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Pipe dreams

By Tom Toles

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Thought crimes

There never is any reason to raise taxes, ever, we are told. It is always a good time to cut taxes, we are told. This is not thinking. This is a badly programmed robot. Sometimes you will hear a discussion of what is the optimum tax level to yield the highest revenue but burden the economy the least, but you won't hear that conversation in the United States because it's against the law here, according to the conservative Supreme Court's narrow reading of the Constitution.

Here's another conversation you won't hear. At what point does the share of U.S. income that is taken in by the richest 1 percent actually start to undermine the economy? This discussion is also illegal here, but I'm taking my chances. That share has DOUBLED in the last thirty years and is now close to a FIFTH of the whole pie! Less share for YOU, if you struggled in math. Is this bad? Would 50 percent be bad? 95 percent?

But they INVEST that money in productive enterprises that benefit us all. But DO they? Mightn't there be a point where there is more money in this storied "investor class" than they can use productively? Why, you might end up with destructive investment BUBBLES! Like, oh, a HOUSING bubble, instead of more exports. Wild conjecture, I know, but just theoretically possible. Or maybe they would spend their time working on elaborate ultra high-speed stock trading that takes wealth out of the market that comes from...where? I don't know, and as long as the conservative media complex is misidentified as liberal media, we never will. --Tom Toles

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By Tom Toles  | September 13, 2010; 12:00 AM ET
Categories:  Economy and jobs  
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Comments

"If Fidel Castro says it, it must be true." Wow! That's almost as good as the chain email I read yesterday where Lee Iacocca supposedly castigates the Obama administration... in a book that was first published in April, 2007.

Posted by: jonroesler | September 14, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Toles' "Pipe Dream" cartoon begs the question I read some time ago:
"How many poor people have you worked for"?

Posted by: spamsux1 | September 14, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Who should be trusted to make investments with this country's wealth?

Who should be allowed to inherit their parent's wealth and use it for their own purposes?

How would it make a difference if the wealth was controlled by those who made financial decisions that increased it or by those who used political skills to obtain it?

How it undesirable that those who made more correct financial decisions than others have increased their wealth? Would it be better to take their wealth or take their ideas? Which would lead to greater wealth for the nation?

How has the decision to rely on a consumer-based US economy versus a goods-based US economy increased or decreased the chances of economic bubbles?

Are these questions any more insightful than asking why aren't we taxing the very rich more?

Posted by: scottNV | September 14, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse


Tom, how broad would you have the Supreme Court read the Constitution?

Posted by: quiensabe | September 14, 2010 7:22 AM | Report abuse

Toles, You and your liberal groupies are, I must say, delusional.

Even former Obama Budget Director Orzsag said the Bush tax cuts should be extended.

Orzsag ran from Obama's Administration this summer, last week it was Romer, even Castro said socialism (redistribution of wealth) doesn't work. I read he is going to free up private enterprise to stimulate his economy.

Obama is going toward government control of private enterprises and redistribution of wealth, while Germany, France and other EU nations are heading toward free markets.

But then there are the Obama loyals: you, your groupies and the rest of the journolistas who actually believe in Obama and his "economic advisors'" folly.

Posted by: janet8 | September 13, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Until the Government achieves fiscal responsibility it's access to tax money should be restricted.

Posted by: bobbo2 | September 13, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Taxes should never have to be raised. The government should survive off of a fixed percentage of the peoples income, if it doen't need all of the money, we should get a refund that year. In fact, with the rising population, every year the government should require a smaller percentage from each individual, because there is a larger pool to steal...oops, tax from. Instead, we get a larger pool of people who have a feeling of entitlement and do not do their fair share of work. The economy isn't driven by taxes or stimuluses, the economy is driven by need. One person needs a ditch dug, another person needs to feed his family. Each person fullfills the need of the other and an economy is born. Limit the jobs sent overseas and tax imports heavily and the economy will come back to the United States on its own.

Posted by: spencer2710 | September 13, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Acorn picketed banks and used other tactics to intimidate lendors.

Posted by: bobbo2 | September 13, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Remember that, everybody? Remember all those crowds of people outside banks? Remember when that happened? You couldn't get in our out of those banks for a while there. The noise inside must have been deafening what with the thousands and thousands of angry protesting poor people outside the banks day in and day out demanding loans they couldn't afford. The poor bankers, they had no choice. Remember?

