Is Discrimination OK If You Aren’t Being Discriminated Against?

Iguana In TijuanaOn Wednesday, January 18th large internet companies such as Wikipedia blacked out their sites in protest of the Stop Piracy Act Bill (SOPA).  The nice-sounding bill threatens to destroy creativity and freedom of speech on the Internet by allowing the US Department of Justice and copyright holders authority to attack sites who enable or facilitate copyright infringement.

Imagine Financial Samurai sharing a piece of useful information on how to prevent credit card theft online, and the original creator is from some giant corporation who has a propensity to sue despite linking back and giving credit.  I will probably never bother to share this useful content in fear of having some overly paranoid lawyer sue me for SOPA infringement if this bill passes.  Our society is already litigious enough!

I’m proud of the Internet community for speaking out against SOPA.  The government, despite all its “good intentions” should not be in the business of regulating what we can share and say online.  Sure, there is a limit to what we can and should do, especially if someone is being untruthful, but for the government to get involved with what I can and cannot say on my own site is wrong and I am fiercely against SOPA and more government regulation!

You would think that those who are against big government would also be against big government who discriminates based on income, gender, and sexual preference, but you’d be mistaken.  To many, discrimination is OK, so long as they aren’t being discriminated against.

THE HYPOCRISY OF INCONSISTENCY

Let’s discuss income taxes. A progressive income tax system is clearly discriminatory. Why does someone making over $380,000 have to pay not only a higher percentage of their taxes to the government (35% marginal tax rate), but also a much higher absolute amount of taxes vs. someone who makes $80,000 (25% marginal tax rate)?  Are the roads and libraries that much better for the wealthy? After a certain minimum income standard above poverty, we should be treated equally with a flat tax.

There are people who believe it’s OK to vote on further raising another group’s income taxes, while not having to pay more taxes themselves. How can we give people and the government this authority? Imagine if one of the 40-50% of Americans who pays zero federal taxes votes for a President who wants to raise taxes on a group that already pays the most taxes. The goal is to steal from one group to subsidize his/her own group. This is shear hypocrisy. We need to ALL pitch in if we’ve decided tax increases is the only way!  Just like we all need to accept lower services if cuts are to be made.

What about sexism?  We can all agree that sexism is wrong. Men and women should have equal rights and equal pay for equal work. So if everybody agrees that sexism is wrong, why aren’t more people up in arms about the government’s desire to tax couples making over $250,000 when they are targeting singles making over $200,000? Why doesn’t $200,000 + $200,000 = $400,000? The government expects inequality of one spouse upon marriage, that’s why! Is one spouse suddenly supposed to go from making $200,000+ to $50,000 just because s/he got married? This is nuts!

Very few people give a shit about the way government treats gender rights because very few couples make over $250,000. But I’ll ask you again. Is discrimination OK if you are not being discriminated against? The answer is HELL NO. Discrimination is never OK.

What about gender preference? Why is the government in the business of regulating who we can and cannot love and what we can and cannot have if we marry? Gay couples and straight couples should have the same rights. Does being born gay make you a lesser being? Does standing under 5 feet 8 inches tall make you a lesser man?  Should you have to pay more taxes just because you were born with red hair? Of course not! So why the hell is the government discriminating against gays and lesbians? Why should a  straight man or woman dictate how a homosexual man or woman should live? They shouldn’t.

If you studied American history, you will know that discrimination based on sexual preference is akin to racial discrimination in the 50’s and 60s. The government shouldn’t be in the business of relationships.

IF YOU ARE OPPOSED TO SOPA, PLEASE ACT CONSISTENTLY

If you are opposed to SOPA, you are against big government getting into your business of telling you what you can say, share, and write about online. Since you are against big government, you should be against a government who practices discriminatory tax policy against people who already pay more than their percentage of income earned. If you are are not subject to paying more taxes yourself, you have no right to tell another group of people what they should pay. Yes, this includes those who say, “They can afford it” and other oblivious statements.  Instead, you should be fighting for equality in our taxation system.

If you are opposed to SOPA, you are against big government telling others who they can and cannot marry. You are opposed to the government dictating the love of others and imposing sanctions against their rights because of their sexual preference. Maybe you or your children will one day be targeted by the government, you never know. Are you going to love your children less for being gay? No, you will love your children unconditionally.

If you are opposed to SOPA, you are against big government penalizing you because of your sex. You believe as an independent woman or man, you have the right to continue earning your income even when you get married. You do no believe it is fair that $200,000 + $200,000 = $250,000 in the government’s eyes because of their sexist ways.

It’s OK to disagree, be it for moral, religious or personal reasons. Just don’t impose your will on others, since they have a right to their liberties as well.

