How Many Times Can They Spend the Same Money?

There is a famous story about a former professional football coach, a wheeler-dealer type, who traded draft choices at warp speed. One year, however, even he went too far when he traded the same draft pick to two different teams. The NFL had to remind him that you can only trade a pick once.

Someone should repeat this story to liberal Democrats who have made promises to every spending lobby under the sun. The problem is that they’re spending the same money multiple times. 

Consider these recent headlines:

(1) Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) has promised a “middle-class tax cut” to be paid for by raising taxes on the “rich,” including a hike in capital gains rates and corporate tax rates.

(2) Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) has proposed a vast expansion of federal involvement in healthcare with generous subsidies to be paid for by an increase in personal tax rates for the “rich.”

(3) Rep. Charles Rangel (N.Y.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has considered proposing a long-term “fix” for the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) to keep the middle class from paying this levy. Reports are that Rangel will propose raising regular income tax rates on, you guessed it, the “rich” in order to fix a tax that was originally designed only to affect the “rich.” Oh, what a tangled web we weave.

And today’s papers report that Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland is proposing a surtax on “the rich” in order to pay for that state’s profligate spending. But he’s only a governor and fortunately can only increase the misery of the long-suffering taxpayers of Maryland. However, we can also add that other national politicians have advocated taxing the “rich” to create an even more generous drug benefit for seniors or to fund spending on more infrastructure needs.

Do you see a pattern here? Taxing the “rich” has become devoid of intellectual meaning and is nothing more than a campaign placeholder for whatever spending program a liberal politician wants to propose. Leave aside the fact that history demonstrates that tax increases almost never generate the amount of money estimated because individuals logically rearrange their affairs to avoid the full impact of the tax.

How can taxing the “rich” simultaneously pay for generous healthcare benefits, a middle-class tax cut, an AMT repeal, and the other programs? It can’t. Such rhetoric, though, serves a twofold campaign  purpose, namely, to buy off major constituencies in return for votes and to demonize the targets of the tax increases as selfish and unworthy to retain what they have earned.

And how about the final irony: Which liberal candidate for president is advocating using these funds to pay down the deficit?