Posted by: jhnnywalkr | September 13, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

OMGalmost53: The reason I keep hearing for Democrats not to have been engaging in the whole "class warfare" battle is that, actually engaging would make them guilty of the "class warfare" they are continually charged with.
Hint to Democrats: The Republican Party is not a bit scared of engaging in clsss warfare, and in fact have been engaged in it since the 19th century. What's more, they've been winning.
Democrats not engaging equals rolling over (or bending over, as the case may be) and saying, "Uncle."

The other reason some Democrats don't engage, especially Blue Dogs, is the obvious fact that they are Democrats in name only.

Anybody interested in a government audit, by the way, might want to start with the politically-correct-named Defense Department. Biggest share of the American pie of all government departments, yet not auditable.
Pork? You bet.

Then, there's the guy who said something to the effect that, "If workers in my state don't take pay cuts, business will move somewhere else." Is that really what this is? A race to the bottom?
When do we win that one, exactly? When we're down to $2/day?
Some executive will likely get a huge bonus when that happens.

On the other hand, why not move the executive jobs to India where qualified people can be had for much less, and keep the manufacturing jobs here where we have plenty of trained blue collar workers and a good infrastructure already in place? All an executive really needs is an office with communications equipment available, right?

Posted by: jonroesler | September 13, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Imagine for a moment that the economic fact Tom posted -- that the share of America's income taken in by the top 1 percent "has DOUBLED in the last thirty years and is now close to a FIFTH of the whole pie" -- had been given as much air play, and as many indignant and outraged speeches as the so-called "Ground Zero" mosque. Imagine if there were as many polls taken about whether Americans thought this was a good thing or a problem that needed to be addressed. (BTW, if you look at the concentration of America's personal wealth -- as opposed to income, the statistic Tom quoted -- the concentration is even greater.) Do you think that maybe the polls would show a sudden, tremendous desire in Americans to correct this imbalance? A desire far larger and deeper than the desire to stop a mosque?

Now, do you think that just maybe Americans are manipulated into what they should and should not think about?

While I'm pipedreaming, what would have happened if Obama, in the first few months of his presidency when the opposition was still in disarray, actually brought up this little statistic, and talked about it as a problem that the country needed to address. What possible downside could there have been for him, or for the Democrats, if he had spoken about this? It would have said something very clear and forceful about what Democrats believe in, even if they didn't do much to change it at first.

Does Obama really NOT believe this is a structural problem that needs to be addressed in the American economy? If he doesn't, then why doesn't he think so? There are plenty of economists who say it is.

Isn't there something WRONG with a Democratic president NOT saying that concentrating the wealth more and more in the hands of the wealthy is a bad idea? Isn't that one of the ideas that Democrats stand for? Wasn't the Democratic Party most successful from 1933-1973 when it clearly stood for the economic success of the common man and against the wealthy elite?

If a Democratic president can't say this (and Clinton didn't say it either), what is the big deal of having a Democratic party at all?

I have to leave it to people far more "inside the Beltway" than myself to explain why Obama and the Democrats haven't used this as a "wedge" issue for the past 15 months, while the GOP peels away the independents and blames Obama and the Democrats day after day after day. If someone in the know can explain it, I know at least a hundred people who will feel less crazy, because at least we'd understand why the Democrats act like lemmings.

Anyway, thanks again Tom for a great rant. One day maybe Americans will be allowed once again to think like this.

Posted by: OMGalmost53 | September 13, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Tom,

You are absolutely brilliant.

Posted by: Rational7 | September 13, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

"On our better days, we can only hope someone with an actual vote and a responsible vision is listening..."

Since I am the only one who brought up voting and had a somewhat negative 'vision' description, I will take your comment personally.

I do have an actual vote and will be exercising that right tomorrow, tho I feel I will only be voting AGAIN for the "better of the two evils", which has been the case for eons... while you see my 'vision' as not responsible, I say maybe, maybe it speaks of the truth tho...right now there is a plant in my state which is threatening to close it's plants and move to another state if the laborers do not agree to pay cuts and benefit cuts....do you think your proposed gas tax will benefit them???
By the way, I already live in a state which has a huge gas tax. I drive a lot every day....think I'll pass on your generous offer.
Oh, and if you seriously believe that NONE of our TAX dollars are spent frivolously, you are living in a bubble.

Posted by: bertzel | September 13, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Money paid as tax goes into circulation differently, and this difference rarely gets discussed. The monies distributed to states and cities, returned for schools, roads, streets, agriculture, military housing, teachers - all the varied and sundry activities of government and society - police and fire protection, air traffic control - it's a long list - all this money is paid to workers who also pay taxes, who also buy groceries, who also rent and buy homes, drive cars, keep the economy going - this is a very active cycle, layered many times.

