Saturday, September 13, 2008

Why I'm Not A Socialist

Socialism costs too much. Its depletion of personal freedoms is my primary reason for being against it, but cost is certainly up there on the list. Many of the people who talk about environmental sustainability are the same ones who scream for economic unsustainability:

Investor’s Business Daily ran a story recent, Tax To The Max on a Congressional Budget Office study of the U.S. finances.What it says is that spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other entitlement programs is unsustainably high. The study projects tax increases of 150%, with the lowest income-tax bracket going from 10% to 25% and top rates going from 35% to 88%.

The IBD correctly notes: “Allowed to grind on without real reform, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will do what no invading army or cabal of terrorists has done or will ever do: bring this mighty republic to its knees. Increasing federal taxes by 150% will strangle economic growth"...

The fundamental problem is that income-transfer programs (and the interest service on the debt purchased to keep them running) are spending wealth in higher volumes than the economy can actually generate, and demand for that spending is rising faster than the economy is growing. Thus, raising tax rates is no longer a way out, if it ever was. (boldface mine--Darren)

That concerns me, and it should concern every American taxpayer.

8 comments:

Ellen K said...

I truly think some of the problems we have with the economy today have their roots in the experiments into socialist twenty years ago. HMO's were the compromise to the national healthcare plan. I remember when my mom saved every receipt from the drugstore because she could take it all off taxes. A visit to the doctor was around $35, not a copay, but in total. The litigious nature of American courts created a firestorm of lawsuits, some deserved, some not. The result was higher insurance for providers which trickled down to higher costs to consumers. Add to that the layers of bureaucratic nonsense from insurers and necessary personnel to just fill out claims at offices and this more than anything else is the cause of higher healthcare costs. So if people like what this experiment with socialism has created, then they should be sure to vote for Democrats down the line. On the other hand, if looking at places like the state of California, with their high personal taxes and higher corporate taxes which drive businesses away, or Chicago which seems to get funds that disappear into providers pockets, and they doubt those schemes work, then they should seriously consider who they are voting for based on issues rather than mere personality.

allen (in Michigan) said...

You have to keep in mind though, that socialism does have its attraction otherwise it wouldn't have succeeded to the extent it has.

Like I wrote before, us conservatives are cluck-clucking about tooth decay and lefties are promising an unending, free supply of candy.

Whatever the issue if you look for some cost-free payoff you'll find the lefty appeal.

Global warming? If you're all up in arms about it you're very smart because you see the danger, very moral because unlike your morally-blinkered fellows you reach out to hug the entire planet and very courageous because you're willing to confront the powerful, capitalists of the world.

You get all those self-referential benefits without any noticeable effort which points up another lefty trait: laziness.

The above description puts me in mind of nothing so much as a stereotypical spoiled rich kid. Self-absorbed, lazy except in pursuit of whatever few things they value that a tantrum won't get them, relatively amoral although generally not to the extent of sociopathology and impatient.

Not that you have to be rich to display those trait but being rich allows you to get away with those traits further into adulthood.

rightwingprof said...

Of course, it has its attraction. Who isn't attracted by getting paid to do nothing but sit on your butt?

What drives me crazy is the dishonesty. My favorite example (or biggest peve): The label "Safety net."

Social Security is not a safety net. Neither is medicate. SS would only be a safety net if it only paid to those with no retirement plan, and only temporarily. Ditto Medicare. On the lighter side, I know people stupid enough to believe that they're going to retire on SS. I guess they never open those estimates they get every six months from the government, and see how small those checks are going to be.

mazenko said...

Allen,

I agree with you, and I find myself agreeing with the assertion that a low-tax, free market paradise is unlikely if our senior populations lose their pensions and health care, and a percentage of the elderly begin slipping back into poverty from which Social Security was to protect them. THAT SAID, I agree that S.S. was never intended to completely provide for a responsibility-free middle class retirement.

