May 12, 2011


President Obama’s speech of April 13, 2011 delineated his budget plan and what he would fight for and against.  Obama also took the opportunity to describe Paul Ryan's budget as mean-spirited, and even un-American.  By doing so Obama threw down what amounted to a moral gauntlet, declaring that we as Americans are challenged not just by the economics of our day, but our responsibility to one other. I am picking up that gauntlet, and what follows is my response to President Obama’s challenge.


Obama's vision of America is one where we owe certain things to our fellow citizens; a decent living, universal healthcare, a safety net that preserves the dignity of our seniors as they grow old, and an educated workforce that is well paid. In Obama’s opinion this has been, and should continue to be, the domain of a benevolent government.


When Obama was campaigning to become President he made a lot of promises to people about jobs and healthcare that were based on the world we were living in then.  Obama campaigned in a world where millionaires and billionaires were being created at the fastest pace ever known to humanity. Remember when unemployment was at historic lows, the stock market was at record highs, and the GDP was in its 25th year of continuous growth? America was rich! Obama saw his role as President to be one where he would take from the “fortunate” and “invest” in programs that would re-shape America. This “change” was to be his mandate and legacy.


I believe that Obama's plan was to tap those riches and redistribute them for the "betterment of society". Unfortunately, when the financial crisis occurred, it wiped out many of the rich as home prices along with stock prices plummeted. Thus, Obama’s source for the income he needed to “transform” America was also wiped out. But now that the market has come back and the economy is on the mend, Obama is back on his game. In his budget the President calls for the top tax rate to be raised (with the elimination of deductions) to an effective rate of 44.5% on the wealthiest of Americans, defined as those making more than $250,000 a year.  In contrast Ryan's budget proposes to lower the top rate to 25%.  These are two very different visions of America.


In his latest speech Obama stated that his vision of America was not one that included cutting the government, but one where the priority is making government more responsive to the needs of American's.  He said that limiting government to where it does almost nothing is not only not his vision of America but, “In fact,” he said, “it hasn't been the vision of America in my life time.”  But it was the vision of our Founding Fathers. And since Obama brought morality into this debate, let’s consider which vision is moral and which is “un-American.”


Our Founding Fathers envisioned an America where a government that governed least was a government that governed best. They saw taxes as a form of what they called “legal plunder,” and strongly believed that taxes should be avoided wherever possible and levied only when necessary.  The Idea of an income tax was unthinkable, and as a nation we never imposed one until 1913. Even then the income tax was considered to be not only "necessary" but strictly "temporary.”  Before this there was no Federal Reserve System, no Departments of Transportation, Education, Environment, or Health.  There was no such thing as an FDA, FCC, SEC, HUD, or dozens of other departments and agencies that have sprung up since.


The US Government was to be limited in its governing role, and care of those in need was to be provided by friends, relatives, and charities.  This was our heritage. The America of that time was not considered to be uncaring. People were not considered cruel. On the contrary, independence and responsibility were a source of pride, and dependency a source of shame. This was the moral code of that time.


Americans are some of the only people on the planet born into a system where the right to life, the right to property, the right to choose, and the freedom to act is by constitutional law an explicit right and not a permission.  Our founding fathers took painstaking care to put into writing the explicit right of Americans to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Independence and self-reliance was considered a virtue. Americans declared their independence to the world.  They told those who intended to control them through regulation and taxation, "We do not grant you that right.  We will not live by permission.  We are a free people.” What resulted was what we now call the free market. A free market is a market where the values and actions of free individuals are freely expressed.


Contradictions existed back then as they do today. The principles laid down were not always adhered to.  America has found itself moving at times away from the principles of freedom and free markets, and at other times moving back toward their heritage.  This is such a time, and there is a tug-of-war going on, the outcome of which is far from determined. 


In a free society the sole job of government is to defend its citizens’ rights.  It organizes armies to defend against foreign invaders, creates police departments to defend against criminals, and forms courts of law to adjudicate civil disputes and prosecute offenders.  The federal government’s sole task is to defend its citizens.


This is not the vision that Obama or those that plead for the power to tax, control, and regulate the lives of others, have of America. As they see it, we tried freedom and independence, and it doesn’t work. They refer to the way we were governed as “the failed policies of the past.” To “win the future” we are told we must have an activist government that determines the direction of the nation. How will that happen? The government will control and regulate what its citizens and businesses can and cannot do. There is no other way to word Obama’s vision of America.


The America Obama envisions rests on the force of law not to just defend life, liberty, and property; but also to regulate an individual’s life, to control people’s liberty, and to take another person's property through taxation. It replaces individual judgment with the dictates of government. It recognizes the right to property only so far as government has the authority to control and regulate it. It sanctions and endorses taking from those who earned their money, and giving it to those who didn’t.


Those that believe in property rights, and the right to take any action they deem in their interest except those that use force fraud or coercion--ask nothing from anyone else.  They do not ask for the sacrifices of others.  They simply want to be free. Obama does not believe in such freedom. He believes in what he calls “shared sacrifice.”


