Us vs. Them, redux

Among the first columns I ever penned for this august website was entitled "Us vs. Them", a (lighthearted) series of observations about the differences between "us" – conservatives – and "them" – liberals/socialists.

Perhaps the primary difference between "us" and "them" is our differing views on the role of government. "We" believe that government exists to preserve freedom, including, of course, economic freedom; to permit people to earn what they can and keep what they earn. "They", on the other hand, believe that government exists to establish "fairness"; that as freedom rewards talent and effort, both of which are maldistributed throughout the population, government should take from talented, productive folks and give to their less talented, less driven neighbors.

Perhaps more basically, "we" believe that a system which rewards folks based upon their talent and drive is fair; "they" dissent, averring that disparities of income and wealth are per se "unfair", and that government exists, quoth our President, to "spread the wealth around".

But unalloyed socialism is a difficult sell; most folks don’t mind "helping" (although "we" think they should reconsider endowing government with that authority) and buy into the leftist trope that government exists to "help", but, inconsistently, want their taxes low and government small. Liberals/socialists usually try to buy their votes by creating governmental programs which "help" everyone, figuring that if a middle class voter gets a benefit, however small and disproportionate to his tax bill, he’ll support the program, despite the fact that the bulk of the benefits are directed to wealth redistribution. One can’t argue with political success. The massive expansion of the size and scope of government – to the increasing detriment of freedom – is a proven vote-getter.

Or, put another way, the old Democratic formula – "tax and tax, spend and spend, elect and elect" – while economic poison, is political gold. Many voters prefer a concrete "benefit" today, blind to the economic destruction wreaked by the taxes necessary to support said program. Or, even more simply, some folks actually believe that robbing their neighbors for their own benefit constitutes good policy. As long as someone else pays the tax, and they get the benefit, they’re fine with it. As the old adage goes, "he who robs Peter to pay Paul can count upon the support of Paul."

And such explains the philosophy of the Democratic Party. They create enough Pauls to win elections, using the Peters’ money to buy the Pauls’ votes.

But what happens when the inevitable economic devastation that results from socialism kicks in, the money starts to run short, and a lot of folks who used to be Pauls all of a sudden find themselves Peters?

Perhaps, just maybe, Governor Corzine’s present budget will finally awaken the mass of the middle class that socialism is not about them. Or, actually, we have met "the rich", and he is us.

Liberals like to pretend that their policies "help" the middle class and the poor, while only targeting "the rich". Of course, the joke’s on us. The rich are far too few and far too smart to sit still and see their wealth confiscated by the envycrats; that’s how they got to be rich. To fund their socialist agenda, liberals aim squarely at the middle class, because, simply, that’s where the money is. Anyone who makes one dollar more than average can expect the confistacrats to aim squarely at his wallet, assertedly for the benefit of "the poor".

Unlike Obama, who can – temporarily – hide the true costs of his socialist exercises with huge budget deficits and by cranking up the printing press, Corzine is bound by the Constitution. McGreevey poisoned the well for all future liberals by being so brazen about unconstitutionally borrowing for operating expenses that even the NJ Supreme Court blanched.

So, confronted by a declining revenue stream, created because the state relies upon steeply progressive taxes, from which many folks are exempt, Corzine faced a simple choice: hold the line on taxes, or foreswear his cherished redistributionist proposals. And although his socialist heart has long been at war with his capitalist brain, the former clearly prevailed.

Consider some of the highlights of Hizzonor’s budget speech. Taxpayers face a huge hit. First, if they make just a little bit more than an average teacher, goombye rebate. Now, those rebates were always a stupid idea; they turned what should have been a tax cut into a spending program. Hence, now, Corzine claims to be cutting "spending" when, in reality, he’s gutting the meager tax relief available for middle income residents. Worse, he’s simultaneously eliminating the property tax deduction from income taxes, imposing a huge tax increase on just about every middle class family. (Anyone who believes this will be "temporary" should remember McGreevey’s ironclad promise that every single nickel of the so-called "millionaires’ tax" would go to rebates; Democrats simply can’t be trusted around other people’s money.)

As a result, if one is not 65 or does not live in Newark, one gets essentially no benefit whatsoever from "property tax relief" programs funded by the income tax. The Dems have bragged for years that half the budget goes to "property tax relief", but it never reduces the taxes of anyone who actually pays property taxes. Instead, if flows into urban, Democratic coffers.

While hitting the burbs with this huge tax increase, Corzine continues to shower goodies on his urban allies. More money for urban preschool (despite the lack of evidence for the value thereof). Lots of money to avoid governmental layoffs, primarily in urban municipalities. (The 56,000 or so new governmental employees hired in the last decade being sacrosanct). $3.9 billion on school construction in – you guessed it – urban areas, creating, Hizzonor contends, 15,000 new jobs, at the bargain-basement rate of only $240,000 per job. He proposes to increase the earned income tax credit (a form of welfare for the working poor, primarily urbanites).

At the same time, the Legislature busies itself permitting Newark, Elizabeth and other urban areas impose additional taxes on people who don’t actually live – or vote – there.

If all of this socialism produced anything other than total economic collapse, it might sell. But, now, the truth comes out: the only way to underwrite the insatiable appetite of the redistributionist state is with massive taxes on those ever fewer productive people who haven’t fled to PA. Not "the rich", but average folks, who pay the taxes, but reap none of the benefits.

Maybe, now, the vast middle class will come to understand the horrific costs of these "helpful" programs. Just perhaps, it will come to remember the incontestable truth of Ronald Reagan’s admonition: "the scariest words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’"

With Governor Corzine’s "us vs. them" budget, the taxpayers may realize that they are not the beneficiaries of liberalism, but its target. The Governor, true to his priorities, drew very clear lines: he’s with the Pauls, who consume tax dollars, against the Peters, who pay those taxes. No longer can anyone hide the fact that Corzine and the Democrats believe, passionately, that if economic ruin is the price for huge urban spending initiatives, that’s a price they’re willing to make the suburbs pay. They will not permit something as trivial as catastrophe make them rethink their ideology.

More clearly now than ever, government is the demonstrably the problem. It grows unabated, focusing its asserted benefits on Democratic constituencies, concentrating its costs on the suburbs. Corzine and the Democrats just declared open war on the suburbs and the middle class. It’s time for the taxpayers to fight back. Us vs. Them, redux