Virtue Signaling On Tax Cuts

Authored by Gary Galles via The Mises Institute,

As happens every time any sort of tax change that can be demonized as “tax cuts for the rich” is proposed, the Trump administration’s framework for tax reform has been met with “tax me more” virtue signaling.

The latest installment I have seen was “I’m a billionaire. Tax me more,” in the October 6 Los Angeles Times. There billionaire Tom Steyer wrote,

“As a billionaire, I would profit substantially from the tax cuts proposed…


But I am strongly oppose to even one more penny in cuts for rich people and corporations,” because it would “defund the critical public programs on which American families depend.”

Unfortunately, such a signal of virtue is actually a signal of vice. Higher income earners already pay a vastly disproportionate share of the taxes used to fund government programs. Since those far higher taxes aren’t paying for greater benefits, Steyer’s position is essentially once of coerced charity--higher income people should be forced to pay more so that the government can give more to others, who didn’t earn it—and if other rich people don’t volunteer for higher taxes like I do, it is only because they are selfish (though one wonders why those who want something for nothing aren’t considered more selfish).

Because individual rich tax volunteers would pay only a small fraction of the actual cost of the programs they favor, forcing others to pick up almost all the tab, they provide just one more example of how the immense payoffs to taking others’ property through government lead people to torture logic to justify why others deserve your money more than you do, with government merely the necessary mechanism to achieve the required charity. 

However, the coercive charity logic is faulty. Few have made that clearer than F.A. Harper. In Liberty: A Path to Its Recovery, over a half-century ago, he decimated the “charity” excuse for violating liberty.

The right to the product of one’s own labor…is not in conflict with compassion and charity. Leaving these matters to voluntary action, rather than to apply compulsion, is in harmony rather than in conflict with Christian ethics… assistance given voluntarily…is truly charity; that taken from another by force…is not charity at all, in spite of its use for avowed “charitable purposes.” The virtue of compassion and charity cannot be sired by the vice of thievery.


“Political charity” violates the essentials of charity…taken by force from the pockets of others…All told, the process of “political charity” is about as complete a violation of the requisites of charity as can be conceived.


Those who contend that the rights of liberty are in conflict with charity falsely assume that persons generally have a total disregard for the welfare of others… The right to have income and private property means the right to control its disposition and use; it does not mean that the person must consume it all himself.


Nor is compassion so cheap a virtue as to be practiced by the mere distributing of grants of aid taken from the pockets of others…buying groceries and things for certain persons by using other people's money.


When a taxpayer is forced to contribute to “charity” in spite of his judgment of need, he will increasingly shun the sense of responsibility which is requisite to a spirit of compassion…as he more and more accepts the viewpoint: “That is the government’s business!”


Advocacy of these rights of liberty is sometimes called “selfishness.” “Self,” if used in this sense, means…anything which this person considers worthy of help from his income or savings.


If “selfishness” is to be charged against the one who demands the right to that which he has produced, selfishness of a far less virtuous order should also be charged against any non-producer who takes the income and wealth from another against his will.


If control of the disposition and use of income and wealth is to be called “selfishness,” then it is unavoidable that someone act selfishly…The question then becomes: Who should have the right to be selfish, the one who produced it or some other person? Is it selfishness to control the disposition of that which you have produced, but unselfish to control the disposition of that which you have taken?


Review carefully [the] starting assumption that justice and charity and selflessness can best be attained through giving legal or moral sanction to the taking by one person of the product of another’s labor by force.


Liberty is not in conflict with charity. More accurately, charity is possible and can reach large proportions only under liberty; and under liberty, the “need” for it would probably be greatly reduced.

Tom Steyer and other “rich tax volunteers” are no doubt well-intended. However, the virtue they thereby put on public display decoys attention from the necessary vice of violating others’ liberty it involves. While few today recognize it, F.A. Harper saw that gaping hole in arguments for why charity justifies government coercion of others. He demonstrated that government coercion both undermines charity and creates more “need.” Further, involuntary “generosity” threatens liberty:

Liberty…demands acceptance of separate domains within which a person is allowed to make his mistakes, if he does so with what is his…it becomes a prime moral right of a person “to do what I will with mine own” instead of to do what I will with your own.



Dumpster Elite Fri, 11/17/2017 - 08:32 Permalink

Hey Tommy, no one is FORCING you to keep your billions. You could instantly make a thousand people into millionaires, easily. If you feel so guilty about not being taxed your "fair share", then just donate all your money to whomever. You'll feel better about yourself, you'll get great "virtue signalling" press, and I'm sure the recipients will feel just great.

overbet rcintc Fri, 11/17/2017 - 09:00 Permalink

The rich dont care as much because theyre rich and they know that if the poor have more money, they spend more and it gets back to the rich either way. What difference does it make to them if they give .gov less or they get more from spenders? At least with a tax cut the non frivoulous savers get some love. 

