Shame on You!

by Doug Payton

During the first part of every year, Americans all across the land and around the world perform the same task; they try to pay the least amount of income tax possible. Some, unfortunately, by illegal means, but all take advantage of one or more of the legal means at their disposal. Some are more ardent than others, some take more pains to plan ahead for the upcoming year, and some simply take the standard deduction and leave it at that. This is called "tax avoidance", which is legal and distinct from "tax evasion", which describes using illegal means. Millions upon millions of us participate in tax avoidance.

And we should all be ashamed of ourselves. We should be vilified as the greedy Scrooges we are. The fact that we're acting legally and within our rights is utterly beside the point. We're just exploiting loopholes to benefit ourselves and hurt everyone else.

...or at least that's what Democrats are telling people. Of course, they don't tell everyone that, just to those whom they believe it is politically expedient to do so. You see, in the mind of far too many a liberal, it's OK for the middle class to act legally in this manner, but it's patently evil for the "rich" to do so.

Take for example Max Cleland. If you're not from Georgia you probably don't know him, but you might someday if the populace of Georgia believes that double standard. Max thinks they do.

Max Cleland is the Democratic candidate for the seat vacated by Senator Sam Nunn. He has said that he doesn't believe Georgians would vote for someone who paid no income taxes one year. That description fit 2 of the 6 Republicans who were running for their party's nomination in July for that same seat, and it fits 1 of the 2 left who will finish things up in a run-off in August.

The effort here is so transparent. Cleland is looking to capitalize on any latent or blatant "Paycheck Envy" he can find. In this way, he can neutralize, for some, the effects of any real discussion of the issues by appealing, not to their minds, but to their anger. He is appealing not to their intellect, but to the "get even with the rich" attitude he must believe is there; a mean-spirited greed that liberals so often say only conservatives exhibit. In addition, he's trying to obfuscate the fact that the way they paid the least amount of tax possible is the same way every other Georgian did it--using legal tax avoidance.

Never mind that a flat tax would go far to assuage this particular form of anger. Never mind that a consumption tax would be almost as progressive as what we have now (rich folks generally spend more and thus would continue to pay a larger percentage of actual dollars). Never mind the fact that business owners all over the country also file returns for which they pay little to no income tax due to legal deductions for business expenses and losses. Never mind the fact that we have much, much bigger fish to fry than worrying about how much a particular individual paid the IRS. No, the first volley fired by the Democratic candidate is aimed based on the tried-and-true liberal tactic of class envy.

Shame on you, Max Cleland, for being this underhanded and pessimistic. The remaining question is: Is he right? Would Georgians reject someone who paid no income tax one year out of hand, completely ignoring the issues? I don't believe so, because I have a more positive opinion of the voters of Georgia and their ability to intelligently choose a United States Senator.

But let's also remember that in November, there will be much more at stake than one Georgia Senate seat. Whenever you see or hear a campaign ad for any candidate, or especially when you hear a candidate speak, consider what the candidate is saying about you, the voter. To what does the candidate aim his or her message--your mind or your emotions? Is he or she trying to make you think or make you mad? Democrats blamed their huge defeat in 1994 on the alleged "angry white male" vote, but in reality it is they who seek to evoke anger and pit us against one another. When we succumb to that, we're too busy trying to stick it to the other guy to notice that we're getting stuck ourselves by bankrupt liberal economic and social policies.

"The politics of class envy" may be a cliché, but it is one that has a rich history in the Democratic party. Please consider that when you step into the voting booth. Are you voting for a candidate, or against your own people?

Postscript: Max Cleland won on November 5th, 1996 with 49% of the vote. (I wonder what this says about my optimism about Georgia voters.) A Libertarian candidate received 2%. This would have normally resulted in a run-off between the top two candidates (Cleland and Republican Guy Millner), but after Republican Paul Coverdell won a U.S. House seat in a run-off in 1994, the Democrat-controlled Georgia legislature took that law off the books. Much like they took straight-ticket voting away once they lost big that same year.

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