Thursday, June 10, 2021


Here’s a link to a free installment of Roy Edroso Breaks It Down (Subscribe! Cheap!) about how conservatives rushed to the defense of hypergazillionaires like Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett when their taxes were subjected to scrutiny in that ProPublica exposé. Their main argument seems to be that someone leaking the tycoons’ impossibly low tax rates is the Real Scandal, and that you paupers should worry that some evil journalism non-profit will publish your tax rate and forget all about soaking the increasingly soakworthy rich.  

When I wrote it I hadn’t seen Megan McArdle’s entry at the Washington Post. I haven’t been paying much attention to her since she explained why stimulus payments were pointless a few months back, and I should have known better because if anyone can be counted on to fly to the defense of the super-rich it’s her. 

McArdle starts by noticing that both Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos are engaged in a literal space race of the sort only national governments could afford to engage in once upon a time, and she understands, really, why you littlebrains would “suspect they’re not paying enough taxes and reporters are eager to prove it,” sigh. But she’ll have you know that the “deductions they were taking seem to be largely legitimate ones you’ve heard of — think charitable donations, not hidden offshore accounts.” You’re not against charity, are you? 

Also, you’re not against fairness, are you? Because taxing the rich more would be unfair, because it’s more. You have to admit Bezos keeping all but <1% of the 99 billion in wealth he accumulated over four years is only fair -- how’d you like to have to pay more than that? Huh? What’s that? You do, in fact, pay a great deal more? Well, how about this: 

Ordinary Americans don’t pay income tax every time our stock portfolios go up or our homes appreciate a bit. We pay the tax when we sell. Why should American billionaires be different?

What do you mean you don’t have a stock portfolio? What do you mean you don’t have a house? Why then is Megan McArdle even talking to you? Actually she’s not – she’s just facing you while her true audience applauds from the Royal Box. But she can’t relax: Anyone can explain why soaking the rich is unfair – to prove her worth McArdle must also tug at the heartstrings with grim pictures of life under a more progressive tax structure:

…while the ultrawealthy wouldn’t be forced out of their family homes, they might be forced to sell off stock of a business they spent decades building. 

Gasp! One pictures Elon Musk, in his ratty fingerless gloves, peeling off shares to hand over to his Socialist Masters while consoling a tearful Grimes, “if things get very bad be can always pawn the blood emeralds.” 

The toffs no doubt are loving it, but McArdle still hasn’t got to her big finish: A show of contempt for the portfolio-less bums who don’t understand the ultrarich must be able to do big things like scout extraterrestrial locations for their post-climate-collapse HQ, and if you hoboes can’t see that maybe you just don’t have enough soul: 

“People should pay taxes on untaxed capital gains” is what you come up with if you just don’t think anyone should have enough money to be able to shoot themselves into space, and you think that the government should tax that money even if it doesn’t benefit anyone else — heck, even if it costs the rest of us something.

By some definitions of fairness, that’s a defensible position. But given a choice between letting billionaires spend fortunes reaching for the stars, or destroying those fortunes so that the rest of us don’t have to look at them, then personally, I’ll take the rockets.

Maybe she means that last bit literally, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the rich refugees from our destroyed planet left her at the launchpad – by then they’ll have created robots that can flatter them just as well at an even lower maintenance cost. 

No comments:

Post a Comment