Monday, December 27, 2010
Taxing The Parasites
Steve Benen notices what seems to be a jarring inconsistency in conservative philosophy (is there any other kind?) regarding taxes. It's taken as a given that the right hates taxes, of course. But there have been signs over the past few years that the Republican elite really and truly only hate taxes for the wealthy --- there has been a recent return to ancient themes about the lazy, morally corrupt poor who must be forced to "contribute" more so that they understand the burdens they place on the true producers of our society:
[L]et's appreciate the underlying point of the conservatives' concern -- for all the talk on the right about cutting taxes at every available opportunity, there's also a drive to raise taxes on those who can least afford it. The GOP has a natural revulsion to any tax system, but there's an eerie comfort with a regressive agenda that showers additional wealth on the rich while asking for more from lower-income workers.
In fact, the drive on the right to increase the burdens on these middle- and lower-class families is getting kind of creepy. Some on the far-right have begun calling these Americans "parasites." Earlier this year, Fox News' Steve Doocy went so far as to ask whether those who don't make enough to qualify for income taxes should even be allowed to vote.
Obviously, there's nothing new in this belief. I suspect it goes all the way back to the beginning, but certain notions by the world's great religions mitigated some of that as well as did the knowledge that altruism is a natural component of human beings' evolution and inherent organizing principles. But recently, there has been growth in a "philosophy" that celebrates selfishness and it's been fairly well absorbed by the right wing elite.
Here's a little excerpt of Howard Roarke's speech from The Fountainhead:
“Nothing is given to man on earth. Everything he needs has to be produced. And here man faces his basic alternative: he can survive in only one of two ways — by the independent work of his own mind or as a parasite fed by the minds of others. The creator originates. The parasite borrows. The creator faces nature alone. The parasite faces nature through an intermediary.
“The creator’s concern is the conquest of nature. The parasite’s concern is the conquest of men.
“The creator lives for his work. He needs no other men. His primary goal is within himself. The parasite lives second-hand. He needs others. Others become his prime motive.
“The basic need of the creator is independence. The reasoning mind cannot work under any form of compulsion. It cannot be curbed, sacrificed or subordinated to any consideration whatsoever. It demands total independence in function and in motive. To a creator, all relations with men are secondary.
“The basic need of the second-hander is to secure his ties with men in order to be fed. He places relations first. He declares that man exists in order to serve others. He preaches altruism.
“Altruism is the doctrine which demands that man live for others and place others above self.
“No man can live for another. He cannot share his spirit just as he cannot share his body. But the second-hander has used altruism as a weapon of exploitation and reversed the base of mankind’s moral principles. Men have been taught every precept that destroys the creator. Men have been taught dependence as a virtue.
“The man who attempts to live for others is a dependent. He is a parasite in motive and makes parasites of those he serves. The relationship produces nothing but mutual corruption. It is impossible in concept. The nearest approach to it in reality — the man who lives to serve others — is the slave. If physical slavery is repulsive, how much more repulsive is the concept of servility of the spirit? The conquered slave has a vestige of honor. He has the merit of having resisted and of considering his condition evil. But the man who enslaves himself voluntarily in the name of love is the basest of creatures. He degrades the dignity of man and he degrades the conception of love. But this is the essence of altruism.
Some of these people have been worshiping this stuff since they were teenagers. Others don't even know where it comes from, just that people they know think this way and therefore it must be good.
Alan Greenspan, the most influential and powerful central banker of the last half century wrote this, as a young man:
‘Atlas Shrugged’ is a celebration of life and happiness. Justice is unrelenting. Creative individuals and undeviating purpose and rationality achieve joy and fulfillment. Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should.”
And he's certainly not the only one:
James M. Kilts, who led turnarounds at Gillette, Nabisco and Kraft, said he encountered “Atlas” at “a time in college life when everybody was a nihilist, anti-establishment, and a collectivist.” He found her writing reassuring because it made success seem rational.
“Rand believed that there is right and wrong,” he said, “that excellence should be your goal.”
John P. Stack is one business executive who has taken Rand’s ideas to heart. He was chief executive of Springfield Remanufacturing Company, a retooler of tractor engines in Springfield, Mo., when its parent company, International Harvester, divested itself of the firm in the recession of 1982, the year Rand died.
“There is something in your inner self that Rand draws out,” Mr. Stack said. “You want to be a hero, you want to be right, but by the same token you have to question yourself, though you must not listen to interference thrown at you by the distracters. The lawyers told me not to open the books and share equity.” He said he defied them. “ ‘Atlas’ helped me pursue this idiot dream that became SRC.”
Mr. Stack said he was 19 and working in a factory when a manager gave him a copy of the book. “It’s the best business book I ever read,” he said. “I didn’t do well in school because I was a big dreamer. To get something that tells you to take your dreams seriously, that’s an eye opener.”
Mr. Stack said he gave a copy to his son, Tim Stack, 25, who was so inspired that he went to work for a railroad, just like the novel’s heroine, Dagny Taggart.
Every year, 400,000 copies of Rand’s novels are offered free to Advanced Placement high school programs. They are paid for by the Ayn Rand Institute, whose director, Yaron Brook, said the mission was “to keep Rand alive.”
Last year, bookstores sold 150,000 copies of the book. It continues to hold appeal, even to a younger generation. Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, who was born in 1958, and John P. Mackey, the chief executive of Whole Foods, who was 3 when the book was published, have said they consider Rand crucial to their success.
Woe be to all those ordinary Joes and Janes who are just working at jobs and raising families and trying to find some happiness in their short time on earth without feeling they need to be conquerors. Among many of the political and business elite in America they are no longer considered neighbors or even customers. They are parasites. In other words, the American Dream is nothing more than a system designed to drain all the "purpose and reason" from the legitimate owners of the world. Taxing the hell out of them will teach them a necessary moral lesson.
Update: KeninNY at Down with Tyranny gathered the 10 worst GOP quotations on the unemployed. They're all doozies. But I think I like this one the best:
The people who have been laid off and cannot find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities. I say ‘generally’ because there are exceptions. But in general as I survey the ranks of those who are unemployed, I see people who have overbearing and unpleasant personalities and/or do not know how to do a days work.
That's Ben Stein, pretend economist, dishonest shill and 80s character actor.
digby 12/27/2010 04:00:00 PM