Alas, I know people will always vote for what’s in their best interests, even if it means screwing other people in the process. Hence, despite all the noise about being against big government on the internet, we will have bigger government in the near future. Forget studying hard in school. Forget working 80 hours a week.  Forget starting a business on the side. Forget one love and harmony. Let’s just vote on politicians who will spoon feed us success and hurt others to better our own positions. It’s much easier that way.

Regards,

Sam

Photo: Iguana In Darkness, Yucatan Peninsula, 2010.  Sam.

If you are not a racist or bigot, and believe in equal rights for all please sign up for my RSS Feed or E-mail Feed to keep in touch.  If you are a racist, sexist, bigot who believes in inequality, and conveniently believes in policy that will only benefit yourself at the expense of others, I’d love to hear your reasoning why in the comments.

 

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. Mike Hunt says

    Discrimination is not ok if you are not being discriminated against. But then again, isn’t the nature of a democracy to vote for popular measures, that reward the majority, and most usually at the expense of the minority?

    Sounds like discrimination to me.

    -Mike

    • says

      It sounds like discrimination to me.

      The truth is that there isn’t any easy way to get around discrimination. People have tried to make a utopia for centuries, but hasn’t worked out as many hoped. [none the less I would have to argue that modern day America is somewhat less discriminatory than the societies that are found in the previous centuries; but that is just my opinion.]

  2. Janna says

    Juan is correct when he says there is no easy way around some kinds of discrimination. I am not defending the “marriage penalty” in taxation, but I believe it was enacted originally (in 1969) because married people were getting a benefit in taxation that single people weren’t getting. So then, they went the other way and penalized married people. I don’t think it has anything to do with sexism, though.

    I totally agree with you on your views on gender preference. I wouldn’t trust a candidate who does not want to allow gay marriage.

    I don’t agree that a progressive tax system is discriminatory because the higher percentage you pay is only on your highest dollars. You are paying the same percentage on your lowest dollars that anyone is. What seems discriminatory to me is that capital gains are taxed at such a low rate, and especially because the richest among us have so much of their income in capital gains. But if somehow this benefits our economy, I’m not necessarily opposed to it.

    The problem all of us have is – how do you find a candidate who agrees with you on everything??? I personally tend to err on the side of a candidate who seems to be interested in protecting the most vulnerable among us rather than the most powerful.

    • says

      I’m for the government lower Federal Tax rates to equal capital gains rates, no arguments here.

      You can’t find a candidate who agrees with everything, which is why we need to REDUCE the size of the government.

      You are mistaken if you do not believe the government is sexist and is still living in the past where one spouse was the homemaker, hence the $200,000+$200,000 = $250,000. http://www.financialsamurai.com/2010/02/22/the-marriage-penalty-tax-and-sexist-government/

      • Janna says

        The problem is that most of the Republican candidates, who supposedly want to REDUCE the size of government, are the very same people who want to pass a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage or to “protect the traditional family”. They also tend to be the same people who want to interfere with a woman’s right to choose (sexism AND Big Brother). In general, I think the Republicans have more of a problem with consistency as you define it.

  3. says

    This quote feels right!

    ” First they came for the communists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

    Then they came for the Catholics,
    and I didn’t speak out because I was Protestant.

    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.” – Pastor Martin Niemöller

  4. Jerry Curl says

    The people who vote one way for their own benefit without the consideration of others irks me to no end!

    Like you, I believe discrimination is wrong, and still wrong if I’m not being discriminated against!!!

    It’s so easy to say “raise their taxes” when you don’t have to pay more yourself, because “they can afford it” and it’s in the good of the country. How about if we take the voting rights away from an individual who makes under $200,000? How will that go down you think?

    Equality is equality. Thank you for this post!

  5. says

    In a word sam, No.
    I think you hit the nail on the head right here ” It’s OK to disagree, be it for moral, religious or personal reasons. Just don’t impose your will on others, since they have a right to their liberties as well.”

    I really try not to impose my will on others – I’ll help them out if they ask, and I’ll let them make their own mistakes. I can not stand when someone tells me that they did it in a certain way and I should do that too…

  6. says

    You’re quite the libertarian today, Sam.

    I agree with you 100%; you have to be consistent otherwise you’re just showing your true bias and discrimination. I especially agree when it comes to equating sexual rights/gender preference with discrimination of the 50s and 60s.

    These two issues were even directly connected back in the day – it wasn’t legal for a couple of two different races to be married until a 1967 Supreme Court ruling. That really wasn’t all that long ago when you think about it.

