Take That, Strawman!

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 19 2011 3:01 PM

Take That, Strawman!

If you're making an ad hominem argument, you probably don't have much of an argument to start with. Ross Kaminsky proves that here.

Slate 's David Weigel offers his own version of moral equivalence by omission: "Left unsaidhere (by S&P) are the inconsolable issues: Republicans won'tgive on tax increases, and Democrats won't give on entitlements."Weigel thus implies that the Republican and Democrat intransigenceon their particular issues are economically and morally equivalent.This despite it being rather obvious (both from data and fromcommon sense) that no amount of tax increase will prevententitlements from bankrupting the country. And further that taxincreases take the earnings of citizens while refusing to reformentitlements redistributes those earnings to others based on thefundamentally Marxist premise that the others "need" it more.(That's the same premise a mugger might use to redistribute yourincome.)

Advertisement

This is fatuous. It is theoretically possible to raise taxes enough to prevent the entitlement meltdown. According to the IMF , it would take a 35 percent increase in all taxes and 35 percent cut in all entitlements to balance the budget. But no one in politics is proposing that yet. Republicans begin the spending debate by saying any solution in which wealthier people (or entities) pay more taxes is off the table, and Democrats begin it by saying Social Security and Medicare are off the table.

If anything, I was unfair to Democrats. While Harry Reid says Social Security is off limits, there are absolutely some Democrats who have said they're open, even if they're unhappy about it, to ideas like raising the retirement age. You can't find Republicans in Congress who say they're open to raising taxes right now. Some of them will say there are possible, future, theoretical tax increases they might favor, but far more often you hear 1) plans that would lower rates or 2) assertions that lower rates always increase revenue, which isn't true.

Kaminsky continues with an attack on my character and -- curiously, considering the time he spends on this -- my irrelevance. Fair enough. The rest of his argument is even sillier than the insult. " You know the tide has turned against government's being all thingsto all people," he writes, "when even the French favorspending cuts over tax increases by 80% to 8%, according to arecent poll by the Economist." But taxes are higher in France than they are here. Income taxes are higher. Wealth taxes are higher. The VAT goes as high as 19.6 percent. Taxes account for close to 50 percent of GDP in France, whereas they account for slightly more than 30 percent here .

Again, there's not much of an argument in the original post. But I appreciate what Kaminsky's done here, demonstrating how much sophistry you need to engage in to argue that the "no higher taxes on anyone, ever" position is serious.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

History

The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

The GOP Senate Candidate in Iowa Doesn’t Want Voters to Know Just How Conservative She Really Is

Does Your Child Have “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo”? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

The Supreme Court, Throughout Its History, Has Been a Massive Disappointment

Why Indians in America Are Mad for India’s New Prime Minister

Damned Spot

Now Stare. Don’t Stop.

The perfect political wife’s loving gaze in campaign ads.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD

The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 12:04 PM John Hodgman on Why He Wore a Blue Dress to Impersonate Ayn Rand
  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Sept. 30 2014 2:36 PM This Court Erred The Supreme Court has almost always sided with the wealthy, the privileged, and the powerful.
  Business
Building a Better Workplace
Sept. 30 2014 1:16 PM You Deserve a Pre-cation The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.
  Life
Education
Sept. 30 2014 1:48 PM Thrashed Florida State’s new president is underqualified and mistrusted. But here’s how he can turn it around.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 2:56 PM How Faithful Is David Fincher’s Gone Girl?
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 2:38 PM Scientists Use Electrical Impulses to Help Paralyzed Rats Walk Again
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath the Methane Lakes of Titan?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.