Smoke and Fog: Another Saintly Pro-Taxer Accuses Anti-Taxers of Lying

Smoke and Fog: Another Saintly Pro-Taxer Accuses Anti-Taxers of Lying

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Nancy Folbre, Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, is the latest in a long line of tax-the-rich intellectuals to assume that anyone who thinks that tax increases are bad for the economy is up to no good.

Here’s what she says in her New York Times’ column The Art of Tax War (emphasis is mine):

The highly charged partisan debate over the future of the Bush tax cuts (scheduled to expire at the end of December) is a kind of war. Whether you term it a class war depends on what you mean by class, but it is certainly a war between the very rich (the top 2 percent of income earners) and a host of other individuals allied with them, against everybody else who gives a darn.

On the battlefield, in the fog of war, it is often difficult to know exactly what is happening, and why.

For Ms. Folbre the tax debate is a battle of good (the people who give a darn) versus evil (the rich and their cronies). 

You are either with her or against her.

And if you’re against her she thinks you’re a liar:

[T]hose resisting change have the most to gain from fog – or even from blowing smoke – because uncertainty often works in favor of the status quo.

Since Ms. Folbre believes that because a person favors the status quo he misstates the facts, she must likewise believe that the following individuals who favor the status quo misstate the facts:

  • Those who resist replacing our progressive tax system with a flat tax.
  • Those who resist the enforcement of Arizona’s new immigration law.
  • Those who resist laws that would ban partial birth abortion.
  • Those who resisted Bush’s plan to invade Iraq.
  • Those who support giving President Obama another term.

Silly, huh?

Supporting the status quo does not by itself make one a distorter of facts. Consequently, Ms. Folbre might want to amend her smoke-blower rule to make it applicable only to those who favor a status quo with which she disagrees.

That would be absurd, of course, but at least it would be honest.

If you’re still not convinced of the hypocrisy of anti-tax pro-tax academics, witness some more of Folbre’s smoke and fog:

Another strategic goal of opponents of the tax increase is to split and weaken the coalition favoring it. In this context, it is advantageous to label those receiving public assistance (including unemployment insurance) as slackers and cheats.

Ms. Folbre’s goal here is not to educate readers, but rather to prevent them from recognizing that it’s the anti-rich crowd that repeatedly and stridently plays the class warfare game by creating in the minds of the non-rich the notion that the rich have become rich only by cheating them out of what is rightfully theirs.

And if you think that was foggy, the following doozy is a veritable cumulonimbus cloud (emphasis added):

About 47 percent of Americans owed no federal income tax in 2009, which you might think people opposed to federal income taxes would consider good news. Instead, the conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh characterized this as a form of fraud, “worse than anything Bernie Madoff ever thought about doing.”

The highlighted statement is so disingenuous a sort of grandeur creeps into it.

Do you think for a second that Ms. Folbre does not know that anti-tax conservatives object to tax increases on the rich because they believe them to be a form of wealth redistribution? And is it possible that she does not know that the fact that the wealthiest Americans are funding the entire federal government is, at least for conservatives, evidence of this wealth redistribution?

Of course, she knows this. She’s just blowing smoke.

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About Peter Pappas

Peter is a tax attorney and certified public acccountant with over 20 years experience helping taxpayers resolve their IRS and state tax problems.

He has represented thousands of taxpayers who have been experiencing difficulty dealing with the Internal Revenue Service or State tax officials.

He is a member of the American Association of Attorney-Certified Public Accountants, the Florida Bar Association and The Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants and is admitted to practice before the United States Tax Court, the United States Supreme Court, U.S. District Courts - Middle District of Florida


  1. I’ve mentioned this before — the Obama administration and other advocates of increased taxes have now defined a household that earns around $225k in pre-tax income as the “very rich.”

    Sure, they quote to the 2% number (a household with around $225k in pre-tax income is in the top 2% of taxpayers). But it raises several obvious questions:

    – Do these people live in the same world as the rest of us? A household with $225k in pre-tax income should not be included in the “super rich” under any reasonable interpretation of that phrase.

    – Why do we arbitrarily include a household with $225k of pre-tax income in the “super-rich-who-should-pay-more-tax-but-for-the-evil-plot-to-starve-widows-and-orphans” but not a household with $175k or $150k or pre-tax income? Someone who is an advocate of higher taxes on the top 2% give me a rational explanation for the cut off.

    – Why don’t I hear anybody talking about this point? I understand why pro-tax advocates need to define the “super rich” to include the top 2%. Most of those taxpayers are not in the “super rich,” but increasing taxes on multi-billionaires will not raise material revenues. There aren’t enough multi-billionaires and they are mobile, unlike taxpayers who earn say $250k in income annually.

    Our tax system is broken, and the rhetoric around this point highlights precisely why the tax system is broken. Nobody wants to deal with real world facts when they can spew empty rhetoric and aren’t challenged on the emptiness of that rhetoric.


    Check out the salary of Ms. Folbre….another fine public servant in Massachusetts

  3. The last time the cretins in DC imposed a tax on the “super rich” we got the AMT. How’s that working out?

  4. The current tax system works to the tune of 2 trillion dollars of US federal government income a year. The problem is the spending system is broken, to the tune of 4 trillion dollars of US government spending per year. Cutting tax rates can increase incentives to work, leading to increased income. Cutting spending rates (spending less on regulation and less on wefare) also leads to incentives to work, leading to increased government income.

  5. Andy Freeman says:

    The $225k number is designed to miss most journalists and catch only the ones who either feel guilty or like the “super rich” label because that separates them from the pack.

