

Even if Obama's increases on the rich would slightly help the bottom line on the deficit -- and that is a best-case scenario without any entitlement reform --many barbarians like me would not care. It is no lasting solution. It's not a solution at all. We need a smaller, leaner Washington. It won't happen if we raise taxes without any coinciding reform and serious slashing of spending.

That, though, is anathema to the left. Though there is nothing more moral we could do.

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Follow @davidharsanyi.

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