tax the poor

By Larry Elder

Let’s examine some of the many reasons why billionaire Michael Bloomberg is wasting his money on his bid to win the Democratic nomination for president.

First, none of the Democratic candidates can win the nomination without the black vote. That means the former New York City mayor needs to pry black voters from former vice president Joe Biden, who owes his front-runner status to the black voters who embrace him, given his eight years as a loyal second-in-command to the extremely popular former President Barack Obama.

Bloomberg has his work cut out for him. Consider the recent New York Times op-ed by a black columnist, Charles M. Blow, who said, “No black person—or Hispanic person or ally of people of color—should ever even consider voting for Michael Bloomberg in the primary.” Blow urged blacks, Hispanics and their “allies” to reject Bloomberg because of his allegedly “racist” stop-and-frisk policy. Bloomberg recently apologized for the policy, after defending it only months ago.

Second, Bloomberg, despite an estimated net worth of over $50 billion, is still an old, white male in a gender/race/ethnicity identity-obsessed party where being an old, white, male presidential candidate—Biden excepted—is an increasingly tough sell.

Bloomberg’s a determined gun controller, although unlike former Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, Bloomberg does not—at least not yet—push a “mandatory buy-back” plan. But, like O’Rouke, Bloomberg never bothers to ask how many Americans defend themselves every year with a firearm.

Third, then-Mayor Bloomberg, even beyond the typical “progressive” Democrat, attempted to take the nanny state to a level that New York state’s highest court rejected as an overreach. After placing restrictions on smoking in parks and bars, regulating tanning salons, banning the use of trans fats in restaurants, and requiring chain restaurants to post meal calories, Bloomberg attempted to ban sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces in some restaurants, movie theaters, and other businesses.

The liberal New York high court said, “By choosing among competing policy goals, without any legislative delegation or guidance, the Board engaged in law-making and thus infringed upon the legislative jurisdiction of the City Council.”

Bloomberg acknowledges that his sugary soda tax would have fallen disproportionately on the poor, who also disproportionately drink sugary drinks, just as cigarette taxes disproportionately fall on the poor who disproportionately smoke cigarettes.

But Bloomberg easily justifies it: “Some people say, well, taxes are regressive. But in this case, yes they are. That’s the good thing about them because the problem is in people that don’t have a lot of money. And so, higher taxes should have a bigger impact on their behavior and how they deal with themselves. So, I listen to people saying, ‘Oh, we don’t want to tax the poor.’ Well, we want the poor to live longer so that they can get an education and enjoy life. And that’s why you do want to do exactly what a lot of people say you don’t want to do.”

So the “poor,” according to Bloomberg, “can get an education” because they’ll “live longer”?

All of this makes Bloomberg the very definition of the “moral busybody” scorned by respected writer C.S. Lewis, who said: “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

Why not levy taxes on the rich people to deter them from engaging in “unhealthy” behavior? Why not a wealth tax on luxury cars, diamonds, private air travel, five-star hotel suites, McMansions, and pricey restaurants, you know, to help the spiritually empty rich curb their unhealthy consumerism?

Through minimum wage laws, we forbid employees from earning below a certain amount. So why not a maximum wage law? After all, President Obama said, “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.”

As to Bloomberg’s argument that the poor need to be coerced into making better, more healthful decisions, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”

Freedom, by definition, means people can and will make choices others will not like. But to encourage people to make better decisions, one does not rob them of freedom of choice. One uses persuasion, not compulsion.

Good luck, Mr. Bloomberg.

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