    Taxes are a very simple issue – income taxes are slavery. It wasn’t okay to take 100% of someone’s time and sell it to the highest bidder in the 1850s, so why is it okay to take even 28% of someone’s time and sell it to the highest bidder 160 years later? If you cannot and should not take all of someone’s time, energy, and property, why is it okay to take some of it? It’s still theft of life, liberty, and property in the most basic sense.

  7. Patrick says

    Awesome post Sam, well said.

    In regards to deciding who you can love, the answer is in the court case “Loving vs Virginia” where the Supreme Court overruled the Virginia law that banned interracial marriages. The courts, and by virtue the Government, is not in the business of legislating love.

    I am also interested if you read Mark Levin’s new book Ameritopia? I have just started it and so far it is amazing at showing that there is no way to create a fair or utopia society without dragging down one group. That goes against our very liberties, if you are successful and make $400,000 that’s great. That gives hope to others that if they work hard then maybe one day they can succeed. It shouldn’t spawn hate or a desire to take from you and give to others.

  8. says

    Opposing SOPA does not seem to be the same thing as opposing big government and therefore tax structure. I may be opposed to SOPA because it restricts what many people could do and “say” online, while being supportive of the upper class being forced to pay more in taxes because they can afford it. I think consistency in politics is difficult to define and there are too many factors to weigh in. It seems to be a bit more situational…Just my opinion (as always)

    With that said, I do agree that many people just vote for what suits them and I wish that weren’t the case…

  9. says

    For the record, I am against censorship in any form. Some of the same people who are against SOPA will buy pirated copies of movies, fake designer goods or download music without paying for it. This is a multi billion dollar industry in this country. Technology has made easier and cheap copies are plentiful. You cannot have it both ways, something has to be done to protect the owners. SOPA is not the solution!
    There is discrimination everywhere! We have laws and still people discriminate because they can get away withit. It is difficult to sue anyway. We as individuals can take control of our lives and do something about it.

  10. says

    Don’t like SOPA. Don’t like discrimination against people of color. don’t like discrimination against LGBT. Don’t like discrimination against singles. Believe a graduated tax system is best to help the underserved in society. Oh, and don’t like discrimination against wormen!

  11. Rob says

    Here’s a few more questions along these lines:

    Why is the payroll tax arbitrarily capped?
    Why is the money made doing work taxed at a greater rate than the same amount of money from an investment?
    Why can’t I write off my mileage driving to but a ceo can write off his private jet expense regardless of the purpose? Yeah, I know the jet is owned by the corporation, but that’s really a distinction without a difference.

    The tax system, as it stands now, grants tremendous favor to higher incomes. The higher your income, the more access you have to methods of reducing tax burdens. Access to professional accountants, access to capital gains benefits (usually a much higher percentage of income), the removal of payroll taxes, a wider variety of tax write-offs, etc. It’s why we have a term “effective tax rate” and why that number goes down as your income goes up. You get more for your money than people in the lower tax brackets.

    As far as the poor, I wouldn’t say the tax code favors them so much as it grants mercy to them. After all, would you want to live in the situation where you made so little that you don’t pay taxes? It may not be the smart business move, but a little mercy, compassion, and humanity is good for the soul even if you think you don’t need it.

    • David M says

      Great Post Rob!

      One of the reasons we need to raise taxes is that high earners find “legal” ways to not have to pay taxes on the money they earn. Last year Business Week an an article which showed how people who made hundreds of millions of dollars “Legally” paid little to no taxes on those those earnings.

      I could live with a flat tax, IF, with the exception of say the first $50,000 being tax free and some exemptions for children, EVERY $ earned was taxed at that flat rate. I personally would be in favor of no deductions, exemptions, exceptions at all. Yes, let me just say it – I am including the 3rd rail – the mortgage interest deduction.

      I am also going to agree with you – and be against 90%+ of the people that post here and say I also so no reason for capital gains and dividend income to be given preferential tax rates. These preferential tax rates are reasons why Mitt Romney and many other business people that makes millions of dollars a year – pay a much lower marginal tax rate than a police officer.

      I have no problem with people getting rich and earning lots of money – but I think they should pay the same marginal tax rate of a plumber, police officer, teacher, etc.

      I also agree with you on the poor – they are not living “high on the hog” like most people think they are. We hear a lot of complaints about 50% of Americans not paying any taxes – well the reason most (not all as I’m sure some people that make millions a year are also paying no taxes) pay no taxes is that there earning are VERY lOW.

      • says

        I’m down with lowering the Federal income tax rate above 15% to equal long term capital gains, investment income at 15%.

        Nobody is saying “the poor are living it up like many people think”. Where is that being sad?

