Class warfare. I’m not sure I really understand what this means because I don’t consider myself part of “a class.” But I guess, if you had to classify me, you would say I fall into the “middle” class. My family lives in a nice neighborhood; we go to nice schools and we make our ends meet (although sometimes we have leaner months than others). I don’t understand class warfare. I’ve never encountered a situation in which I took something from someone who had less than me and I don’t recall ever feeling gypped because someone had more than I did. When I see this kind of clip, from Joe Biden, it makes me wonder why this kind of argument exists.
Why does the President want to take this money from the
wealthy? What is the pay off? As I consider this question, I realize that the
root of this particular issue is envy—the desire for something that someone else
has—and selfishness. When taking
the total sum of a person’s income and comparing it to another’s, the numbers
seem unbalanced. Some people have so much more than others. There are plenty of
reasons for this. For the record, I do believe that some groups and classes of
people have less access to resources than others—and that is unfair.
However, there are other measures of a person’s wealth that have nothing to do
with income (and/or health care, welfare services, etc). A great deal of an
individual’s quality of life has to do with their family situation, religious
belief and personal disposition.
So, then my next question is: Why does the
government concern itself with jealousy? The answer is that the constituency does.
The electorate—at least a portion—sees what other people have and they want it.
We have the legislative and executive body that we do because they were elected by people who would prefer that
someone else help the needy, pay the debt and generally take care of what’s
messed up. When you allow government to take care of things, then you don’t have
to give of yourself or your finances.
One counter argument could be that one person cannot fix all the things
that are wrong. However, one person times one million people can make a big
difference. There are plenty of individuals who do not have funding in sectors
of education, welfare and business who have had to rely on ingenuity to
progress rather than hand-outs.
The argument that the wealthy should bear the
entire financial burden of a large government and its program is not practical
or moral, nor is it logical (which is my contention here).
It seems the
main argument is: Rich people have a lot of money. Poor people do not have a
lot of money. Therefore, the government should take money from rich people to
pay for everything. There are various shades to this argument and I realize
that the argument is more complex than this one syllogism. However, the logical
fallacies need pointing out because they seem to be completely ignored by all
who buy in to this argument.
The first problem with the logic is the idea that moving
money around will make a difference in the lives of the people who benefit from
the shift. Often people who lack physical resources also lack the ability to
manage their resources, therefore rendering the shift meaningless because the
resources that are shifted are not used wisely. Second, the position assumes
that the government (and its officials) are the best judges of how much money
is an “appropriate” amount. The acceptance of “the government” as a moral and
just body capable of making these kinds of decisions mystifies me. There are
plenty of historical cases in which those in power have decided that how much
money was appropriate and, in all of the cases I am aware of, this was barely
enough to live on (the most extreme case being Communist Russia or many
current states in the Middle East).
This assumption negates the fallibility of human beings and undermines
the very abuses that the Constitution was instituted to avoid. Third, the
syllogism offers an either/or proposition. You either are a greedy rich person
who should give up your wealth or you are a needy poor person who needs someone
to give it to you (or as another underlying value, you are the government who
has made poor decisions and the wealthy should bail you out). The principles in
these scenarios villainize both sides and inadequately illustrate the value and
impact of an individual in either group.
Another related fallacy is a hasty
generalization. By applying the behavior of the few (rich people who are
greedy, immoral despots) to an entire group (people who make more than $250,000
a year), the conclusion fails to account for the varied experience in the American
spectrum. The unstated assumption here is that rich people are bad and
therefore it is fair to take their money to pay for programs, debt and other
During the first 2012 Presidential debate, the candidates discussed the
deficit. Obama kept repeating that it was fine to take money from the people
that could afford it. The problem
with this idea is that if it’s ok to take money from one kind of person, then
it's ok to take money from any kind of person. Once you make allowances in
principle for one thing, all allowances are possible. When someone decides that
I have “enough” money will they take it from me as well?