  6. My one question of her is ‘do you take any tax deductions?’ If so shut up.

  7. I consider most PhD’s to be autistic savants – Folbre’s no different. She’s too stupid to understand that the 47 percent of Americans that owed no federal income tax in 2009 consumed Federal resources that need to be paid for.

    Slackers and cheats? Why, yes indeed.

  8. The main deception is using income to define ‘the rich’ (to be hissed through gritted teeth). And yet everyone does it. To use income as evidence of anything is blind stupid.

    I run a small business. I went to school for 19 years, worked long hours for others for 20+ years. I take risk, I employ others and worry about their kids’ college funds and their mortgages if I don’t do well.

    My reward is to be ‘the rich’ (remember to hiss as you say this). In good years, I may earn over $250,000. I am a residual claimant. If my income falls, everyone else gets paid, I get what’s left.

    All this entitles me to be fleeced by the government and its growing transfer to the dependent. What I jerk I am!

    “Disposable income inequality is a pathetic way of measuring relative poverty” (Jamie Whyte, ‘Crimes Against Logic’

    Robert in NJ

  9. I don’t care what the threshold of “rich” is. It can be a million dollars. It can be twenty bucks. The number itself is smoke and mirrors and irrelevant. What is relevant is there is some arbitrary amount of money, above which leftist elites believe you must be punished and your money taken away from you and given to someone who didn’t earn it. That is the real issue.

  10. I’m not sure this is a definitive answer to Knox Marlow’s question, but can it be mere coincidence that $200K is just a wee bit more than Congressmen and most tenured college professors make?

  11. We have a bigger truth deficit than we do a budget deficit. Thank you for this article.

  12. Fatty Bolger says:

    Is learning to disregard all empirical evidence that might conflict with the theory being taught a requirement for earning a degree in economics? I wonder sometimes.

  13. It’s not about ‘fairness’.

    It’s not about raising revenue.

    It’s not even about equality of outcome.

    It’s about hurting people.

  14. One point that keeps being missed in the “tax the rich” discussions is that it’s not a tax on the rich – it’s a tax on work -people earning money right now. Most of the really rich have money that cannot be taxed again, they only pay taxes on the money their money earns. So it’s easy to want to give 90% of it away because the principle (that usually someone else earned) will not be touched.

    It’s time to shout that taxes are on people and businesses that are making money NOW. It’s a penalty for being successful now. Most of the people who are shouting about “tax the rich” don’t understand that they are not taxing the monies earned generations ago and sitting in banks, they are taxing the productive people and businesses.

  15. Yes, I’ve never understood why someone who, after decades of education and more decades of work, finally makes $250,ooo annually is treated by the tax system the same as John Kerry or George Soros. (Actually, by percentage of income, the $250,000 earner is taxed much more heavily.) If they truly want to “get the rich” let’s at least admit that some family with $250,000 in income is not “rich”. If they want to get the rich, let’s impose a wealth tax and confiscate all wealth that is beyond that “certain point when you’ve made enough money” – say $15 million should be enough for anybody (right?) so let’s just tax at 100% any net worth in excess of that. (Of course I don’t support this, but if the idea is to get the rich, that’s what we should do.)

  16. Prof. Folbre neglects that it is not the government’s money. We are a people with a government, not the other way around. Paying for legitimate gov’t functions is acceptable to everyone; we argue typically over the scope of legitimate. No more is that line so blurred, for now there is to be a bait & switch. Liberals ask us to pay more in taxes for a deficit that results after some (anticipated) minor cuts following an actual quadrupling of gov’t spending. Try it on your students professor, but us John Galts pulling society’s wagon aren’t taken in by such juvenile tactics. Find your tax slaves elsewhere.

  17. How about those who think the Drug War is working? Ooooops. Never mind.

  18. You missed something here. Umass has a Marxist Economics department ( I would assume one of the only ones left in the world) and I assume Nancy Folbre is a Marxist. Her column is nothing but Marxist dribble.

  19. We have let the so-called “Progressives” frame the debate for far too long. Income is wealth, but the Political class would have us all to believe that income is the only kind of wealth there. Because hey, as long as that’s the case we can keep those little scurvy middle class capitalist types from earning enough money to buy a house next door to us. Just tax it away from them. Problem solved. We won’t have to worry about any upstart trailer-trash showing up on Martha’s Vineyard.

    Very little of the wealth of the political class consists of income. It mostly consists of assets which can be tuned to provide whatever income stream is needed at the time.

    If we really want to talk about “redistributing the wealth” we really should start with the “trust fund babies”. You know–the source of money for most of the limousine liberals. Liquidate the trust funds and tax the proceeds at 100% after the first million dollars. For a lot of them that million dollars won’t last for much time at all.

    If you are really for “taxing the rich,” which I am not at all, we’ve got it all backwards. Don’t focus on income, focus on the assets they have. Tax the trust funds and the multiple mansions.

    The current political class would howl like sparrows being raped by an elephant. After all, the “tax the rich” mantra being espoused by the ruling class is really nothing more than a farce. They are the rich. They just don’t want to have a monopoly on that.

  20. and she actually collects s salary from umass?


  21. Sorry– the last sentence of my previous comment should be: They do want have a monopoly on that.

  22. The phase “hypocrisy of anti-tax academics” doesn’t make sense in it’s context. I wonder if you meant “pro-tax academics”?

  23. Wobots.

    Oops. Thanks. I corrected it.

  24. M Simon,

    What about them?


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