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May 2012

How is the proposed “Buffet Rule” wrong, No Agenda crowd?

Adam Curry was a guest on the latest TWIT and I thought I’d give No Agenda another try. I grabbed ep. 341 and about midway through, Curry and John C. Dvorak are doing their schtick, calling the proposed “Buffet Rule” a “bad idea” for the middle classes (the current capital gains tax allows the very, very wealthy to pay a much lower percentage of their actual income as taxes than the average middle class family of four, who pay a much higher percentage of their income as taxes, through income tax, sales tax, etc.; this will change, slightly, if a “Buffet Rule” can be implemented, legislating a higher minimum cap gains rate – don’t hold your breath).

A couple of problems with this:

1. This is a fact-free critique of the issue; it’s not enough to simply say something is bad, without any other context. Fine, I get that Curry and Dvorak are speaking to their audience, who agree with them by implication, but compare this to Rachel any night of the week; she lays out a factual case why she thinks a given piece of policy or legislation is a bad idea. You may disagree with her sources, you may disagree with the Rachel Maddow Show’s political bent, but context-free criticism of the Right isn’t what she’s doing.

I wish that were happening on No Agenda, because I want to believe that there can be right-of-center independent media and political critique that argues from facts. They’re missing the ball, here.

Is it that Buffet and other billionaires pay more in raw dollars than the (shrinking) middle class? Fine, but flaws in that argument have been dissected by Robert Reich (among others) already. Is it – as both Curry and Dvorak contend, eventually – that the middle class will get “screwed” if cap gains taxes are raised? How? I’m a new listener. Don’t assume everyone coming to the show already agrees with you. Tell me how.

2. They’re both essentially arguing that the subsequent critiques made in favor of changing cap gains are flawed arguments — yes, under capitalism, a theoretical ‘wealthy individual’ opens a factory that employs people, but the roads that they use to move goods from point A to point B are built and maintained on the public’s dime; those same factories get publicly funded fire and police protection; those same factories get the benefit of a literate workforce that can read, write and do basic arithmetic necessary to their work (we’re talking about the bare minimum functional education one needs to be a picker at an Amazon fulfillment, center, say, and not someone who’s paying their own way for an advanced degree at a private university), again all on the public’s dime. 

But the profit taken by the factory owner from that enterprise should be taxed at a lower rate than the wages paid to the workers? Apparently, in the minds of the No Agenda hosts and fanbase, any change to the status quo on cap gains is the most ridiculous idea they’ve ever heard.

Why?