Another angle on Waxman’s words: Wealth and Sin
I was horrified by reports that a powerful congressman, Henry Waxman, had said that Jews in New York’s ninth congressional district voted against President Barack Obama “to protect their wealth.” Could the obsession with backing Obama have led a leading Jewish politician to make such a stereotypical antisemitic remark?
In fact, Waxman’s statement was taken out of context. As usually happens, however, a proper understanding of what someone is saying teaches far more than stereotyping their argument.
Let’s examine Waxman’s statement as quoted in The Hill newspaper:
I think Jewish voters will be Democratic and be for Obama in 2012, especially if you get a Republican candidate like [Texas] Gov. [Rick] Perry. But there’s no question the Jewish community is much more bipartisan than it has been in previous years. There are Jews who are trending toward the Republican Party, some of it because of their misunderstanding of Obama’s policies in the Middle East, and some of it, quite frankly, for economic reasons. They feel they want to protect their wealth, which is why a lot of well-off voters vote for Republicans.
People are discussing the comments from a variety of standpoints, but I want to focus on the last line. Not the icky Jewish joke inscrutably lodged in that line, but another angle.
“They feel they want to protect their wealth.”
Yeah, so? Why shouldn’t they? Did they not earn it?
Waxman and his crowd would argue that they want, covetously and greedily, to shield their wealth from the Democrats, who will nobly take from them to give to the less fortunate. This merry band of self-congratulating latter-day Robin Hoods would suggest that if not for them, these greedy richers would never part with a thin dime, so they must take it from them.
This violates at least one of the Ten Commandments and nurtures serial forays deep into three of the Deadly Sins.
The question of what we “deserve” boils down to which came first, the individual human with rights, or the state. America was founded on the principle that the individual human with rights comes first. Any idea that violates that principle is counter to our founding idea. It is not possible to reconcile with our founding principle the idea of collective schemes in which we make some modification to “what we deserve.” We either deserve to keep all our own earnings – money – wealth – goods – or we do not have unalienable rights.
Now, what we decide to do with our own money will inevitably involve government functions of some kind. People have to have a government in some form. A certain minimum set of public services is essential to corporate human life. The American founding idea is that we the people decide what government will do, and we decide how much money government will have to do it with. Then we contribute out of what is inalienably ours.
In the American idea, the state doesn’t operate on the basis of “what we deserve.” It operates on the basis of law: definitions adopted by due process, and objective circumstances. “What we deserve” is outside the scope of the state’s competence to decide.
Essentially, 47% of Americans now pay no income tax whatsoever, and 40% actually get money back. Half the people are footing the bill for the other half. And, contrary top rhetoric, that percentage has gotten more lopsided in recently years—the share of the “bill” paid by the “rich” has gone up, and the share of people who pay nothing at all has risen at the same time. We have the most progressive income tax in the developed world. We have the second-highest corporate income tax in the world.
So we are not in any way even close to some state where we are drastically undertaxed, and where the rich are hoarding their cash and watching people starve in the streets as they drive by in their horseless carriages.
We are, rather, in a state where taxes are much higher than what can be considered voluntary under the social contract. Essentially, half of the population voting for politicians who in turn put a gun to the head of the other half, take their money from them, and give it to the first half. That is theft.
the bottom line is that a man whose title to his money is considered – as a first principle – subject to the whim of his neighbor, is a slave.
This situation also encourages Envy, Sloth, and Greed.
The envy should be easy enough to see. The entire climate nurtured by the left is one in which people are directed to resent other people for what those other people have. It’s unhealthy.
Similarly, it may be politically incorrect to say so, but it’s true: There are a lot of people who could be working, but aren’t. And they are almost always found among the ranks of people who say that the “rich” aren’t paying enough.
The greed thing is tougher for a lot of people to wrap their heads around, but only because we’ve been taught to see only rich people as capable of greed. But really, anyone can be greedy. And wanting more and more to be taken from someone who’s already been bearing a massively disproportionate share of the burden qualifies as being greedy.
But then there’s another angle. Maybe they’re voting for Republicans not only because they believe they deserve to keep the fruits of their labors, and are protecting those fruits from confiscatory taxation. Maybe they’ve also figured out that the Democrats overall platform is not conducive to the creation of wealth generally. It’s not just about taxation: It’s regulations and uncertainty and debt. Maybe they’re not just protecting their own wealth—maybe they’re standing up for the very environment in which wealth can be created, and standing against the forces that destroy that environment with almost every act they take.
Ardently devoted to the cause of human freedom, he has worked at the confluence of politics, activism, and public policy for more than a decade. He co-wrote a ten-part series of video shorts on economics, and has film credits as a researcher on 11 political documentaries, including Citizens United's notorious film on Hillary Clinton that became the subject of a landmark Supreme Court decision. He is the founder of several activist endeavors, including AnyStreet.org (now a part of Western Free Press) and Liberatchik.com. He is currently the managing editor of and principal contributor to WesternFreePress.com.