Enviers Of The World, Unite!
Sometimes an unsigned, in-house editorial in The Oklahoman serves as such a glaring example of sophomoric, nonsensical argumentation that it’s difficult to believe it actually appeared in a daily, metropolitan newspaper.
It raises questions like these: Does someone really get paid for writing this nonsense? Does the writer really believe in the “argument” or is it a case of just following orders? Does The Oklahoman really think its readers are that stupid?
On Friday, an editorial appeared on the newspaper’s NewsOK.com site that, without one shred of evidence, reached this unremarkable and completely untrue conclusion: Those people who want wealthy people to pay more in taxes base their desire on envy. Oh, that’s the main problem with the universe these days, isn’t it? Envy. One of the deadly sins.
Titled appropriately enough, “One constant in push to raise taxes on the wealthy: envy,” the editorial is a meandering, senseless exercise in defending regressive, unfair taxation and widening wealth disparity in this country, nothing new for The Oklahoman. But what it absolutely doesn’t do is provide one iota of evidence that those who want to roll back the Bush-era tax cuts on millionaires do so because they’re sick with envy.
The editorial makes the argument that the rich pay the most in taxes, arguing, “. . . if more people were in the 1 percent class despised by the class-envy crowd, more money would be flowing to Washington to fund government programs desired by that crowd.”
Note the clichéd, GOP slogan “class-envy crowd” and the word “despise.” In what universe does the writer of this hackneyed, mediocre mush live? Who makes up this class-envy crowd? Who exactly do they despise? And, of course, the rich pay more in taxes. They have all the money.
After citing some statistics about how much rich folks pay in taxes, glossing over their reduced rate from earlier time periods and completely ignoring growing wealth disparity, the editorial reaches its foregone conclusion: “So what's left in the tax-hike justification arsenal? Nothing but this: Envy of the very small group of people paying a very large share of the taxes.”
Oh yeah, that terrible envy, envy, envy. Run for your lives. Take cover.
What sheer nonsense.
The main problem here is not just the way The Oklahoman lovingly depicts the Benevolent American Aristocracy, which it has always argued should be worshipped for being so generous and kind with its vast treasures, it’s also that, again, the editorial doesn’t provide any empirical reasoning for the envy argument.
Is there really a group that defines itself as the class-envy crowd? Are there books and articles that discuss the current class-envy levels as a problematic or critical issue in terms of taxation? Are there statistical data and studies on the issue? Has envy been studied in a neurological sense and can those studies be applied to class issues? How does envy manifest itself in childhood development and how does that later become part of class-oriented awareness and lead to taxation beliefs?
In other words, where’s the evidence? The editorial doesn’t provide any at all.
How does one go about defining envy, anyway? Is it envy if a single mother trying to feed and clothe her children sees a wealthy person and wishes she were rich, too, and didn’t have financial worries? Is it envy if an unemployed 50-year-old man drives past a large, expensive home and wishes he could own one just like it? Is it envy if a young couple wishes they could afford to take a long vacation just like the wealthy often do?
The editorial, of course, doesn’t even try to define it.
What the editorial also doesn’t do is cite the empirical evidence that shows how much rich people have increased their wealth in recent decades even as their tax rates have gone down. One study shows that from 1992 to 2007, the country’s richest 400 households experienced an income growth of 392 percent and saw their tax liability fall by 37 percent. That’s just one study.
It has been repeatedly demonstrated that the wealthiest among us currently have skyrocketing incomes and pay less in taxes on a percentage basis than everyone else. How in the world does preparing such studies that show wealthy disparity or speaking about the issue in terms of taxation translate into envy? There are sound, credible arguments for a fair and progressive taxation system, and there are sound and credible arguments for creating wealth. What does envy have to do with it? Nothing.
Here’s the deal: The Oklahoman, now owned by Colorado billionaire Philip Anshutz, has no real argument for providing cover for the 1-percent crowd, and a video clip of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has shown that it’s the 1 percent who are doing all the despising, not anyone else. There’s the real class warfare as rational people knew all along.
All this GOP hackneyed and archaic “class envy” reductionist argumentation has been completely exposed again this election season as fraudulent remnants of a dead, trickle-down fiscal ideology. Unfortunately, there are Oklahomans who will be manipulated by senseless and unproven claims about class envy and even repeat those claims as their incomes remain stagnant or even drop. I’m not envious of those people either.