January 8 2013
What is the distinguishing feature of our high-living, liberal aristocracy?
Well, as with other aristocracies in times past, it’s tax avoidance. Aw, Warren, we thought you were better than that.
In a delightful piece over at National Review, Victor Davis Hanson depicts the new aristocracy whose lives are at variance with the policies they advocate for others.
As a rule, the new aristocrats loudly advocate raising taxes for others and then quietly try to escape higher taxes for themselves.
When Warren Buffett, a relentless advocate of higher inheritance taxes on small businesses and farms, dies, the U.S. Treasury isn't going to make out like a bandit. Mr. Buffett is leaving a sizeable chunk of his wealth to the Gates Foundation. This will cost the Treasury millions upon millions in lost revenue. Buffett may believe it is more virtuous to leave his money to a foundation than a son or daughter and we agree that foundations are very important to the civic life of our country. Nevertheless, Buffett is thwarting the Treasury in a way that small businessmen and farmers can't. Anybody see the irony here?
But Buffett and Jeff Immelt, the Obama pal whose GE paid no corporate taxes, are hardly alone:
During the 2008 financial meltdown, Goldman Sachs was a recipient of federal cash bailouts. Recently its CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, wrote an op-ed in which he said, “I believe that tax increases, especially for the wealthiest, are appropriate.” Why, then, would Goldman Sachs rush to pay out $65 million in restricted stock bonuses to its own corporate elite in time to beat the new higher tax rates that began on January 1, 2013?
Isn’t that inappropriate? What would have happened had Blankfein timed his op-ed for publication in early 2013 rather than November 2012, and also added “– and that’s why I am not rushing Goldman Sachs stock payouts just to lessen the tax burden on our wealthiest at a time of national insolvency.”
The second distinguishing (and often overlapping) characteristic feature of the liberal aristocracy is hypocrisy. Al Gore, for example, is a twofer: the climate change activist former vice president just sold his Current TV to Al- Jezeera, which is financed through fossil fuel profits. Adding to the hypocrisy, Gore tried to ram the deal through quickly enough to avoid the higher taxes he supports for others.
But my favorite high-living member of the new aristocracy lives in public housing:
Class warrior Barack Obama spent his winter break in a ritzy rental on a Hawaiian beach. It cost the taxpayers $7 (or is it $20?) million to jet him and his entourage 6,000 miles for their tropical vacation. But whether the first family escapes to Hawaii or Martha’s Vineyard or Costa del Sol, the image of a 1 percent lifestyle seems a bit at odds with the president’s professed disdain for “millionaires and billionaires,” “fat cats,” and “corporate-jet owners” who supposedly can afford such tony retreats only because they have done something suspect….
If the liberal fat cats would live according to what they profess, they might change their minds about taxes. That would be good for the country. Fat chance of that.