        What’s being said is if you pay no Federal Taxes and vote for someone who wants to raise taxes on those paying 100% of the taxes already, that is stealing.

    • says

      I would rather pay taxes than not pay taxes b/c a lack of income is often the reason why people don’t pay taxes.

      Your effective tax rate goes UP the more you make. Do a simply calculation: What is the effective federal tax rate of someone making $10 million a year from his/her job? It’s 34.9%.

      What is the effective fed tax rate of someone making $50,000 a year? Less than 15%.

      • David M says

        I agree with everything that you have written as you have written it.

        My question is what is the effective tax rate on someone making $10 million that gets his income taxed at a special rate like someone managing a hedge fund – I believe it will be about 15%. I think this type of income and also capital gains and dividends should be taxed at the ordinary income rate. You know who also thought that Ronald Reagan – at least that is what the tax reform act of 1986 did.

      • David M says

        Why not tax ordinary income at the capital gains/dividends rate?

        I’m down with that – the tax rate for everything should be the same and the tax coce should be REALLY simplified. That way we do not have the tail wagging the dog that we now have regarding taxes in America.

      • Rob says

        Actually, assuming that the 10 mil consists of:
        3.5 mil salary (35% rate)
        1.625 mil long term capital gains (20% rate)
        1.625 mil short term capital gains (35% rate)
        1.625 qualified dividends (15% rate)
        1.625 non-qualified dividends (35% rate)
        minus 15% in write-offs (a very conservative estimate)

        would result in an effective tax rate of 23% That number actually goes down when you factor in the marginal rates, but this is back of the napkin calculations.

        An an income of 50,000, the tax rate is 25% plus payroll taxes at 15%, making the effective tax rate 40%.

        I have yet to see any flat tax numbers that work. It just doesn’t generate enough revenue.

  12. says

    How about a flat wealth tax instead of a flat income tax?

    Since the bottom 50% own approximately 3-4% of the total American wealth, they’d be paying 3-4% of the taxes. Sounds fair. That’s not too far from what the current percentages are.

    Based on the current system of income taxation, I support a fairly progressive system of income taxation because it more closely approximates a somewhat flat wealth tax, and I don’t support a direct wealth tax for a number of reasons. Taxing people who have to spend most of their income on food, housing, college savings, etc. at the same rate as taxing someone making a half million a year would be flat in some ways, but regressive in other ways. For instance, that would almost surely result in a regressive tax as a percentage of net worth.

    Income is a rather arbitrary metric for taxation. Why choose that as the key metric of fairness? We could have a flat consumption tax (which would usually be regressive in terms of income and wealth), or we could have a flat income tax (which would usually be regressive in terms of wealth), or we could have a flat wealth tax (which would usually be progressive in terms of income and consumption). Fairness, therefore, is a rather subjective assessment.

    I agree with the rest of the article.

      • David M says

        I would be happy to vote to raise my and virtually everyone else in America’s taxes. Why not just cancel the Bush tax cuts for EVERYONE as a starter.

        We either need to raise taxes on EVERYONE or we need to SERIOUSLY cut government spending. However, I do not think American have the stomach for making the SERIOUS cuts we would need to make.

        Where would I start the cutting – healthcare/end of life costs. With the fiscal trougble we are in – I do not see how it makes any sense for Medicare or even private insurance to be paying for open heart surgery for people 80 years old. I also do not know why we pay about $100,000 a year to keep people with almost no mental facilities in nursing facilities.

        How about military spending – why do we spend more than the next 27 countries combined? Why can’t we cut military spending by 50%?

        I think those are the easiest cuts we could make – however I’m pretty sure my opinions would be in the minority.

      • says

        You’re point on taxation was a lot more specific than that.

        You called for a flat tax.

        I pointed out how different kinds of arbitrary flat taxes can tax different groups at very different rates, depending on what metric we go by.

        I wouldn’t support a flat tax on income because it would statistically be a regressive tax as a percentage of net worth. I’m not going to ask a group that owns less than 3% of American net worth (such as the bottom 50% combined), to pay a higher percentage than that of American taxes. We’ve already got more income and wealth inequality than any other populated and developed nation on Earth.

        • says

          A flat tax on 3% of total income from the lower 50% of income earners leads to 3% of total income taxes
          collected from this income group. How do you argue against equality? This way, everybody has skin in the game to work towards a better society.

          What is your taxation rate?

      • says

        I argue against inequality because income is an arbitrary metric of measuring fairness.

        Some people make money from work, while wealthier groups generally make a lot of money from their money.

        So taxing a flat rate on income will usually lead to a regressive tax rate as a percentage of net worth. Why would I support a regressive tax as a percentage of net worth?