In reply to by rcintc

Stuck on Zero overbet Fri, 11/17/2017 - 10:24 Permalink

I agree with the Author somewhat this statement is particularly galling:"Higher income earners already pay a vastly disproportionate share of the taxes used to fund government programs."Taxes are ultimately a burden on labor. The rich don't supply much of that in society so all taxes end up being paid by the workers. Any tax burden on the rich is passed on to the workers. The government wants to hand out free food and housing ... fine ... it's the middle class workers who supply it.

In reply to by overbet

Endgame Napoleon Stuck on Zero Fri, 11/17/2017 - 12:30 Permalink

How about paying decent wages to Americans who do not have access to free rent, free groceries, monthly cash assistance and $6,269 child tax credits for sex and reproduction to boost up the inadequate wages that most employers pay.....wages that, even for childless, single workers working full time, are half-consumed by rent alone.

How about giving more to the people who actually DO something to help your business be more profitable as a sign of compassion, especially the hard workers, rather than just extracting more handouts from government for moms, working the welfare-reform-required minimum of ONLY 20 hours per week to stay below the less than $1,000-per-month earned-income limit for welfare? If employers were being compassionate in that way, per capita income would not be so rock-bottom low in all of these states.

Alabama — $18,198…

Tennessee — $19,393…

Indiana — $20, 397…

Texas — $19, 617…

Kentucky — $18,093…

Granted, some employers cannot afford to pay more, and in those cases, the [compassionate] thing is to be honest, not to play mind games and to churn with superfluous cutthroatery the hardworking, high-selling employees who you have milked for as many sales as you get, but who you have no intention of paying enough to cover apartment rent.

Employers keep the mom-gang workers who are CONSTANTLY absentee, including during the times of day that are busiest with paying customers. Employers do that because those workers can afford to accept low pay and inadequate hours due to their womb-based feeebies.

Furthermore, many of the “American families” who get welfare are not poor when all the layers of monthly welfare, child-tax-credit welfare, untraceable income from boyfriends, help from parents and family-friendly charities are added to the earned income that they do NOT work hard for. In fact, those mommas — those working families — have a lot of extra money for the Three T’s:

1] trips

2] tattoos

3] tequila.

Keep on virtue signaling. Unless you spend a significant slice of time, working in the means-tested social programs that you praise AND in the poverty industry, where you will encounter the poor people without womb-productivity handouts, I will keep on ignoring it.

In reply to by Stuck on Zero

Endgame Napoleon HillaryOdor Fri, 11/17/2017 - 12:35 Permalink

Give big, significant tax breaks only to the job creators who hire X percentage of AMERICAN workers at full-time hours and wage levels sufficient to cover rent and all other basic bills. Do not give tax breaks to individuals, picking and choosing who YOU THINK is the poorest. Don’t raise taxes on individuals unless you absolutely have to, like the SS cap, for instance. Save it for a crisis. But don’t pick and choose tax-lotto winners among the NON job creators who take no risk.

In reply to by HillaryOdor

HillaryOdor Endgame Napoleon Fri, 11/17/2017 - 13:30 Permalink

Or just realize the truth; The state is a parasite and all taxation is theft.  If you reject this fundamental axiom then there is no limit to the damage you will do to your own standard of living or the evil you can achieve, something the world continues to stubbornly demonstrate over and over again.  Your desired and intended outcomes are irrelevant.  You aren't smart enough to make them happen.  No one is, and you should know better.  Society works best when interactions are voluntary.

In reply to by Endgame Napoleon

SmackDaddy Fri, 11/17/2017 - 08:35 Permalink

Any 'tax cut' without an even larger reduction in government spending is no cut at all. In fact, it's a 'debt increase'. A burden that will be passed on to our children and grandchildren. Who will inherit a crippling debt and have their productivity stolen by the government.

bshirley1968 Fri, 11/17/2017 - 08:36 Permalink

Just playing his role in the communist propaganda award winning play........divide the classes.Keep the narrative "the rich should pay more taxes" in play. If the tax code was just and applied equally across the board,  this tribe member wouldn't be a billionaire and the "class warfare"  meme couldn't be used to divide and conquer the sheeple. 

Pigeon Fri, 11/17/2017 - 08:37 Permalink

Great topic and story. Only one disagreement. Tom Steyer is IN NO WAY "good intentioned". He's smart enough to have made all of that money. He's not so dumb as to misunderstand that what he advocates is the jackboot of govt on thee, not on he.

Sisyphus Fri, 11/17/2017 - 08:38 Permalink

Correct me if I am wrong. Doesn't IRS allow you to pay more taxes than what you owe? I believe there is a little check box in the Tax filing form that can be checked to declare that you would like to pay more taxes than what you owe.Therefore, can't these billionaire guys, just pay a billion dollar more than what they owe? Put your money where your mouth is, so to say. I guess it is easy to preach than to practice. How else can they tell to the world that I am stinking rich, and I'm not being taxed enough. The sheeple can then tweet about how great this magnanimous billionaire is. Effing hypocrite, the whole lotta them.

