The New Year’s First Heist

The high priests of the civic religion are very worried that people no longer seem to trust government. The law stands discredited. Once-hallowed institutions are under fire and losing status. People are openly loathing public officials. Movies, television, and best-selling books urge revolt. Most people don’t bother to vote.

And these priests wonder why.

Here’s an example of why. As the year opened, the House, Senate, and president all collaborated to enact the largest tax increase in human history — under the cover of night on the first day of the year, on the 100-year anniversary of the income tax. They did it in the name of saving us from some mythical beast called the “fiscal cliff.”

It’s going to take an extra $20-40 or more out of your paycheck per week. If your son or daughter or a thief did that without your permission, you would be mighty upset. But this is what our elected leaders are doing to us, and we have no choice about it.

The tax increase is sly in other ways. It occurred in an area of federal finance that had not even been part of the debate, an area of taxation that many people don’t even believe constitutes taxation: the payroll tax. The 2% add-on that everyone will pay hammers the middle class in a way that all politicians, left and right, have sworn they would never do.

But they did it anyway, even though it will seriously harm job creation, rob people blind every day for years, and do injury to that paltry economic growth that barely seems to exist. In short, from an economic point of view, it is the stupidest policy one could impose, given the fragile state of things.

Why would they do this? Because you have money and they want it. They have deemed their priorities to be more important than your need to save, go out to eat, go to the movies, rent movies, join the Laissez Faire Club, or whatever.

In all the stimulus efforts since 2008, only one measure truly made sense. In 2010, the administration and Congress cut the payroll tax. The idea was to leave more money in workers’ hands and lowering the cost of hiring. It was a rare moment of good sense. It wasn’t enough, but it was step in that direction.

The frenzied deal to avoid the “fiscal cliff” — a phony, D.C.-generated crisis designed to frighten and intimidate the public — included a repeal of this tax break. Incredible. All that talk about taxing the rich only, about broadening the base, etc., and this is what it comes down to: a massive fleecing of the entire workforce, combined with no spending cuts at all. And get this: The bill is called the “American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.”…

The New Year’s First Heist


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