Our taxes do not get wasted, but instead keep the engine of our economy working in many ways, beyond the services of government, beyond the many protections and expectations so many of us have of our cities and states and federal employees.
There is so much to this conversation we just take for granted that it's a whole course in civics just to get it going.

I'm in favor of an incremental two cents a quarter gas tax - eight cents a year - until all streets and roads, all transportation needs - high speed rail, airports, hybrid/electric cars, alternative fuels, gas mileage and environmental standards have been fully implemented and met. This might raise the tax as much as eighty cents or so a gallon over ten years, but the actual cost of a gallon might not change because demand could easily decrease because of likely conservation measures inspired by these changes.

And Tom, your voice is as good as a senator's any day. You need do nothing except keep on doing what you do, and your cartoons serve as a soapbox and a rallying cry and a corner of sanity for exactly this sort of rant.

On our better days, we can only hope someone with an actual vote and a responsible vision is listening...

Posted by: thanksforfish | September 13, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

The biggest lie in the 'rich create jobs' meme that the GOP puts forth is that we are talking about personal income tax. Businesses and corporations create the majority of jobs - and jobs that pay decently and have benefits. Yes a person making $250,000 a year can create a job such as housekeeper or pool boy; and the superwealthy can create even more jobs such as personal stylist, chauffeur, butler, stable hand, etc. But are these the kind of jobs that America wants and that will propel it into the next century?

Posted by: dre7861 | September 13, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

ohh bobbo2...I will be voting tomorrow...quick, tell me who I should vote for...

Posted by: bertzel | September 13, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

"As far as the "bubble". The housing bubble was caused by the desire of some to allow anyone who could breathe to purchase a home."

That was part of the problem..let's not forget the inflated prices of the houses as well..

The "cost of living" continues to rise while the middle class is constantly asked to take a cut in pay and benefits or lose their jobs. At this rate there will be no middle class and the rich can 'take care' of us poverty stricken, slaves.
Tea break over, constant comment no less..

Nice dialogue Toles, even managed to chuckle through some of your freedom of speech comments : )

Posted by: bertzel | September 13, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Good stuff TT. Again, some questions for the conservatives out there. Taxes for the rich have never been lower than they are now. So...where are the jobs? If what a lot of you have been saying here is true, then we should be flush with great jobs because when we give the wealthy business owners money, they create jobs (as opposed to government, which you say does not). Government revenues are way down, and the ultra-rich's income is way up. Where are the jobs? So...if you can't answer this question, then explain why you wish to extend the lowest tax rate ever for the super-rich. What will the gain be? How does it help America?

The next question deals with the deficit. Conservatives are constantly on these days about deficit spending (though they didn't make a peep during recent Republican administrations'...Reagan and Bush Jr...deficit runs). So, if the deficit truly is our biggest enemy, and it's been shown over and over how the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy are contributing to this deficit, then why (especially considering question 1 above) are you still supporting such low taxes for the wealthy?

My taxes, as a person earning around $45,000 a year, have never been lower than they are now...as are the taxes of most people earning less than $200,000. Personally, I can't imagine what I'd do with an annual income of over $200,000. Probably give more of it away to good causes. So I really have no sympathy for anyone making that kind of money, while whining about high taxes. If you can't live a more modest lifestyle and help out the economy (and our schools, highway departments, military and VA, homeless and sick, etc.), then I really have nothing in common with you, and you don't represent the kind of America I'd like us to be.

Posted by: PrairieDog60 | September 13, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

As far as the "bubble". The housing bubble was caused by the desire of some to allow anyone who could breathe to purchase a home. Acorn picketed banks and used other tactics to intimidate lendors. And while the bubble got bigger dear old Frank and Dodd said all is well. Government is given the power to regulate and fails to do so. Everyone in Congress at the time has dirty hands. In November send them all packing. Just say no to career politicians.

Posted by: bobbo2 | September 13, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Whatever happened to the Coffee Party?

Posted by: bobbo2 | September 13, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

TT says, "Sometimes you will hear a discussion of what is the optimum tax level to yield the highest revenue but burden the economy the least, but you won't hear that conversation in the United States . . . ."

Ever heard of the Laffer Curve? It was WIDELY discussed in the United States during the Reagan years.

Otherwise, TT makes good points. Conservatives keep telling us that the rich need to keep their money to fuel industrial growth. But they never unpack the concept of "The Rich."

