How do we explain the conservative vision to Fred, our archetypal median voter? Let him have a conversation with Charles. (More)

Conservative Vision, Part III – Fred, Meet Charles (Non-Cynical Saturday)

This week Morning Feature looks at the conservative vision for America. Thursday we saw that conservatives deny having a vision, and indeed deny the idea of national goals. Yesterday we looked at their economic proposals, and why we’ll all need recipes for unicorn soup. Today we conclude with Fred Whispering points to challenge the conservative vision.

Charles deserves his wealth.

Meet Charles the Honest Conservative. Conservatives are conservatives for lots of different reasons, but Charles is the Honest kind. Charles is rich and he knows it, unlike four-in-ten millionaires who say they don’t feel rich despite an average $3.8 million in assets (not including real estate). Charles plans to stay rich because he thinks he deserves it, and he’s tired of being treated as a second-class citizen:

All told, the rich still pay far more than their “fair share” of the gargantuan U.S. welfare state and the top 10% pay seven times their income share in federal income taxes, while the bottom 90% pay a mere one-third. This doesn’t even include state tax burdens, which brings the total “take” from the wealthiest to above 50%.

This is an obscene injustice–which the current “tax deal” (and the so-called “tea party” movement) does nothing to alter or remedy. The rich in America should not be treated as second-class citizens (or non-citizens), at least not if this country is still free and ruled by fair play and the Constitution.

That’s right. The wealthy in America are second-class citizens. In fact, they’re hardly treated as citizens at all. There are so few of them that their votes hardly count, and the rest of us keep “voting away the rights of this irreplaceable minority.”

Repeal the 20th century.

Charles knows when this problem began:

Not in America’s first 125 years but only during its last 100 years or so have the rich faced the unjust graduated income tax and estate tax, which are not “progressive” but regressive precisely because they violate rights.

That’s why Charles likes the House budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). As Harold Meyerson aptly described it, Rep. Ryan wants to “repeal the 20th century.” Charles agrees. It’s time to end Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, unemployment, welfare, and the rest of the 20th century social contract. The wealth of the wealthy should be inviolable:

The unvarnished principle should be this: the rich deserve lower tax rates not only because the rates they now pay are inordinately high relative to the rates others pay, but primarily because it is their own earned wealth–and not because the cuts might boost output, create jobs, replenish the Treasury, or serve the needy.

Supply-siders were giddy when voters in Washington state last month rejected a new tax on the super-rich; but in a truly just society the property rights of the rich should be sacrosanct, on a par with other individuals’ rights–and not subject to any vote (or “tax deal”) whatsoever.

In fact, if his taxes go up, Charles may just go John Galt. It won’t hurt him much, but it would hurt the rest of the economy:

Since high earners generally have the largest behavioral responses to taxes, the deadweight losses (or costs of inefficiency) of such tax changes would be quite large.

Charles knows what we need to fix our economy: cut Fred’s paycheck.

Fred is too greedy.

The problem with our economy isn’t greedy bankers or CEOs. It’s greedy employees like Fred. For example, Fred is infatuated with owning a home. Even the New York Times said American workers are overpaid. The Times writers said a 20% pay cut might bring Fred more in line with workers in other countries. The Cato Institute says a family of four can meet basic needs on $30,000 a year. That would be a 55% pay cut.

Charles knows Fred doesn’t really earn that money anyway:

Today’s so-called progressives have yet to advance beyond the vulgar, centuries-old claim that only manual-muscular labor creates economic value and that mental labor (intelligence) brings no value-added and instead “exploits” or “robs” physical labor. This is the “labor theory of value,” a falsehood advanced ages ago by free-marketers (Adam Smith) and socialists (Marx) alike, yet one that curiously persists today, in the hatred for the “white-collar” wealth-creators, despite massive evidence to the contrary. When labor unions instead of entrepreneurs run business firms, they bankrupt them.

And if Fred gets together to form a union with other workers, well:

Unions are labor cartels. Cartels work by restricting the supply of what they produce so that consumers will have to pay higher prices for it. OPEC, the best-known cartel, attempts to raise the price of oil by cutting oil production. As labor cartels, unions attempt to monopolize the labor supplied to a company or an industry in order to force employers to pay higher wages.

And we all know monopolies are bad, although Charles agrees we should repeal the Sherman Antitrust Act and allow business monopolies. But at least labor monopolies are bad. In fact, if Fred forms a union, that’s just another tax on Charles and his portfolio:

Unions effectively tax these investments by negotiating higher wages for their members, thus lowering profits. Unionized companies respond to this union tax by reducing investment. Less investment makes unionized companies less competitive.

So there you have it, Fred. The problem with our economy is that you’re “infatuated” with owning a home and “overpaid.” So while Charles may go John Galt if Congress raises his taxes by 3%, don’t you dare go John Galt if Charles cuts your pay by 20% or 55% or whatever it takes.

What’s his is his … and what’s yours should be his too.

Oh, and Fred? Charles wants your vote.


Happy Saturday!