Friday, October 21, 2005

Chapter 5 Tax Relief vs. Fee Delinquency

One of Dr. Lakoff’s main examples of “conservative framing” is the term “Tax Relief”, which carries with it, the “conservative worldview” that Taxes are an affliction that need to be relieved. Dr. Lakoff believes that the Progressives need to frame and use similar two-world phrases that invoke the Progressive world view, rather than being forced to explain their position in detail.

Dr. Lakoff compares taxes to a country club. “Taxation is paying your dues, paying your membership fee in America. If you join a country club or a community center, you pay fees. Why? You did not build the swimming pool. You have to maintain it. You did not build the basketball court. Someone has to clean it. You may not use the squash court, but you still have to pay your dues. Otherwise they won’t be maintained and will fall apart”

Most “Country Clubs” do not let people who do not pay dues come in and use the club, which is exactly what happens with most liberal Social programs, and the tenants of government provided housing certainly neglect to ‘wipe down” the squash court before they leave. Most Country Clubs also don't round people up in the middle of the night and force them to join under pain of imprisonment. In the end, this is an attempt as misdirection to avoid admitting that Progressives believe people who pay should provide benefits to people who do not. Or, in Dr. Lakoff’s  words: “Just as in a nurturant family it is the duty of older and stronger children to help out those that are younger and weaker, so in a nation it is the duty of citizens who are better-off to contribute more than those who are worse-off. “

Dr. Lakoff  also compares Taxes to Investments: “Our parents invested in the future, ours as well as theirs, through their taxes…Today we have assets – highways, schools and colleges, the internet, airlines—that come from the wise investments they made. ..Every businessman has used the vast American infrastructure, which the taxpayers paid for, to make his money. He did not make is money alone. He used taxpayer infrastructure. He got rich on what other taxpayers had paid for: the banking system, the Federal Reserve, the Treasury and Commerce departments, and the Judicial System, where 9/10 of cases involve corporate law… The Wealthy have gotten rich using what previous taxpayers have paid for. They owe the taxpayers of this country a great deal and should be paying it back”

Dr. Lakoff suggests at first that the returns on the investments of taxes are the assets that become available to everyone, but then asserts some have to pay for the use of those assets out of the benefits they derived from their use. So, in the progressive frame, The Government is a for-profit business that collects fees from the successful for the use of the National infrastructure in order to provide a dividend to the original investors (the taxpayers) some of whom never invested a dime. Of course, Dr. Lakoff doesn’t explain what percentage of a given tax-payment is new investment vs. a fee for using the infrastructure, or how much is due as a dividend to an individual who has "invested". To use Dr. Lakoff’s own example of a Country Club from the above, a Champion Swimmer that makes a million dollars a year not only owes dues to his country club for the right to use the swimming pool and other facilities, but also owes the other members of the club a cut of his income, because they also “paid their dues” to help maintain and improve those facilities. This interpretation is confirmed by Dr. Lakoff’s statement:
"The more wealth you accumulate using what the dues payers have provided, the greater the debt you owe to those who have made your wealth possible."
If taxes worked as investments as  Lakoff suggests, the government would issue shares for each investment made in new infrastructure, and would pay out the most in dividends to those who put the most in, instead of the current system where 10% of the population pays over half of the tax burden, and use the fewest of the governments services. In addition, the Dr. Lakoff suggests the Government also invested in

“•The highway system
 •The internet, semiconductors -- computers
•The satellite system, and cell phones
•The scientific and medical establishment.
 •The stock market”

Therefore, according to Dr. Lakoff, taxpayers owe the Government a return on their initial investment for using those things too, even though most are now owned by private enterprises. This implies that the government should be allowed to seek its economic self-interest via a profit motive, while individuals should be restrained from doing so.

Dr. Lakoff says, "Prosperity is for everybody. Government makes investments, and those investments should reflect the overall public good." However, this is in direct contradiction to the idea that taxpayers made investments, on which a return should be paid.  In effect Progressives believe that taxes are funds owned by and invested by the Government, and not funds held in trust to be spent for the benefit of the taxpaying public. Hence Dr. Lakoff believes that the Government is owed a return on the investment, rather than the taxpayer.

Dr. Lakoff believes these “these are accurate views of taxes. But they are not yet enshrined in our brains. They need to be repeated over and over again, and refined until they take their rightful place in our synapses.”
It is hard to say what two-word phrase Lakoff would like these ideas to be enshrined under. Perhaps Dr. Lakoff would prefer the term “Fee Delinquency” rather than “Tax Relief.”  Regardless of what two-word phrase is picked, it should be evident there is no power on Earth that will make the ideas described by that phrase an accurate view of taxes.

Dr. Lakoff says: 'Propaganda is an attempt to get the public to adopt a frame that is not true and is known not to be true, for the purpose of gaining and maintaining political control”
        

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