Though the constitution doesn't allocate for it, I don't have a problem with FEMA, nor, would I suspect, the residents of conservative state Texas that it is now facing $18 billion in hurricane damage. I don't have a problem with a public education system, though I concur there are problems with it. I also do not want to turn my retired parents' health care over to the market which would not find it financially feasible to care for them.

Let's not completely dismiss government's role - tax-supported fire departments are a socialist idea, and so is the FDA which was, no doubt, necessary in the 1900s and still is today if you've kept an eye on tainted food stories. Socialism in its European form is not for us, but let's not pretend that Sweden, Finland, and Norway don't do a few things much better than we, albeit on a smaller scale.

Like one of the first, and most inspiring of America's civil libertarians, Henry David Thoreau, said, "I ask not at once for no government, but for a better government, and when man is ready for it, that is precisely the form of government he shall have."

allen (in Michigan) said...

mazenko,

One of the attractions of socialism that I didn't mention, and this attraction underlies all the rest, is that it siphons off citizen sovereignty.

For folks who are reflexively dismissive of democracy and tolerate it grudgingly socialism, precisely because it siphons off citizen sovereignty, is a very attractive system. That's the attraction of socialism to *socialists*.

When one strips away the intricate and well-engineered rationalizations in support of socialist institutions they all devolve toward the single end-point of a society in which those who rule are distinct from the ruled and distinguished by a fitness to rule that's unquestionable but arbitrary.

With the above in mind, my disagreement with socialists regarding socialist institutions, is one of emphasis.

Socialists see a socialist institution as the unquestioned solution to every social problem and I see a socialist institution as the last, worst response - not solution - to a social problem. That means I see ignoring a social problem as sometimes preferable to the creation of a socialist institution since the principal that ought to guide social policy before all other is "first, do no harm".

mazenko said...

Allen,

You are absolutely correct on the most basic, albeit ideological level. I could oppose all taxes on the foundation that they violate my liberty and my right to choose to spend my money my way. However, while I often vote Libertarian, I have resisted requests to join the party precisely because it lacks a pragmatism necessary to run a government designed to ensure my freedoms. Case in point, the free market is not getting together to build its own roads.

Edmund Burke noted that "the revenue of the state is the state" and an underfunded government is inefficient and ineffective (NOTE: an overfunded one is a mess as well). This, the inability to collect taxes, is the precise reason for the failure of the Articles of Confederation, as well as the income tax amendment to the constitution. The US government has been able to function so effectively and lead on a international scale because of the financial system that it has an interest in supporting.

The current situation the market has backed itself into is a prime example of the complexity of this issue. Is there such a thing as too big to fail? Does the US government have an interest in backing these institutions. That's probably a bigger question than this one blog entry can handle, but I suspect the answer isn't simply, no.

allen (in Michigan) said...

An underfunded government is an inefficient government? Well that certainly explains why government is so reliably inefficient. It's the rare government that's adequately funded so it's the rare government that's efficient.

Efficiency has little to do with funding level since in a political entity it's political power that matters which is a function of the power of the various constituencies and who's the constituency for efficiency?

As to the importance of the current tax system in the effectiveness of the U.S. government, I guess we'll just have to take that on faith. Other then in "alternative reality" science fiction there's no way to know whether a less expensive government could've risen to the challenges of the twentieth century. I suspect that a government closer to the original intent would've done quite well but that's just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid were never meant to be the answer -- they are an unsustainable pyramid scheme. They are also a lie. You pay 7.75% and your employer matches it? Bull S. Your employer, knowing that everyone else must follow the same rules, just pays you 7.75% less than they could have otherwise. Effectively. your paying nearly 16% off the top, for programs you won't see the benefit from. There isn't really a good solution for you -- the only question is, do you want to make it better for your kids? And theirs?

The irony is that back in the day, they threw tea in the harbor in protest of tax rates that are incredibly small relative to what we pay now.

Long live the King!

Dan