How Big Government Undermines Freedom and Prosperity

After hearing the criticism directed toward golfer
Phil Mickelson for his modest comments about
California’s highest-in-the-nation tax rates causing him to
consider relocating, I was left wondering what country we live
in. Did you ever have one of those moments?“If you add up all the federal and you look at the disability
and the unemployment and the Social Security and the state, my
tax rate is 62, 63 percent,” Mickelson said. “So I’ve got to
make some decisions on what I’m going to do.” He pointed to
“drastic changes” that are driving his decision—an obvious
reference to the income-tax hikes California voters placed on
millionaires like him. Media and public critics were aghast
and mocked this poor rich guy for his complaints.The spectacle of Mickelson apologizing on Sunday, then doing so
a second time later in the week, was the worst part of this
spectacle. “I think that it was insensitive to talk about it
publicly to those people who are not able to find a job, that
are struggling paycheck to paycheck,” Mickelson said. To the
AP reporter, Mickelson wasn’t sufficiently apologetic: “He
didn’t apologize for what he said, only that he said it.”Mickelson is just trying to get his mind back in golf, so I
don’t begrudge him for using the lingo that our society
requires from the chastened. It’s now “insensitive” for a
wealthy person to complain about a confiscatory tax rate as
long as there are other, less fortunate people out there
somewhere. That’s not a healthy attitude in a free and
prosperous society.“A generation ago, the vitriol his comments triggered would have
been surprising, and somewhat isolated,” CalWatchdog’s Chris
Reed argued. “Griping about taxes used to be something of an
American tradition. No more.” This attitude, he notes, now
comes from the highest level of government.Consider the president’s second inaugural address, which was
a celebration of the wonders of government. The Democrats who
run our state view private business as something ranging from
a blight to a necessary evil that can be endlessly tapped to
fund every new program they envision.If you think the “blight” comment is an exaggeration, consider
this: Recently, the California Air Resources Board sent out a
press release celebrating a $300,000 fine it imposed on a
business. The quotation from CARB’s chief enforcement officer
included this warning: “All business owners should pay
attention to this case.” That’s like something uttered by a
villain in an Ayn Rand novel.I’ve always sensed a deep understanding that transcends left and
right in America—you can make it big and enjoy the fruits of
your labor. During the early days of the labor movement, the
hard leftists never made much headway because of that
deep-seated idea that, no matter how humble one’s beginnings,
an American can make it big some day.Something has changed, even as our society has become wealthier.
Sure businesses have to comply with regulations and
millionaires need to pay taxes, but somewhere we’ve shifted from
honoring success to envying it, from viewing government as a
limited tool to achieve a few necessary things
(infrastructure, enforcing the rule of law) to seeing it as
the be-all and end-all of our society.Why is it assumed by these moralistic Affluence Police that the
rich are mainly greedy people who spend their money on luxury
goods? Charities and non-profits are funded by wealthy people.
Real capitalists invest millions of dollars into ideas and
often create good jobs in the process. I have no idea what
Mickelson does with his money, but it isn’t any of my
business. Given California governmental attitudes, one can’t
blame him for looking elsewhere.For instance, during a recent Capitol press conference, the
Orange County Register’s Sacramento reporter asked Gov. Jerry
Brown about the spending increases in his supposedly austere
budget. Brown joked about there being no hope for Orange
County readers, according to a Register editorial. Then he
mocked “this doctrine that government is the problem,” which
he said is promoted by the “Orange County Register or whoever
all these people are.”At the Capitol, the free market is viewed as an arcane joke. Yet
I look at everything government does—at all those programs
and bureaucracies and entitlements that Brown and Obama
prefer. I see enormous debt, corruption, abuses of power,
union-enrichment schemes, shoddy services, terrible attitudes, and
an endless sea of scandal and greed. Just read the
newspapers.But the scorn should be expected. The state uses a static model
for calculating revenues. It assumes that if you raise taxes
by, say, 20 percent that the state will get 20 percent more
money. In the real world, people move to lower-tax places or
work less or hide more of their income, and the government
gets 20 percent of a smaller pie.If wealthy people keep leaving, then the state will have to pare
back its budget. Perhaps the backlash against Mickelson is a
sign of desperation by those who understand there might be
limits to how many golden eggs the geese keep laying.

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How Big Government Undermines Freedom and Prosperity

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