President Obama has decreed that he is going to tax people who make over $250,000 at a higher rate than people making less, and millions of people are OK with it. How did we get to the place when elected officials can tax American citizens at disproportionate rates to pay for debt that was never constitutionally authorized and programs that have no constitutional validity?
Politicians – Democrats and Republicans alike– know that there are fewer high wage earners than lower and middle income earners. The same is true of employers and employees. An employer gets one vote but his or her employees can cancel his vote many times over. It’s no wonder that some of earliest our founders were fearful of an unbridled democracy. John Winthrop (1590–1657) declared democracy to be “the meanest and worst of all forms of government.”1 John Cotton (1585–1652) wrote in 1636: “Democracy, I do not conceive that ever God did ordain as a fit government either for church or commonwealth. If the people be governors, who shall be governed?”2 In the Federalist Papers (No. 10), James Madison (1751–1836) wrote that democracies are “spectacles of turbulence and contention.” Pure democracies are “incompatible with personal security or the rights of property. . . . In general [they] have been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”3
Democracy as it relates to taxing policy has been described as two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch.
The following is attributed to historian Alexander Fraser Tytler (or Tyler) (1747–1813). While I have not been able to find it in any of his writings, whoever wrote it understood where we are as a nation today:
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.
We are a nation where a majority of voters have discovered that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury, that is, from productive tax payers by putting people in power that will do their bidding. Fifty percent of the voting population doesn’t pay a penny in federal income taxes. Why would they ever vote for a president, congressman, or senator who wants to cut taxes and spending?
Who benefits by the higher tax? The people who vote for the higher tax believe they will. Small business owners are the ones who will pay the higher tax. If they are taxed more, they can’t hire more people, invest in new equipment, and advertise for new business. The wolves end up devouring all the sheep like the countryman who killed the goose that laid golden eggs. “As he grew rich he grew greedy; and thinking to get all the gold the goose could give, he killed it and opened it only to find nothing.”
- Quoted in A. Marvyn Davies, Foundation of American Freedom: Calvinism in the Development of Democratic Thought and Action (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1955), 11. [↩]
- Letter to Lord Say and Seal, quoted by Perry Miller and Thomas H. Johnson, eds., The Puritans: A Sourcebook of Their Writings, 2 vols. (New York: Harper and Row, [1938) 1963), 1:209-10. [↩]
- Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, The Federalist, Jacob E. Cooke, ed. (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1961), 61. [↩]