        As for my own taxation rate, it depends. That could be a complicated question. I observe that as my income and wealth grow, my tax rate as a percentage of income and wealth shrinks.

        The reason I say it’s complicated is:
        -Who “really” pays payroll taxes? Me or my employer?
        -If I have money in, for example, a Roth IRA, do I count dividends in there as being income, but taxed at 0%? 401(k) and IRA vehicles are legal tax shelters that basically make investment income taxed at a more progressive rate, since they favor the middle class.

        Each year, a larger percentage of my total income is from investment income compared to income from work. So if my income tax rate stays static, then as my net worth grows, I pay a smaller percentage of my net worth in taxes each year. And since dividends and capital gains are taxed at a lower rate than earned income, that makes my tax rate lower still.

        So over time, the government seems to ask for less taxes from me as a percentage, even if I do pay higher absolute taxes. I mean, hey, I didn’t ask for those breaks but I’ll sure take them.

        • says

          You should be a politician. I don’t know what you just said!

          Once you do the math, you’ll see.

          And no, I don’t fault you for wanting to raise other people’s taxes if you can benefit and don’t have to pay more yourself. It’s just the way human nature is, and why I believe Obama will get re-elected.

      • Jerry Curl says

        It’s safe to say Dividend Monk makes less than $300,000 a year and is therefore not subject to Obama’s desire to raise the top income tax brackets from 33/35% to 36/39.5%.

        Hence, I wouldn’t bother arguing or trying to convince him since he will never have to contribute.

        Dividend Monk, pls correct me if I’m wrong on your income.

        • says

          I wrote a comment here but it doesn’t seem to have gone through.

          Samurai,
          According to the Heritage Foundation (fiscally conservative source), the bottom 50% do pay 3% of total taxes. So they do have skin in the game. Considering that they collectively own approximately 3% of American net worth, that sounds fair to me.

          Jerry Curl,

          To answer your question, Jerry Curl, I do not make $300k per year.

          I do, however, make larger and larger dividend income each year, which is generously taxed at only 15%. I’d be in favor of allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire, which would include raising my own dividend taxes.

          Each year as my net income and wealth grows, a larger and larger portion of my income comes from investment income as opposed to work income, and I pay a smaller percentage of my income and net worth in taxes each year. I sure didn’t ask for that, but hey, I’ll take it.

          When the government wants to stop my income tax rate from shrinking each year as my income grows, all they have to do is ask.

        • says

          Ah, looks like the other comment went through.

          I see this as well:
          “You should be a politician. I don’t know what you just said!

          Once you do the math, you’ll see.”

          You say you don’t understand what I said, but also claim I haven’t done the math.

          (Not sure how to respond to that one. I guess I’ll propose that proponents of a flat income tax haven’t done the math? That makes for a fun debate, I suppose.)

  13. says

    I’m against SOPA. I’m against the Marriage penalty (though I believe the reasoning behind that is that costs of living go down when people are living together, and we still assume that means married.) I am against DOMA. So completely against DOMA- if I lived in a state that allowed “civil unions” for straight couples, there’s a good chance C and I would divorce and then get a civil union- not just as a political statement, but it would also provide us a financial benefit as my income would no longer be counted on his FAFSA (because that is Federal and they don’t recognize civil unions). And, our COL wouldn’t go up because we’d still be living together! Win all around!

    I think you and I will always have a slightly different view of the progressive tax though- partly because of the reasons that Rob mentioned. As was released last weekend, Mitt Romney has an effective tax rate of 15%- the man makes a LOT more than me, and my effective tax rate is 25%. So yeas, I’m for raising his taxes since I make a lot less and pay a lot more. (And for the record, I almost always vote to raise my taxes, too.)
    I would be fine with a flat tax beginning at a certain percentage over poverty (but poverty figured where- COL is the Bay Area is a lot more than COL in Kansas City [either one]), if in fact, it meant that the billionaires were paying the same percentage that I am.
    But since our progressive tax plan has people who should be paying more in taxes than I am paying less, I can’t imagine a flat tax would be all that flat, either.

    • says

      Why aren’t you for income taxes coming down to equal long term capital gains tax of 15%?

      If you were the government, would you rather collect 15% of a $10,000,000 income or 25% of your income?

      • says

        I would be for it, if the government could promise me that people making 5x more than I am would also be paying 15%, but kind of like corporate taxes (GE pays an effective rate of 0%) I don’t trust that that would happen.
        But yeah, if everyone just paid 15%, I’d be good with that.

  14. says

    Good post Sam, i’m not sure I agree totally with the analogy against the tax directly, although I do agree with the overall premise….

