Tuesday, June 12, 2012

On "Tax Freedom Day"

Well, that was two rather unpleasant weeks.

I've decided to do away with the Sun Talk thing. The joke was getting old, I think. There's only so many ways to call lying imbeciles lying imbeciles before it gets boring.

However, I do have the advantage of watching a metric shit-tonne of news and news-related talk every night, so that does give me some grist for the mill.

For example: did you know that the haven of old right-wing white men, the Fraser Institute, has put out a trendy music video on how taxes are evil and we should all celebrate "Tax Freedom Day"? Such hipsters they are; so cool and with-it, as the kids say.

The whole concept is ridiculous, really. Rousseau and Locke both argue persuasively that the sort of freedom you have outside of a society is a freedom appropriate to brutes; the sort of freedom which is worth having only comes as part of forming a social unit with others. And that freedom comes with a price tag, namely, taxes.

Yes, I know: the Fraserites always say that they're just putting out information and you can't make a decision about what level of taxation is good or bad unless you know what taxes are actually being paid. And that's fine, except it's total bullshit.

It's true that you need to know what a situation is before you can begin to evaluate it. However, it's false that the Fraser Institute doesn't evaluate the situation. It's in the name, after all: "Tax Freedom Day". The day when you are liberated from the horrible chains of taxation. They've already decided that we are "overtaxed" (which is term that means anything, hence nothing), and are cherry-picking data in order to prop up that claim.

It's dishonest, and transparently so.

I don't know -- and don't care -- about the details of how the Fraserites calculate the amount of taxes paid by the average family. I suspect it's a mean number, which is misleading to begin with; and I also suspect there's some double-counting involved, as well as some totally arbitrary exclusion of tax credits and refunds. I have no evidence really for these claims, except to say: I know the type of people who think they are "overtaxed", and this is how they think.

Generally, I find it a poor argument to complain that someone doesn't deal with thus-and-so when they are clearly trying to address such-and-such, only tangentially related to thus-and-so. "Men's rights" advocates do this when they complain that campaigns to end violence against women and children don't talk about men; and hardline Israeli supporters do this when they complain that groups against Israeli apartheid aren't condemning the actions of the Iranian regime. It's a complete non sequitur. If someone is trying to talk about topic x, it's irrelevant to say that they aren't talking about topic y.

Unless the reason that they are talking about x is because they really what to talk about z, which is also related to y. In other words, you've gotta connect the dots a little. "You didn't talk about this!" is nothing; "you said you were going to talk about this, but you've completely ignored this other aspect" is pretty damning.

The Fraser Institute claims it supports "greater choice, less government intervention, and more personal responsibility". Forget, for a moment, that it's a nonsensical grab-bag of glibertarian buzzwords. Just focus on that first bit: "greater choice".

You know who really limits individual choice? It isn't the government. It's massive corporations, whose influence on the market is so dominant that they can crowd out new entrants, buy up (and squelch) new technologies and delivery models, and prevent consumers from getting what they clearly demonstrate they want. Where is the Fraser Institute's annual report on that? Where is the Fraser Institute's annual "Corporate Freedom Day", the day where we stop working for corporate interests? Where is the concern with the ability of gigantic multinationals to come into our country, dig up our resources, pocket the profits, and leave us to clean up the mess?

The Fraser Institute is yet another one of those groups that proclaims itself a believer in freedom, but really believes in feudalism. The lords -- of industry, of capital -- can do as they like, and the peasants -- the peons and workhorses -- will have to like what they are given.

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