‘None of this stuff is free stuff’

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Published: 7/3/2019 8:55:43 AM

This is a response to Chris Collins’ “In the Arena” piece on June 28, specifically with reference to his comments about the presidential campaign. His tone is obviously disparaging of the Democratic proposals for free college tuition, forgiveness of student debt, reparations for various marginalized groups and the proposal for $1000 per month income support.

My criticism is that there are no reasons given for his mockery of these proposals. He simply uses psychological trickery to seduce us into joining him in his mockery, perhaps so we can feel superior to those who would believe in what he implies is foolishness.

He sets this up in the second paragraph by calling the number of Democratic candidates “insane.” And then follows up the above list of proposals with the comment “who doesn’t like free stuff” and “all of which will be paid for by new taxes on everyone’s favorite target, the uber rich” implying that free stuff is ridiculous and that the so-called uber rich shouldn’t be “targeted.”

If you have any doubt about his attitude, he later calls all these proposals pandering.

In fact, there are good reasons to consider all of the Democratic proposals. They should be considered on their own merits and in the context of our social history, both long-term and in the last 30 or 40 years. It would take much more writing space than available to explain all the causes and conditions that make the above proposals worth serious consideration. Below are a few.

First, none of this stuff is free stuff. Taxes are not a case of the government taking our money away from us. Taxes are what we pay for the stuff government provides. Yes, some would pay more than others, but this is always the case.

The question that one should ask is: “Are these things socially worthwhile?” The fact that there might be a redistribution of wealth going on here (with the rich getting taxed more and poorer people benefiting) is not in itself a negative but something that needs to be evaluated for its usefulness to society.

For example, I pay taxes that support big oil companies. That’s a transfer of wealth from poorer to richer. Government debt is also a transfer of wealth from poorer to richer.

There are all sorts of other things that have a bearing on the value of the stuff in Collins’ list. 1) Obviously, capitalism has not been working well in some respects. The middle class and the working class (which are not necessarily distinct) have had stagnant wages for about 40 years while the rich have amassed vast wealth. 2) It’s arguably a social detriment to saddle the upcoming generation (college students) with a large amount of debt. 4) On the other hand, they will pay higher taxes in the future because of getting a college degree, a plus for society. 5) $1000 per month might be a cheaper more efficient way of helping our poorer citizens than current ways and might be a reasonable way of responding to robots in the workplace. 6) We have, as a society, allowed black citizens to be exploited and abused and the rest of us have benefited. Some kind of reparation may be worth considering. 7) Some of our large multinational corporations pay no taxes while reaping the benefit of government services, subsidies, national infrastructure and military protection.

I could continue, but I’m not trying to prove anything here except that Collins’ piece was snide and manipulative, appealing to people’s emotion and not to reason. The style of this piece caused me to have the same sorts of feeling as when I’m in a certain kind of social situation. A situation I’m sure everyone has experienced when someone starts talking to them about some controversial issue while incorrectly assuming agreement, the goal being to form a confirming bond. An awkward and distasteful situation I’m sure many will agree.

John W. Guenther is a resident of Greenfield.

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