    Tax is complicated. If it was being used to bring every American a better life then I would think less people would be against the current system. Sadly Tax is used for terrible things like unjust wars as an example!

    I think staggered can work and can be fair but I am sure flat tax would work too if set up properly. The best answer would be to bring it direct to vote an lay out the exact numbers for people to see. Would it be fair to say that the first $45k of someones earnings were tax free and then 50% tax beyond that? I would be completely fine with that.

    Another option could be high tax on items deemed non-essential, again decided partially by vote, and then a flat lower tax on earnings in general. So say the price of beer literally doubles, as well as cigarettes (but free help for people to quit them) and candy. Toilet roll, all fresh fruit and veg and such things could be minimally taxed.

    I don’t see staggered tax as stealing but won’t say that other tax systems shouldn’t work. We should all be happy to work for a bigger happier society using whatever system works to bring as many of us out of poverty as possible.

    Am I being inconsistant if I say I am SOPA PIPA opposed 100%?

    • says

      99% of the world population makes under $45,000 a year, and 50-60% of Americans make less than that as well.

      Hence, it’s just the same system we have but worse, where only 50% of Americans pay Federal taxes, hence, those who don’t pay have every incentive to keep it that way.

      We just shouldn’t raise other people’s taxes if we aren’t raising our own as well.

      • says

        I see the point and understand where people are coming from but do feel that I am happy myself with a staggered tax system. I’ve been in higher tax brackets and never had a problem with that. As a small business owner I get pretty good tax deals in the UK and see so many small businesses that could do with that in USA where it seems they are demonised for wanting to go out alone!

  15. says

    Another interesting post, Sam, and one that looks like it’s inspired more than a few comments and discussions (always a good thing). As someone who participated in the SOPA Blackout (not to nearly the effect as, say, Wikipedia, but I did what I could), I suppose I can take a crack at answering your concerns, to the best of my ability:

    “Readers, why do you think there are opponents of SOPA who also vote for big government?”

    Well, I can’t speak for everyone, obviously, but I think it’s primarily because they didn’t see SOPA as a big government issue (or at least, not entirely). Instead, most seemed to view it more as a means for big BUSINESS to sneak themselves more power and control. When you read articles about SOPA or comments from SOPA supporters, the worries or complaints weren’t that the government was going to start shutting down sites that, say, published Congressional speeches illegally, but that Disney would, with the backing of the US government, shut down any site that referred to a stupid idea as a ‘Mickey Mouse’ plan. (Or any site that allowed one of its comment writers to make such a reference; sorry if this causes you any problems if SOPA is revived.)

    Many of the same sites that protested most strongly about SOPA also have strong words for the Citizens United ruling, the one allowing unlimited spending to promote political candidates. It’s the same sort of thing there: the opposition is not to a big government, per se, but an opposition to too much governmental power influenced (if not outright controlled) by corporations and wealthy individuals. To answer your question, many of those who protest SOPA believe that a big government can limit the power of big corporations to influence public policy, and thus, that big government can actually help make them freer.

    (Not all SOPA opponents feel this way, of course; there are those of us who simply don’t think that such a broad censorship brush should be wielded by anyone, be it corporations, the government, or that little old lady down the street who thinks that tank tops are indecent.)

    On that note, you’re making some pretty big assumptions when you say, “If you are opposed to SOPA, you are against big government getting into your business of telling you what you can say, share, and write about online. Since you are against big government, you should be against a government who practices discriminatory tax policy against people who already pay more than their percentage of income earned.” First is the assumption that opposition to SOPA is necessarily opposition to big government, when again, for most people, it seems to be more an issue of big business’s influence through government. Second, is the assumption that opposition to SOPA necessarily means a position (and the position YOU presented) on the other issues you presented, when it is possible that someone is taking a position on SOPA due to opposition on possible censorship of the Internet with no broader concerns. Third, there’s the assumption that all our opinions should necessarily have the same focus, in this case expanding liberty; humans are complex, which is why you can be for one issue that expands liberty (pro-gun) while being against another (anti-gay marriage, to steal one of your own suggestions).

    A similar approach might be for me to say something like, ‘Your support of same-sex marriage means that you’re a staunch liberal. As a liberal, you are opposed to high military spending, want a sharply progressive tax system with higher rates for the top earners, and think the social safety net should be expanded.’ Obviously, most of that is not the case, as I know the latter two in particular aren’t your style; I’m just trying to make a point about deriving conclusions based on one opinion about one issue.

    “Do people really just conveniently vote for what’s best for themselves?”

