In search of a honest progressive
As more and more Democrats announce their candidacy for President, it is becoming painfully clear, that they are mouthing progressive thoughts in the most dishonest way. An honest progressive not only embraces progressive policies, but does the research and gives the subject deep thought and from that formulates a platform, that does the most with the limited resources, they would have a available to them, if they were elected President. Liberal or conservative politicians need to contend with limited resources.
Federal tax revenues as a percent of GDP have remained relatively stable since 1946. State tax revenues were very low in 1945, but increased dramatically until around the year 2000. Local tax revenues followed the state trend. The big drivers of state tax revenues were school funding and Medicaid. Total Federal, state, and local tax revenues all together are approaching 40%. Somewhat lower than other “progressive” nations of the world. But when you add in private sector donations to charity and private sector expenditures to health care, the US is in line with the percent of GDP being expended for those purposes in the more progressive European countries.
While it is not impossible to think a day may come when Americans are prepared to allow government to redistribute more of their income, that day has not yet come. Progressives afraid of challenging the poor and middle class to pay more for socialistic programs sell them by saying they will “tax the rich” and “give to the poor”. The fact that not a single European socialist economy does this does not trouble the politicians trying to “buy” votes.
Governments in these European progressive nations have pushed up against societal limits with regard to these expenditures. These limits express themselves through efforts to reduce taxes through “tax reform”, violent protests as took place in France, or simply resisting payment by moving income and assets offshore as occurred in those European countries that enacted “wealth taxes”. In essence each incremental dollar of government revenue meets with increasing resistance suggesting the tipping point of societal backlash is just over “the horizon”.
These same behaviors are increasingly becoming part of the American political landscape. Progressives policies emphasize a shift of tax revenue from the poor and middle class to the upper and wealthy class. Short term this has a lot of appeal, but longer term it does not work. The wealthy “just say no” and seek lower taxes (for example states like New York, Connecticut and Maryland have all blamed their revenue shortfall due to the increasing number of wealthy that have moved out of the state). When this happens tax revenues drop sharply and entitlement programs go unsupported with tax revenues. In essence, the more you depend on fewer and fewer people to fund socialist policies the more vulnerable the government becomes from these same people deciding to opt out of paying those taxes.
US progressive politicians have not given up on raising the overall level of taxes. But since the 1980s there have been multiple reactions by taxpayers to reform taxes (lower them). Nevertheless, progressives have adopted the mantra “if at first you don’t succeed, try try again.” So far it appears basing entitlement policies on the idea that new and higher taxes “will stick” has proven to be a poor bet.
So as these same progressives advocate for a dramatic expansion of entitlements without explaining in detail how they are going to fund the current entitlements, the taxpayers seem to split into two groups. Those that are willing to “take the money” and borrow from the future. And those that are unwilling to “take the money” and borrow from the future. The third group comprised of those that support paying more taxes themselves are pretty small.
All of this begs the simple question, are there any honest progressives left in the Democratic party? Let me phrase it differently, are there any progressives advocating a combination of polices that have a reasonable chance of producing a “sustainable socialistic” entitlement system? My contention is a resounding “no”. But let’s explore the basis for that conclusion.
A progressive looking at the political reality today, rather than advocate new entitlements would advocate entitlement reform. Not in the euphemistic way as code for “cutting” entitlements, but rather look at all the entitlements in place and ask the fundamental question “Given all the money this country is spending on entitlements, what is the wisest way to do so?” Showing taxpayers that they are prepared to be better stewards of the money they already direct, it may be possible in the future that taxpayers would be willing to part with more money (I have my doubts, but if anything will work, it is the belief by taxpayers that the government spends wisely.)
So time will tell if any of the 2020 progressive candidates adopts a platform of let’s do better with what we have. My money is on the belief that none will. And so I repeat the question… are there any honest progressives running for President in 2020? Do any of those running for office have a real plan that the American taxpayers will buy into to move the country towards sustainable socialism fueled by a strong capitalistic economy with the proper incentives in it to encourage the population to produce enough goods and services to meet their own needs and enough surplus to help others.
I did hear an honest progressive the other day on TV, but of course he is not running for office, so maybe there are a few honest progressives out there just not politicians. He said a progressive society is marked by not how much in taxes the wealthy pay, but how much the poor and middle class contribute to the tax revenues of the country. He pointed to the progressive countries in Europe and noted that VAT taxes and payroll taxes on a combined basis contribute 20% more to government revenues in Europe then similar taxes in America and that these taxes tend to be proportional taxes paid by all citizens.
He went on to say that the wealthy are a nice source of government revenues since taxing them troubles the fewest number of voters (some actually applaud the effort), but he said the fundamental problem with the wealthy is that there are just to few of them to make a truly progressive entitlement system work. He went on to say, you need the masses to make progressive socialism work and that means the poor and middle class must pay a great deal more in taxes. Said another way, the wealthy as defined as the top one tenth of one percent of taxpayers represent about 138,000 taxpayers. In contrast, the rest consist of 138,200,000 taxpayers.
So it works out that if you raise taxes on the top .1% of taxpayers by $1 million each, you get $138 billion dollars of extra tax revenue. Not bad, if you can convince the top .1% of taxpayers to go along. On the other hand, to raise the same amount of tax revenue on the rest of the taxpayers means collecting an additional $999 each.
Of course, $1 million each on the top .1% is not enough to solve our budget problems much less add any new entitlements and it is questionable at what point the wealthy will begin to move their income out of reach of the taxman. On the other hand, what are the chances that a politician will get elected promising to raise taxes on the all Americans by $1,000 a year and again that is not enough money to solve our current entitlement funding shortfall, not even close.
And so I rest my case, today’s progressive politicians are dishonest, they have no answers on how to fund the promises they are making. That means they are not redistributing income from the wealthy to the poor, but rather they are stealing income from the poor of the next generation to give to the poor of this generation… that does not sound honest, fair or compassionate to me.