Thursday, November 18, 2010

The right in a nutshell

Have I mentioned my loathing of Eric Cantor recently? Here's a reason why I don't care much for him:

The plan would replace some corporate and income taxes with a 6.5% sales tax "as well as an excise tax on sugar drinks like soda." Proponents told the Journal the sales tax "was a good way to go rather than try to put more burden on an income tax," a concept which doesn't sound especially European on its face. In fact, it sounds a lot like the so-called "fair tax" national sales tax plan conservatives have been pitching for years.

Cantor sees it differently. The proposal sounds like a value added tax to him. And that's, well, you know.

Cantor, according to the Journal, said lawmakers "wouldn't support VAT-type tax because its ties to Europe might make it politically poisonous in Washington."

"I don't think any of us want us to go the direction of the social welfare states around the world," Cantor said.

Look, I don't care for the right's corporatism or its obsession with marginal tax rates, but what drives me crazy the most is when they make policy arguments on the basis of cultural signaling. Where this happens the most is on transportation policy (What, you want us to give up our SUVs and ride a train? What, are we going to concentration camps?) and with the VAT. The latter is literally the most stupid thing the right argues, since they're the ones who are always arguing that we should tax consumption. Virtually no liberals push this. And not only in America, but European conservatives have implemented VATs in order to make way for flatter taxes with lower rates. Without a VAT, sustainably lower personal income tax rates are not possible. But some European countries did it, so it's socialist, even though it's strongly related to what they actually want to do. You start to see the contortions and contradictions that being an American conservative entails, and one wonders how anyone with a thinking apparatus could possibly fall for it, but Fox News proves its worth by keep many of them thinking from their id at all times.

Personally, I'm not wild about a VAT. It's a regressive tax and a complicated one, which leads me to believe that loopholes would be abundant, though there is something to be said for an incentive structure which actually makes it a good idea to pay your taxes, so that you get more back. I'd prefer doing something like implementing a millionaire's tax bracket with higher marginal rates, but I'd be willing to consider a VAT as part of a serious long-term deficit reduction project. Not that this matters to Republicans like Cantor who don't really care about the deficit. I just wonder what the logical endpoint of his argument would be. Of course, America is more like Europe than unlike it, what with liberal democracy and a common cultural and intellectual heritage. But let's take Cantor's argument further: Should we oppose new nuclear plants just because France has a bunch of them? If France is doing it, it can't be good, right? And of course there's socialist Britain, passing austerity measures that would never be considered here in the States. Should we oppose those because they're too European? Should we protest the building of aqueducts because they're too much like the old Roman Empire? Cantor probably wouldn't say these things because they're silly, but they flow naturally from his precepts. Of course, "Europe" doesn't exist, and in reality Europe is a large group of different nations that disagree on many things, including politics. For every France, there's a Poland that balances things out. The reason so many countries over there have universal health care (though in many different models: from the fully socialized British to the fully market-oriented Dutch) and a transportation policy that makes sense is because the case for them is self-evident. When you don't feel the need to confront some sort of inferiority complex as Cantor seems to here, you can actually have a conversation. And when that happens, the European Cantor equivalents simply get ignored. If only we were so lucky.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.