The Rich includes inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs who add real value to the economy. They earn their keep. But The Rich also includes the silver spoon set, heirs of wealth. And market manipulators who reap millions with a nanosecond advantage over competing traders that adds no value to the overall economy. Then there's the banking industry, which monetizes private debt, enriching itself, while impoverishing the rest of the world with debt peonage.

Economist Michael Hudson ( http://michael-hudson.com/ )puts it bluntly:

The Rich Don't Create Wealth. They Extract It.

Posted by: HumanistPatriot | September 13, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

"Why are both of the Post's cartoonists ultra-rigid partisan liberal hacks?"
Simple, they have intelligence!
They are unlike the right wing pundits epitomized by Rush Limbaugh.

Posted by: gss49 | September 13, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

I sort of understand the theory that rich people create jobs.

What I don't understand is that if rich people are the ones that create jobs, why is it that conservatives blame our president for not creating jobs.

It's fairly obvious that the rich people are causing the economic downturn by not creating enough jobs. Slackers.

How about this: If the rich people can get unemployment below 5% again, they can keep their tax cuts.

Posted by: mattR5 | September 13, 2010 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Tom Toles gives us yet another example of how people who know nothing about economics, nor have any experience in business of any kind, can still be given a megaphone by large newspapers, and some people will take them seriously.


Posted by: pijacobsen | September 13, 2010 1:20 AM | Report abuse

---------------

What a long way to go to say nothing of value.

Posted by: jhnnywalkr | September 13, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Ah, suffering. What would life be without it?

Oh. Right. Nirvana. Well, OK, then.

I actually heard the question asked on C-SPAN: What would it take to prevent the next bubble? Answer from Fed witness: Mahuminahumina.

Posted by: Antibogotes | September 13, 2010 8:31 AM | Report abuse

Forget undermining our economy!! The important question we should all be asking is at what point does concentrating our wealth in the hands of a powerful minority undermine our democracy.

History shows that there has never been a healthy democracy that did not have a large, stable middle class. History also shows that this has never happened without deliberate government policies to support a middle class. The "natural" state of modern human societies is power and wealth in the hands of a few, a large lower class to provide cheap labor and a small middle class to take care of other things. We are already at that point but the debt that so many have taken on to maintain a middle class lifestyle has masked that fact.

Posted by: BernieO | September 13, 2010 7:54 AM | Report abuse

Why are both of the Post's cartoonists ultra-rigid partisan liberal hacks?

We get it. Liberals hate Republicans. Do Toles or Telnaes ever have another point?

Posted by: bobmoses

And the overweight, drug addicted draft dodger is not an ultra rigid right wing nutcase on his radio show? And Beck and Palin?
To be a liberal (and I used to be a conservative) means to be open minded. The unfortunate rigid, dogmatic politics began with Reagan.
Liberals don't "hate" Republicans. Hate belongs to the right. But we do hate the idea that property rights trump human and civil rights like Ron and Rand Paul think. We do hate the blind following of the shills for the rich and powerful (McConnel and Boehner).
When I was growing up conservatives were segregationists and those who said "you can't legislate morality" and supported "states rights" a euphamism for segregation and accepted racism. You still see this in the placards carried by the tea party. Jeff Sessions has a long history of support of segregationist policies as did Trent Lott. The John Birch Society cosponsored the conservative convention in Washington last spring. You remember them, the "floridation will turn kids into communists" bunch.

Posted by: roscym1 | September 13, 2010 7:35 AM | Report abuse

Bubbles are just like propaganda - they harm only those who believe in them. But that may make Mr. Toles vulnerable. He believes so much that others question.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | September 13, 2010 7:05 AM | Report abuse

The proponents of tax cuts as the solution to all ills should read "Financial Failure and Confederate Defeat" by Douglas Ball. The lack of taxes and financial policy of the Confederacy - the source of most 21st century Republican "virtues" - led to massive inflation and CSA defeat, along with other factors.

Posted by: roscym1 | September 13, 2010 6:58 AM | Report abuse

Why are both of the Post's cartoonists ultra-rigid partisan liberal hacks?

We get it. Liberals hate Republicans. Do Toles or Telnaes ever have another point?

Posted by: bobmoses | September 13, 2010 6:55 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Tom for speaking the truth, again.

