On both of the most salient issues of the day, health care reform and climate change, proponents of the corresponding legislation are setting their sights on the rich to pay for these expensive measures.
The massive government health care bill in the House involves a very expensive restructuring of the health care system in the United States–so expensive, in fact, that Democrats are proposing a tax increase on the rich, that is, in addition to the one that will occur when the Bush tax cuts expire in 2011. They are calling it a “surtax“–a yet-undetermined slice of the incomes of those earning over $200,000 per year, which would be used to help pay for the implementation of the health care overhaul.
At the same time, a study just released by the National Academy of Sciences calls for governments to target their wealthiest citizens for carbon dioxide-cutting regulations and taxes. As opposed to the Kyoto Protocol, which sets emissions standards for countries, the authors of this new report recommend tracking and restricting emissions on an individual basis. The rationale is that since wealthy people expend more energy and give off more CO2 than the less prosperous, they should be held to an international cap on CO2 emissions and taxed if they exceed it. Surely, this is music to populist politicians’ ears, and it comes just in time for the cap-and-trade bill that faces a tough fight in the Senate.
So the idea, judging by this latest volley against the rich, is to convince people that enjoying a higher standard of living than most others is leading to Armageddon, while simultaneously drawing upon the richest members of society like human ATMs to pay everyone else’s medical bills. The classic political formula–providing benefits to the many at the expense of a few–is in full employment, which is much more than one can say of either the American or European economies in the foreseeable future. The realization of today’s dominant political agendas will see to that.