When Barak Obama says he is simply asking those that have much more than they need to pay a little more for those who don't, it sounds moral.  But the President of the United States is not asking—he’s taking. Under his moral code it is OK to take money from people by force, and if they put up a fight to keep what is rightfully theirs, they are judged to be criminals and sent to jail. 


When is the use of force against innocent individuals considered moral? When is someone defending themselves against such force deemed criminal? This so called “moral” code stands justice on its head and allows government to take money from others at the point of a gun. No dictator or King could ask for more.  And no individual who loves freedom would ever call such acts of force moral. Our Founding Fathers rebelled against such “morality” and fled their homeland to a new territory where the right of the individual was supreme—not the demands of Kings or the claims of “society.”


Let's look at the most cherished and “benevolent” government program in America as an example of this so called morality—Social Security. Almost everyone believes this is one of the best programs the government has created.  I am for social security.  Who would not be?  But…I am not for the force required to fund it.


Consider the morality behind this popular program. Social Security is funded by employees and their employers.  The employee has his contribution forcibly taken from his pay check. Notice that the government calls what amounts to an act of theft a "contribution,” as if it were voluntary. Such moral evasion is needed to cloak this act as moral, when it is actually criminal.  If an employer or employee does not hand over this money to the state he is fined and/or sent to jail.  He has no choice in the matter.  Choice is eliminated by the government.  He has no freedom to disagree. Freedom is eliminated.  He has no recourse.  The court system is not available to him in this matter.  He has in fact been reduced to a slave of the state, with no rights or recourse available to him; it is a question of his money or his life.  Is this the morality we, who claim to be a free people, want to champion?


I am for Social Security, but only if it isn’t compulsory and based on theft. I also only support a system which locks away the money which has been voluntarily contributed instead of allowing the government to pilfer it and then place it as a claim against the next generation. As it stands now, we cannot pay for the Social Security we have promised, or for that matter Medicare.  So we are told by the President that we must raise taxes.  In other words we--as a society--must go out and find those who we can mug.  We need to find those with lots of money so that we can take it from them.  We need to confiscate their money for the good of us all.  This is not only OK; it is to be done in the name of morality and fairness!


But then, aren’t immoral acts usually committed in the name of morality? People are put in jail, maimed, tortured, and killed all the time in the name of morality.  Barak Obama is offering us such a choice today.  He is forming a gang, using mob mentality consensus, to reach out and take money from innocent people who have committed no crime; unless it is a crime to have more money than the next guy.  And worse, he is advocating this pillage in the name of "all that is right and good about America.”


Notice that he is not advocating raising everyone’s taxes--only the rich.  Wouldn’t a moral approach tax anyone that obtains a service? For example, a gasoline tax is a fairer tax. It taxes only from those that drive cars and uses the tax to fix the roads they drive on. Obama's plan is nothing like this. It is not concerned with fairness, it is punitive.  It is nothing short of an attempt to single out the rich and turn them into a persecuted minority, something you would think Barak Obama would know something about.  But he is not against such oppression when it comes to the wealthy, and instead is the chief advocate for the use of raw force to reach into their pockets and give their gains to others. This is his moral sense of justice.


 I refuse to be a part of his mob.  I will not vote to compel any person to be forced at the point of a gun to support me.  I will not advocate the use of force to obtain gains at someone else’s expense.  That is MY morality.  I do not believe in “shared sacrifice,” in fact I believe it is immoral. I choose to live neither sacrificing myself to others nor demanding that others sacrifice themselves to me.  I choose to be neither a masochist who sanctions the government’s “right” to control and regulate me, nor a sadist that does the same to others. I choose instead to be a free individual, independent of gangs and thugs, and expect others to do the same. 


Let me end this discussion by saying that I am not always against taxation. User taxes such as the gasoline tax are not a tax I am willing to rebel against. I was not against the Clinton tax increase or the Reagan tax increase for various reasons. There are times when taxation may be preferable to the alternative.  Sometimes the price is right to raise taxes, such as when in return there is a major reduction in spending, resulting in more freedom. As in all things economic, it depends on the context.  If a government puts excessive money into the economy, it may be necessary to take it back out through taxation to prevent inflation.  If we are attacked as a nation, it may be necessary to impose a temporary tax to raise an army and fight a war. And if a society refuses to pay for the services it receives, it may be necessary to present all Americans with the bill.


Taxes are not always the worse choice, and at times may be the best choice, but new taxes should always be temporary, and should never be imposed to rob from one person to give to another.  That would be the most immoral choice of all. A tax on the rich to pay for the services for the rest of us is immoral and cowardly.


Claiming that Paul Ryan’s budget is un-American because it supposedly “takes from those that can afford it least and gives to a handful of millionaires and billionaires,” is a flagrant distortion of truth and an assault on reason and morality. It assumes that the wealth belonging to those individuals in the higher income groups is not actually theirs; that it exists only by permission of the government. Barak Obama wants to withdraw that “permission” and claim their wealth for “society.” It is this kind of immorality—this legal plunder—that our founding fathers fought so hard to prevent.

 To advocate taxing the rich to pay for unearned benefits for the rest of us is anything but American.


Paul Nathan
April 28, 2011