Monday, April 18, 2011

We Have Met The Enemy And Guess What?

Over at Facebook I have been dueling with a character who has no problem disparaging the government and claiming that it is the enemy.  The latest duels have been about the distortions in the Internal Revenue Code.  The IRC has gone through numerous revisions, starting in 1954 when it took the form it carried for decades, through the Reagan era revisions, and then the Roth revisions of 1998.  Right now the beef is that there are very large corporations that are not paying much in income tax, and there are extraordinarily wealthy individuals who are also paying very little.  Nearly 50% of Americans pay no income tax at all.  This leads to equity and justice concerns.

The problem has less to do with the government, and more to do with the way the code has been gerrymandered to achieve social goals (ex. collecting outstanding child support), please a constituency (ex.the ever popular mortgage interest deduction), or support a tax policy (ex. carryovers for business).  The bottom line is that the Code is written by people who are responding to the demands of other people as well as looking out for their own interests.  The distortions are a case for reform, but not necessarily evidence of an evil government out to screw us all.

My opposite number claims I just made the case that the government is the enemy.  I don't agree, and here is my basis - 

You better start defining just who/what is the government and why they/it are the enemy.  In case you failed to notice, the legislators and the President are elected officials.  WE put them there.  WE fail to hold them accountable.  WE complain when WE don't like what they do and WE insist that they take care of OUR wants/needs/desires (defined by whichever segment of US is doing the talking at any given moment).  The lobbyists who enjoy so much influence represent various segments of US.  So long as they look after OUR interests of the day (defined by whichever segment of US is being represented at any given moment) WE are happy.  Seems to me that WE are our own worst enemy since WE apparently cannot agree on what WE want.  Too many cooks in the proverbial kitchen and all claiming to be the Head Chef.

I am sure he won't buy it, he is too invested in the emotional pleasure of blaming a faceless entity.  However, I suspect if folks would step back a second, take a breath and think about it, they might agree it is a valid observation.


Thomas Westgard said...

My take on this is that it's another example of someone trying to make the world more simple than it is. Freedom is good, but so is working as a team with other people. Those two things will always create some tension, especially when your "team" is as complex and large as the United States of America. The truth is, there will always be a struggle to balance government control and personal freedom. What's not true is the idea that there was some golden past where there was a right balance that served everybody well and was just simply good. This struggle has no beginning and no end.

Fargo said...

Thomas - You said it well. The issues are complex. The "team" is huge and complex. The big picture is never going to be reduced to simple black and white decisions.

I don't believe in the idea of a "golden past" when everything was perfect. There will always be winners and losers. It's just a matter of the degree to which each faction wins or loses, and the overall balance in that big picture at a given moment. That picture will never be static. Each day is a slightly different shade of gray in a very broad spectrum.