    As a general rule, I’d say yes. Take, as an example, a staunch conservative who opposes government spending in general; now, take away government funding for a military base in his district, and see how quickly he feels that this particular spending is justified. As another, watch the liberal who speaks loudly and often about people’s freedom of expression; now watch how he acts when they use that freedom to denounce his critics and pass laws against libel. I could go on (and, if I wan’t this to be even longer, come up with plenty of real examples), but the point should be pretty clear: when your principles start to affect your pocket book (or your reputation), most people are pretty willing to give up the principles.

    Now, that’s not to say that voting for what’s best for yourself is necessarily a bad thing; removing a politician who misspent your tax dollars or lowered taxes on his biggest donor is definitely a net plus to the political system. On the other hand, as you note, there are plenty of times when it can get out of hand, allowing one group to dictate how another group should live and behave, as with your discussion of marriage taxes and gay marriage. It might be another problem with democracies, with the majorities voting to penalize the minorities along with voting themselves largess from the public treasury, as Tytler put it. (http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Alexander_Fraser_Tytler) (Although, I would also include voting to keep taxes low, while not similarly cutting public largess, as ways of ending a democracy.)

    “Is discrimination OK if you aren’t being discriminated against?”

    As a general rule, no, it is not. That said, I think we’ve managed to become WAY too sensitive to ‘discrimination’ here in the US, and as a result, seem to find it where no discrimination was intended. Stores asking their employees to say ‘Happy Holidays’ in December hardly means that Christians are being maligned, in much the same way that wishing a ‘Merry Christmas’ isn’t a sign of anti non-Christian sentiment. (To say nothing of things like racial preferences in reference to college admission or scholarships for minorities members; is discrimination OK if it’s an attempt to resolve past, even worse discrimination? That’s where my ‘general rule’ starts to get murkier…) That said, it’s a tricky bridge to cross; it’s hard to tell sometimes when discussion of, say, tax rates, goes from being fair to being discriminatory. (Particularly when, like tax rates, there are a number of views on the subject, each with their own particular feelings.)

    It is a very complex set of issues, and I doubt this will be the last time they come up. Thanks for the thought-provoking piece!

    • says

      Hi Roger, great perspective as always. I particularly like how you discuss the belief that BIG BUSINESS are the main culprits at the expense of the individual and small businessmen. I can see that, since big business and big government are almost synonymous sometimes.

      There are no perfect candidates. Hence, America WILL vote for President Obama, the devil they know, even though he wants to redistribute wealth and spend to the moon.

      • says

        There’s certainly more than a little overlap between big business and big government, that much I doubt anyone would argue; the same people tend to show up in leadership roles in both fields, if nothing else. As for Obama, it is certainly possible that he’ll end up winning (the Republicans aren’t doing much to stop it, but that’s another story). I do find it interesting, though, that among people on the left, some of the biggest critiques of Obama have involved things like maintaining the Bush tax cuts and not injecting more money into the system to try to end the recession; I suppose there are going to be critics of the President from both sides, regardless of what he does.

  16. Robert @ The College Investor says

    Here’s another example of discrimination that is legal but bothers me. We can’t discriminate against hiring old people because they are a protected class. But that age protection does not apply to minors. And since hiring a minor involves a lot more government regulation (such as work permits, etc.), many employers including mine discriminate against hiring them.

    • says

      That is an interesting perspective. An employer doesn’t want to hire someone with massive red tape and protection, since that is ultimately costly. And the ultimate group that hurts is the class the government is trying to protect!

  17. First Gen American says

    I love how you brought the different issues together in your post. For the record, I don’t think all people who are not paying taxes are poor. My mom paid taxes until she was in her 70’s and her earned income was never more than about $25k/year (even with her rental income).

    http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2011/11/03/360185/30-corporations-no-taxes/

    Plenty of corporations pay no taxes, but I also think its very complex. GE may be on the naughty list but unlike Walmart, they employ a lot of highly paid workers who pay lots of taxes. Those jobs make living the American dream possible. I don’t think solving the tax issue is simple. In the current system you can site examples from both sides of the argument. Here you are saying the rich pay the bulk of the tax burden. Meanwhile I am asking why my poverty level mom is paying taxes and some of the biggest companies in the America pay none. But what if that company is employing me and allowing me to not only take care of my family but also my mom. Now are they so evil? But even with flat tax….what if the charitable giving write off was eliminated. That would negatively effect the poor even though it is the rich who benefit from that write off. There are lots of examples like that. With discrimination it’s black and white, but with tax decisions, there is a lot of grey because many write offs are out there to provide incentives for more jobs and giving back to the community.

    I am 100% in agreement with your other points on discrimination though.

