December 7 2010

At Least Conservatives are Consistent

Hadley Heath

Ah, finally, some middle ground in Washington.  A compromise has come to tax policy and unemployment benefits.

What did the evil conservatives get?  Tax cut extensions for "thewealthiestAmericans"

What did the loving liberals get?  Unemployment insurance for those in need!

This is how the story will be told.  Liberals want to paint a David-and-Goliath picture of the small, weak unemployed and the rich, greedy Americans at the top.  To be sure, our country has great disparities between the highest and lowest socioeconomic levels. 

But.  At least conservatives are consistent in their attitudes toward people.  I don't believe that being in the top income bracket automatically makes someone greedy.  I don't believe being poor automatically makes someone helpless.  But I do believe that rich or poor, there are two truths about people: We all generally make reasonable decisions, and we all generally act in our own self interests. 

Consider what this means for public policy:

John is unemployed.  He hasn't had a job for 18 months, but he's been receiving unemployment benefits.  Last week he got a job offer, but he realizes that his income would be about the same with his potential paychecks or with his unemployment checks.  If he had a job, he wouldn't have the same flexibility to help out around the house, or spend time with his kids, or do whatever it is John likes to do in his free time.  And last night he found out that his unemployment will be extended.  So he's turning down the job offer.  He's made a reasonable decision, because after all, time is money.  You see, liberals expect that John will weigh the social implications of his choice.  Taking the job and stopping his unemployment benefits would alleviate taxpayers of the responsibility of helping John out.  So, the responsible thing to do would be to take it.  Liberals expect that John will do the right thing and take the job.  I don't!  Not because John is a "bad" person, but because he has higher-order thinking skills common to humans, and he's made a choice about what's best for him.

Mark owns a small business.  His business has been really successful.  Mark is sole proprietor of the business, and all the profits of it are channeled onto his income tax report.  So Mark is one of our "wealthiest Americans."  Under Obama's tax plan, his taxes would've increased on January 1.  Mark's been worrying about what to do, considering investing more in his business, but unsure of the future.  Knowing that his tax bill might jump next year, he put a little money aside to cushion the blow.  But last night Mark found out that his taxes will remain the same.  So with the money he put aside, Mark decides to hire a new worker.  He could just keep the money for himself, as a raise.  But he doesn't think that's what's best for him or his business in the long run.  Liberals might think that Mark's decision about whether to hire someone new will depend on his heart.  Will he do the "compassionate" thing and create a job for someone, or will he be selfish and not hire anyone?  I don't see the choice this way.  I know Mark is reasonable.  Perhaps if he hires a new worker, he can pay the worker $13 an hour, but the work provided will actually be worth $20 an hour to the company.  By hiring someone new, Mark has increased his profits in the long run and has done the selfish, reasonable thing.

I know Americans are in all different kinds of situations.  But I do not believe that one's situation will affect his or her ability to reason and to act out of self interest.  Liberals want to create class warfare on the premise that there are different types of people: poor people, who are inherently good and rich people who are inherently bad.  If we all hold on to our reason, we will never fall for this.  

Conservatives, in the fights about taxes and unemployment, have shown that at least they are consistent.  They have stuck to this philosophy: Americans want jobs, but they want working in their jobs to be better than receiving unemployment.  Americans want to earn money, and they want to keep their money and make choices about what to do with it.  And finally, the choices Americans will make with their money will be reasonable, self-interested, and ultimately good for our economy.  The choices Americans will make with their money will be better than choices the government could make with their money.

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