Travis Rowley: Symbolism Over Substance

Saturday, April 28, 2012


It is now widely known that the Buffett Rule – legislation being advanced by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressman David Cicilline that would raise taxes on anyone whose “total income, capital gains included” surpasses $1 million – accomplishes very little. As WPRI reporter Tim White pointed out recently, “The idea may be popular for a lot of non-millionaires, but the increase in revenue would do little to address the country’s massive deficit.”

Even Whitehouse had to confess to the bill’s overall symbolic purpose. “This is a test vote,” Whitehouse admitted on the Senate floor. “If we proceed to and pass this bill, it will show the American people that Congress is capable of standing by their side.” Whitehouse went on to say that the “Paying A Fair Share Act” is a “tax fairness bill, not a job-creating bill,” but that it would “restore the confidence of middle-class Americans in our tax system by assuring those at the very top of the income spectrum are not paying lower rates than regular families do.”

View Larger +

While Whitehouse seems perfectly comfortable advancing confusion and falsehoods over the issue by ignoring the vast differences and consequences concerning wages and investment income, his preference for style over substance is reminiscent of another Washington liberal. It was explained to Barack Obama during a 2008 Democratic presidential debate that “when the [capital gains tax] rate dropped [in the 1990s], revenues from the tax increased. The government took in more money. And in the 1980s, when the tax was increased to 28%, the revenues went down.” The moderator went on to ask, “So why raise it at all?” Obama’s response was that he “would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness.”

Liberals are rarely concerned with the results of their policies as much as they’re concerned with how they’ll be perceived for recommending them.

This week we saw local Democrats fighting to “roll back a significant provision of last year’s state pension system overhaul” – the freeze on COLA payments – for retirees “whose annual retirement allowance is at or below [150%] of the federal poverty level.” It didn’t matter to liberal Democrats that the chief author of the pension reform, Treasurer Gina Raimondo, “voiced her opposition,” or that the state Budget Office reported that “it was not possible to determine the fiscal impact of the proposal without conducting an actuarial study, which has not been done.”

To hell with thinking! We’re fighting for the poor! What other concerns could there possibly be?!

Faith in the Government

Whitehouse claims that the Buffett Rule’s purpose is to “help people believe again that people will fight for them.” Because, after all, “People very often don’t believe that Washington is listening to them.”

But Whitehouse’s solution is hardly an answer to the people’s prayers. Does anyone believe that thousands of Rhode Islanders have been calling Whitehouse’s office, crying out for a pointless tax hike on wealthy investors? Or are Rhode Islanders clamoring for actual solutions to a soaring national debt, a sagging economy, and a depressing culture of political malfeasance?

The fact of the matter is that Senator Whitehouse views the Rhode Island electorate as a wailing baby. And he just gave it a pacifier to suck on called the Buffett Rule.

This is hardly surprising, though – that is, that a big-government liberal would attempt to instill in the voters a false and naïve faith in their government. After all, when one places faith in something, there is an inherent suggestion that one will begin to pay less attention. And the last thing Whitehouse wants is an alert electorate.

This is a senator who resides within the majority party of a legislative body that has cowardly evaded their responsibility to produce a budget for almost 1100 days. This is a senator who has presided over an almost $8 trillion increase to the national debt since he took office almost six years ago. This is a senator known to have accepted millions of dollars from PACS and special interest lobbyists. This is a senator who voted against regulations on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but voted for Wall Street bailouts.

Now Sheldon Whitehouse is returning to Rhode Island, posing as a man of the people?

We need leaders in Washington. Not conmen.

Deceiving the Voters

When Whitehouse talks about restoring people’s faith in their government, we can be sure that he really means for the voters to be lulled back to sleep. After all, that’s the condition necessary for big-government advancement and the liberal agenda.

The warnings of men who crave the public’s trust are longstanding. Over 2000 years ago the Greek philosopher Plato wrote, “The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” Thomas Jefferson would echo the sentiment:  “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

Today, Whitehouse has stated outright that he is using the Buffett Rule as a means to get more people to put their faith in the federal government – not to solve any particular problem, but only to “restore the confidence of middle-class Americans” and to “help people believe again.”

Ironically, Whitehouse’s pitch for trust is being made after spearheading a cynical ploy intended to manipulate the minds of the voters – to send them to the polls in November as emotional and misinformed as possible.

David Scharfenberg of the unmistakably liberal Providence Phoenix confirmed this last week on A Lively Experiment: “The GOP claims that [the Buffett Rule] was politically motivated, and wouldn’t make much of a dent, and it was really a symbolic move. And all of that is probably true.”

Any negative effects that the Buffett Rule might have on the Rhode Island economy is of little concern to its Democratic sponsors. Sticking it to rich people plays well here in the Ocean State. So Whitehouse and Cicilline will be more than happy to regain the public’s admiration by articulating their plans to rip billions of more dollars out of the productive sector in the name of some twisted and arbitrary sense of “fairness.”

Plato would be impressed.

Travis Rowley ( is chairman of the RI Young Republicans and a consultant for the Barry Hinckley Campaign for US Senate.


Enjoy this post? Share it with others.


Sign Up for the Daily Eblast

I want to follow on Twitter

I want to Like on Facebook

Delivered Free Every
Day to Your Inbox