Thomas B. Edsall has a long piece in today’s New York Times that should give pause to anyone interested in the future of liberty, not least because it focuses on the big issues – in particular, on “the role of government.” Entitled “Is Rush Limbaugh’s Country Gone?” (a title sure to attract NYT readers), it’s a data-filled piece – one of a seemingly endless string of post-election analyses – that demonstrates, drawing from a 2011 Pew Research Center poll on changing attitudes about capitalism and socialism, “that in many respects conservatives are right to be worried” when they see those attitudes playing out in the election just past.
And we see the importance of framing the issues in this paragraph:
In fact, the rising American electorate represents a direct threat to the striking array of government benefits for the affluent that the conservative movement has won over the past 40 years. These include the reduction of the top income tax rate from 50 percent in 1986 to 35 percent; the 15 percent tax rate on dividend and capital gains income, which was 39.9 percent in 1977; the lowering of the top estate tax rate from 70 percent in 1981, with just $175,000 exempted from taxation, to a top rate of 35 percent this year with $5.1 million exempted from taxation.
Note how Edsall calls tax reductions “government benefits” for the affluent, as if those reductions were equivalent to the transfer payments that define the modern welfare state.
But he continues:
At the same time, the Pew survey cited above shows the high levels of skepticism and hostility toward capitalism on the part of the emerging Democratic majority. Insofar as the liberal coalition succeeds in electing senators and representatives who share those views, the business community will have increasing difficulty in winning approval of its deregulated market and free trade agenda.
Nowhere, however, does Edsall point to the tax and regulatory benefits that do amount to transfers to the business community – to crony capitalism – with Obamacare serving as Exhibit A of that political process. Instead, he reports uncritically about the “emerging Democratic majority” looking increasingly to federal programs – paid for by the rich – oblivious to how that process works in fact, undermining the very middle class the programs are designed to help. A dismal indication of growing economic and political ignorance, the piece shows how much work there is to be done.