Sisyphus Pigeon Fri, 11/17/2017 - 09:04 Permalink

You're right. Buffett is another tool. For decades his investing mantra was invest in things you understand. Therefore, he did not invest in tech companies because he really did not understand their business and also becuase tech companies had limited moat. Then in 2011, he invested in IBM and got burned. Now, he is investing in Apple. So, starting 2011, Buffett became an expert on the Tech sector and thought IBM was a cheap buy and had a huge moat.Apple's success is due to the cool factor and it's appeal to narcissism. There are better phones and laptops available at half the cost. But owning an Apple gives the sheeple a woody. Moreover, Apple's business model survives on planned obsolescence; hence, product recycle every year/couple of years. Heck, if Apple sold radioactive tomatoes, people would form a line to buy them. The cult of apple--baffling sheeple with bullshit for more than a decade.Well, he is a billionaire, and that's all that matters to his disciples.

In reply to by Pigeon

shimmy Fri, 11/17/2017 - 08:45 Permalink

"Tax us mega rich more even though people like me continually find ways to lower our tax rates and we continually refuse to volunteer making contributions to the treasury to pay down the debt. We also refuse to just give away all our billions right now despite saying we care so much about the poor sheeple"According to the treasury website, gift contributions to pay down the public debt is at a whopping 2.6 million this year. Didn't this jackass just drop 10 mil on an idiotic commercial to try and get Trump impeached?These clowns just want small and medium business owners to get fucked so the big publicly traded corporations benefit and their share prices go up, thus the fuckers get richer. I am sure if the government created a new tax bracket for those making 20+ mil a year thereby skipping those small and medium business owners (well, most of them) and taxed the shit out of them that they'd all be flipping out. 

Dode415 shimmy Fri, 11/17/2017 - 10:02 Permalink

Small businesses are apparently the backbone of tne economy so i Can't understand why they're still looking to tax small businesses at  bigher rates than large profit rich corporations especially looking at the effective tax rate after they take account of all their hard earned/ paid for loopholes none of which seem to be being removed - it would appear to be the opposite of a progressive tax system where the small company is paying more than the large 

In reply to by shimmy

nomad943 Fri, 11/17/2017 - 08:41 Permalink

Why dont these billionaires write all of us peons checks? Once the government figures out something actually trickled down to us they will be more than happy to take it away from us.

SummerSausage Fri, 11/17/2017 - 08:42 Permalink

Democrat morons are saying tax cut legislation will "raise taxes on people earning $38,000 per year".  Those people DON'T PAY ANY TAXES NOW.  This legislation doubles the exemption.  How will that translate into a tax increase? 

swmnguy silverer Fri, 11/17/2017 - 09:14 Permalink

The payroll tax, too.  Dollar 1 is taxed at 7.65% for employees.  Of course, if we removed the cap on income subject to payroll tax (currently $118,000, I believe), and applied it to all income, earned and "unearned," we could fund Medicare and Social Security forever at a much lower rate.  Assuming of course the Congress didn't steal all the money to pay for wars off-budget.

In reply to by silverer

SummerSausage Fri, 11/17/2017 - 08:44 Permalink

Steyer made his billions selling Austrialian coal to China whle getting his buddy Obama to put his competition- American coal companies - out of business.Now you know the REST of the story.

silverer Fri, 11/17/2017 - 08:47 Permalink

I guess the Republicans can make a point by introducing legislation that requires anyone with income over $300,000 a year or assets greater than 10 million dollars pay an 80% tax rate with no deductions on their income as well as their assets for the next five years. I would like to see how the liberal mainstream media would spin that one.

Arrest Hillary Fri, 11/17/2017 - 08:48 Permalink

What conceit .... bragging about his billions .... and knifing in the back .... his competitors .... to gain favor with the filth .... and score some leftist pussy .... he will be hung last .... the cost was a little high .... 10,000 btc for a pizza ass ?

wide angle tree Fri, 11/17/2017 - 08:50 Permalink

Since the federal government has the power to create the money it does not have to collect any taxes at all. The government taxes to exert power and control over the economy. With the power the government has it can meddle in and even take over the economy. Politicians love government power and most of the people do too..

nsurf9 wide angle tree Fri, 11/17/2017 - 12:49 Permalink

wide angle treeBINGO!  We have a BINGO right here!!!!

  • Just a smoke-and-mirror cover to make-you-feel-better charade to ensure US citizens can at least buy dog food for a few more years, while the Federal Rothschild Reserve "U.S." Banks, theives and friends continue stealing what remains of the buying power of the US dollar and its large pool issuance as the world's currency.
  • Allow the US Federal Government to continue expanding supremacy over the states' and their soverign taxing power.  (i.e. Nobody, but the Fed, gets first-bite out of the US citizens.)
  • And, reduce Federal spending - forget-about-it!

In reply to by wide angle tree