Travis Rowley: Taxing the Rich is Immoral

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Besides injuring the poor, and in addition to being a crucial component of the Marxist design, an inordinate tax imposed on “the wealthy” is – perhaps most importantly – an immoral proposition. Unfortunately, Rhode Island has instituted an unethical progressive income tax code for decades.

The redistribution of wealth should be recognized for what it truly is – an anti-individualist practice that runs entirely counter to basic American principles. And there’s no mistaking the fact that the current Democratic plan to tax “the rich,” which “has support from at least 37 House members,” has certainly been formulated to expand the practice of taking from some in order to give to others.

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In regards to the Democrats’ latest tax proposal, the most stated purpose made by progressives and union-Democrats thus far is to socialize local property taxes. The disclosed aim is to tax high income earners in order to bring their money to Smith Hill in the form of “state aid,” where political elites can decide who “needs” it the most. Democratic Mayor of Pawtucket Don Grebien has argued, “We can’t keep strangling lower and middle-income Rhode Islanders with more and more property taxes while we continue to give tax breaks to those who need them the least.”

Also fighting in favor of the tax hike is Kate Brock, the executive director of Ocean State Action, who contends, “They've cut aid to cities and towns, and every time we do that, property taxes go up.” President of the RI Chapter of the AFL-CIO George Nee stated, “We have to start looking at taxing people who have income and are wealthy and stop this reliance on the property tax and fund the system the way that it should be funded.” Mr. Nee has added, “Perhaps we have to raise the income tax on the highest income people and we have to redistribute that income tax and that wealth to the cities and towns.”

Social Democracy vs. Natural Law

Everyone acknowledges that stealing is wrong. And one will rarely discover a progressive Democrat claiming that he possesses a personal right to take a rich man’s money in order to give it to someone he deems less fortunate. However, virtually every member of the Democratic Party tacitly embraces “social democracy” – a system whereby elected government officials may partake in this very type of theft. Why? Because a majority of active voters decided to elect individuals who are willing to use the power of the state to commit the robbery.

Social democracy is the rejection of what the Founding Fathers knew as Natural Law, from which they understood that rights and morality come from God – not from the “decrees of Peoples, the edicts of princes, or the decisions of judges,” as the ancient Roman philosopher, and ideological mentor of the Founders, Cicero once wrote. “We are born for Justice,” Cicero proclaimed, “and the right is based, not upon men’s opinions, but upon Nature.”

Stealing is wrong, no matter how many men sanction it.

Most likely inspired by this moral assumption, Samuel Adams would go on to explain, “The Utopian schemes of leveling and a community of goods are as visionary and impracticable as those which vest all property in the Crown…[These ideas] are arbitrary, despotic, and, in our government, unconstitutional.” Adams went on to ask, “What property can the colonists be conceived to have, if their money may be granted away by others, without their consent?”

The Founders sought to bar all forms of collectivism not just because of its reckless inefficiency, but because of its unethical foundations.

The Democratic Error

Democrats not only dismiss the Founders’ expressions of the moral dimension behind individualism and rights of property, but also adamantly evade the related warning that is often attributed to French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville: “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money.”

But while Rhode Island is certainly dominated by the political party that augments its power by causing more and more government dependence, the problem hardly ends there. Rhode Island seems to be the place where progressive rhetoric makes the most sense to the most people. And Samuel Adams once encapsulated the firm moral certitude of those who championed liberty as he spoke to such individuals. Addressing not tyrants, but his neighbors who would empower them, Adams said, “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”

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Adams likely would have understood the frustration of Rhode Island reformers who repeatedly encounter not just well-organized crowds of progressive activists, but an entire state of habitual Democratic voters who respond favorably to the neo-Marxist language of envy and class warfare.

In Rhode Island, able to be frequently observed are thousands of seemingly normal citizens who can suddenly transform themselves into middle-class mobs, turning out en masse to rallies that aim to trade individual liberty for the socialist desires of godless radicals. Seduced by the false morality of modern liberalism – “shared sacrifice,” “social justice,” “equality,” “compassion,” “fairness,” and “fair shares” – they authorize progressive politicians to force their fellow Rhode Islanders to unevenly finance not just a mere minimal social safety net, but also force them to pay for other people’s property tax bills, for other people’s mortgages, for other people’s hospital bills, and for other people’s unfunded government pensions.

Are the people who vote themselves provisions from the public treasury, as well as those who support the concept, any better than the lawmakers who establish and defend the system that enables them to do so? Perhaps Tocqueville should have included this addendum to his prophetic statement: “…and the public accepts.”

Or, as Cicero would have described Rhode Island’s condition, “The nation, in spite of being a ruinous regulation, has accepted it.”

As we watch Rhode Island crumble, perhaps it’s prudent to ask if the state – as a whole – has been rejecting the laws of God. If that’s the case, how long did we expect the fun to last? How long did we expect it would be before we suffered the fire and brimstone?

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

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