    • says

      I’m happy to eliminate all write-offs if we have a flat tax above a certain poverty level

      It is certainly not right for someone or a corporation isnt paying any taxes. Hence, this anger needs to be directed to the millions who don’t pay any federal taxes.

  18. pgb says

    I’m no economist but here’s my .02 on the tax topic

    Having long term capital gain, short term capital gain, wages and salary, and other types of income taxed at different rates gives the country big “knobs” to supposedly incent behavior at the macro level. The idea is that if you want people to put their money in something for more than a year the you lower that rate relative to other investement options. Does it work? Probably so given the amount of references to wealthy people “unfairly” only having to pay 15% tax on most of their income…

    I find it odd how some people see capital gains the way they do – like it is not ‘work’. These people are taking risk with their assets. True the risk is different than the risk take with our time (earning wages) but it is risk the same and without it there is no way you could buy a starbucks latte for $3. The bean had to be grown in some far away land (capital), get packed on a ship (capital), get unloaded with a crane (capital) onto a truck (capital), roasted a a roasting house (capital) likely with an expensive roasting machine made from steal that came from lands far away (capital), packaged, trucked to the local store, and on and on and on. all for $3 cost to you. This would not be the price without the investment of capital into the assets that make trade and transport of goods possible at economicly cheap prices.

    The idea of moving completely to taxing based on wealth vs earning or transactions seems to be insanity. Property taxes in most jurisdictions are already riddled with problems and claims of unfairness. In all the real-estate transactions if have done not once has the assessment matched the real market value. Assessments typically rise quickly in a boom real estate market and slowly fall in a bust market (and only public pressure). I just took a loan out on my property equivalent to 1/4 of the appraised value. 1/2 of the monthly payment goes to escrow to pay the property tax!

    Here is what else would likely happen if we went to so called “wealth” tax
    – all non real property would move offshore
    – all real property would be systematically devalued (agg land, wet land, special use classes, blah blah blah)
    – litigation about valuation and chasing the flow of money off shore would boom
    – governement beauracracy to fight all the above would baloon.
    So devaluation of capital, reduction in onshore investments, increase in litigation, and increase in size of government… exactly the opposite of what i want to happen.

    Since it isn’t possible to have no tax I prefer the following: small amount of tax based on property ownership that funds the services delivered to that property, flat rate above poverty cap taxation based on transactions related to earning and consumption because they balance a reasonably stable flow with a predictable source of revenue and predictable cost to those involved in the transactions. super-simplify the current system.

  19. Darwin's Money says

    Americans make a national pastime of voting for shitbag politicians and then complaining about what they do once in office. They vote on “social issues” but not what really matters.

    • Janna says

      Most of us can only vote on the choices given to us, and the people complaining may be the people who voted for the other guy! And unfortunately, we can’t all agree on what really matters, or even if we can, on how to fix it!

  20. says

    Sam,

    All legislated discrimination is wrong. That applies to the segregation back in the 50s, and it applies to all the laws favouring corporations over people today. It’s morally wrong, and it doesn’t even make economic sense. It is all being done to assert the power of a privileged few over the majority.

    The only legitimate discrimination is voluntary; the type we practice when deciding who to marry, where to go to school, etc… I believe that in a voluntary relationship, each party has the right to use whatever criteria they see fit. Regardless, under the law, both parties have the same rights and should be treated as equal.

  21. says

    alas, I know people will always vote for what’s in their best interests, even if it means screwing other people in the process.

    Shoot, I know people that vote with their party no matter what the party does. Blind obedience is not a good way to live… or at least that’s what I think.

  22. Dennis says

    Somehow in this current climate we have come to the conclusion that it is permissible to peanalize those who are smarter, better educated, and have worked / do work hard to be where they are at. You don’t have to make 500,000$ a year to be bit by the inequality and understand that the tax code discriminates against us all. I think it is not our business to care what the effect of X percent income will be on y group. If they don’t like it or can’t deal with it, they should do as those making more than them have done and pull themselves up to the next level. The purpose of a federal tax is only and can be only to run the governement; it is all our responsibility to pay our fair share. If the maximum rate at which the lowest citizen can afford to pay is not adequate to run our federal government, then everthing else but the most basic levels of government should be cut. It isn’t about what the government thinks group x or y can afford; it is about what we all can afford. Anything else just proves the government is innefective and bloated. You don’t get my money; I have earned it – you haven’t. Even if I were to be a manager at McDonalds making 35-40K / year, I have still earned the right to keep as much of that as possible by paying the exact same tax percentage as those below me making ~20K. We need to stop punishing ambition and innovation; how much more of this will the top 50% take before we start seeing a massive exodus? Hello Grand Cayman?

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