It isn’t about the money, it’s about sending a message

Some people think that there is some useful grain of truth in Mitt Romney’s claim that 47% of Americans are taker and pay no income tax.

There are those like Matt Yglesias who use it as an opportunity to point that yes, America taxes its poor people less than it used to. This is a good thing.

There are those like Mark Thoma point out that because children can’t have jobs and old people have retired many people cannot pay tax. This is an inevitable thing.

There are those like Ian Cowie who are just lying arseholes that have used this claim to suggest poor people are thieving, layabout scum, who don’t deserve basic human rights. I’m not even exaggerating! Read on.

Is that libel? I’m not sure of the finer points of the law, but this…

There can be no doubt that substantial numbers – on his estimate, nearly half – of electors who decide how a democracy spends its money no longer make any financial contribution to the taxes it must raise to do so.

…from his latest column is a demonstrable fucking lie. 47% of Americans pay no income taxes for a number of reasons. Most importantly some of them are too old or too young. Less importantly, rather than tax people and pay them benefits, America just taxes poor people less. Beyond all this, there are taxes other than income taxes. Loads of them – federal, state and local – and it is a lie, not mere misdirection, to say they don’t exist. Does that qualify him as a liar?

He continues, in vile, petulant fashion. After blithely proposing that voting be restricted to those that pay at least £100 in taxes a year, in an effort to place himself somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun, he offers two exemptions:

All pensioners would have automatic eligibility to vote because of the fiscal contributions to society they are likely to have paid earlier.

The same exemption could be extended to all mothers because of their contribution to defusing the ‘demographic time-bomb’ of an ageing population.

His implying that there are ways to contribute to society in ways other than paying income tax have left me shocked, shocked! Shocking or not, I think his treatment of women as walking uterine bomb squads qualify him as an arsehole.

So anyone who knows libel law: have I covered my arse?

That was all preamble and throat clearing. Something to show the world that I am still not adverse to playing the man not the ball when its fun.

The main take away from Ian’s piece isn’ t the tax folklore at the end, or the knowingly incorrect statistics, or even the misogyny. The important point is this.

Ian Cowie knows that income tax isn’t the only tax, he’s not a fucking idiot, and yet he pretends that it is for a full 1000 words. I don’t have evidence he’s not a fucking idiot, but he has written for the Telegraph for close to two decades and (when I’m not trying to be funny) that indicates he isn’t a total fucking idiot. He knows.

He also knows that one of the reasons a somewhat surprisingly small proportion of people don’t pay income tax is because they are old. He admits as much, as quoted above. By a small stretch of the imagination, of which even Ian’s puny intellect must be capable, he might have guessed that a lot of people don’t pay income tax because they are young. Despite all this he proclaims:

Bearing in mind that one of the rallying cries of America’s founding fathers was “no taxation without representation” is it really so unspeakable to ask whether some link between representation and taxation should be restored?

Ignore what he says, that he is indignant that some people don’t pay a particular tax. That hasn’t inspired him, he hasn’t come to a new realisation courtesy of Mitt Romney’s glaring insight. He’s publishing almost the same article he published in 2011, which made Paulvery angry. He hates poor people.

There might be reasons to have everyone paying part of a tax, just so they are involved in the bureaucracy of it so they gain some local knowledge of it. I don’t think it is a particularly strong argument, but it has some merit.

There is no reason for asking lots of people to pay some portion of some specific taxes so they look like they have “skin in the game” so it looks like they are being both represented and taxed. People like Ian Cowie don’t care. They hate poor people.  The fact that some poor people don’t pay income tax isn’t a reason for their hatred, it is merely a nail on which to hang their opinions.


PS The article cited should seem familiar. Because about 90% of it was published under Ian Cowie‘s name in 2011 and made Paulvery angry. The original post, which Ian rehashed for 2012, was originally inspired by a post from 2010 from Dominic Hobson.

PPS Post dedicated to Thomas Byrne, who inspired it.


6 thoughts on “It isn’t about the money, it’s about sending a message

  1. This post is a work of art, I entirely agree.

    My favourite Cowie post is:

    In which he proposes charging your children rent as a solution to the housing shortage.

    He appears to despise his own offspring, which I find quite odd.

    A complete inability to comprehend statistics or use Google is almost a requirement to be employed at a national newspaper (except the Economist and the FT).

    Hence I trust anonymous blogs far more than most of what is written in newspapers.

    Other lies in the Telegraph this morning, Jeremy Warner wrote* “I was a supporter of the initial bout of quantitative easing”.

    Which is BS of the highest order, two minutes on Google finds his old columns in the Independent in early 2009 in which he (as always) berates QE.

    I guess it just betrays their contempt for their readers.


  2. V good post. It was suggested (poss even by you?) that the earlier post was tongue-in-cheek, and I was tempted to agree, so ridiculous was it. Looks like it wasn’t. On a point of fact, isn’t 47% not paying income tax different to 47% brits not doing so, because of a the federal/local tax split?

    1. He uses the phrase “a modest proposal” in both, but I think now it is more likely he is an ignoramus who has never heard of Swift, rather than a satirical genius.

      With regard to the 47%, yep, very different to UK. Oh yes, lots of people don’t pay federal income tax policy, because right wingers have waged a successful battle to lower tax rates, and some of that has benefited the poor. Some will have to pay state income taxes, and a hell of a lot of Americans pay payroll taxes, as I said.

  3. The “no representation without taxation” crowd are fundamentalists who would happily restore 18th century property qualifications if they could, but the really dangerous activists in this slow assault on democracy are the LibDems and their ilk.

    The policy of increasing personal income tax allowances may be “lifting millions out of tax altogether”, but it is also expanding those deemed to be potentially irresponsible because they have “no skin in the game”. One moment the beneficiaries are hard-working families freed from the dead weight of government, the next they are free-loaders sucking the blood of the tax-paying majority.

    The LibDems will no doubt point to the plans for a £10k allowance as their major achievement in power, given their failures over tuition fees and electoral reform. At no point do they appear to have stopped to wonder why the Tories allowed them this victory.

    1. “The policy of increasing personal income tax allowances may be “lifting millions out of tax altogether”, but it is also expanding those deemed to be potentially irresponsible because they have “no skin in the game”.”

      I disagree, there is no way to stop people like Ian Cowie making vile arguments, no matter how much skin in the game poor people have. I don’t think it is a successful rhetorical tactic to swing voters. It is effective in shoring up the poor hating base, but not in electoral politics. It isn’t about the money, its about the message.

Comments are closed.