Posted by: Jeff-for-progress | September 13, 2010 6:15 AM | Report abuse

But the flush 1% DO invest in growth industries; like lobbyists, media, regulators, military, congressmen and senators, Chinese and south east Asian workers, land in Africa, (- that's for starters, I'm sure you can think of others)

Posted by: Stonebird | September 13, 2010 5:49 AM | Report abuse

Our Government is an addict. It is addicted to the hard earned money of taxpayers. Bloated Congressional staffs, travel expenses to home districts, offices, security, you name it. Responsibilities that are not enumerated in the Constitution continue to be added along with their always underestimated costs. Pork barrel spending on buildings, roadways, even airports, all of course with the sponsor politician's name plastered on it. Enough. I would rather see any American citizen rich or poor have more of their hard earned money to spend then to see it go to a Government that just can't get enough of that hard earned money. We deserve fiscal responsibility from our Government. We should demand it. The economy runs by people working and using THEIR money to buy goods and services which creates jobs and leads to a quality of life that at one time was the envy of the world. Our Government's addiction to our money has led to unsustainable debt and a requirement for more of our money to be taken out of the economy to feed the addiction. President Obama has added more money to the debt in two years than all the Presidents from Washington to Reagan. Again, enough. Government squanders OUR money. Time for the Government to go into rehab. Now. Oh, and Mr. Toles, NBC, CBS, ABC, and the Washington Post conservative? As you asked me once, "In what universe"?

Posted by: bobbo2 | September 13, 2010 4:54 AM | Report abuse

If you take one look at Paris Hilton you know taxes on the rich are too low. Frankly I think low taxes are killing the rich.

Posted by: elgunjduts | September 13, 2010 2:47 AM | Report abuse

dewbob wrote:

"All I know is that I have never been given a job by a poor man."
---------------------------
Nifty quote. Of course, a slave could say the same thing.

Posted by: georgereston | September 13, 2010 1:42 AM | Report abuse

What the hell are you talking about discussions being illegal? You're nuts.

If only there were a a happy medium between Marxism and Laissez-Faire. That's been the economic discussion/war for centuries.

All I know is that I have never been given a job by a poor man.

Posted by: dewbob | September 13, 2010 1:26 AM | Report abuse

Tom Toles gives us yet another example of how people who know nothing about economics, nor have any experience in business of any kind, can still be given a megaphone by large newspapers, and some people will take them seriously.

Posted by: pijacobsen | September 13, 2010 1:20 AM | Report abuse

Americans should make very sure that their government is doing things that benefit ALL Americans together -- not just friends of those who would like to continue to be elected. You don't see Congress hiring people to examine every government agency to determine what their charters are, how well they are performing their functions, whether the charters are out-of-date, and whether the cost of an agency function outweighs its benefits. For example, the Pentagon has a wish list on which there is a troop carrier that suffers from feature creep. The thing that was just supposed to transport troopers is now a tank, a rocket launcher, a surveillance vehicle, and cannon. And it only costs $3B per copy. There will be a minimum order of 100. The prototype was tested and found wanting until the Pentagon ordered the books cooked. Any discrepancies will be fixed post-delivery in the theater of war.

Posted by: BlueTwo1 | September 13, 2010 12:22 AM | Report abuse

Health care costs*

Posted by: will12 | September 12, 2010 10:28 PM | Report abuse

I sure hate it when the people and businesses have to sacrifice their hard earned money to pay for the salaries of schoolteachers, police officers, and firemen.

But sincerely, our real budget concerns, Medicare and other entitlement programs are sacred cows. Medicare could be fixed by real health reform that brings down per capita health Carr

Posted by: will12 | September 12, 2010 10:25 PM | Report abuse

bignoisylawnmower . . . Need to "oil" your lawnmower . . . Mr. Toles was concentrating on the cruel folly of a Tax Structure that allows the wealthiest 1% of ALL US TAXPAYERS to gather one fifth of the nations (our) TOTAL WEALTH.
I'm sure he knows that several democrats are in that 1%.
BUT it is the GOP that, starting with "oltimer's" disease Reagan and perfected by Bush/Cheney are working hard to PRESERVE that unjust imbalance. Period - go mow some grass (and smoke it).

Posted by: lufrank1 | September 12, 2010 9:03 PM | Report abuse

So guess the progressives name for liberals didn't last long and now going for the mimic strategy? Cool idea Tom. No pun intended.

Posted by: bignoisylawnmower | September 12, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

The taxes come from us the people. Government does not produce anything without us the people working to pay for it. We want to keep more of our hard earned money. We are tired of seeing our money wasted by a bloated government. If higher taxes are the answer why do leaders of the Democrat party do everything to avoid paying their fair share? Tom, why don't you ever call Democrats on the carpet for cheating on their taxes and Republicans too, but if a Republican had cheated on taxes you would have already done a cartoon on that? Get the picture and maybe problem?

Posted by: bignoisylawnmower | September 12, 2010 6:43 PM | Report abuse

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