Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Prof. Galt Sings a Bit of Workin' Man Blues

Posted By on 09.29.10 at 01:29 PM

This is from over a week ago, but I missed it while in the mountains, which is a damn shame. Basically, a University of Chicago law school professor posted some poutrage about our Marxian (his word, not mine) president. The subject of his fine whine: how difficult it is to make ends meet for a law prof/doctor couple making low-medium six figures living in an expensive house—a couple blocks from the president, which I assume to mean Kenwood, which contains some of the best housing stock in Chicago—while employing a lawn service, housecleaner, and nanny, and spending $60k on education and day care for three children while living under historically low tax rates for the wealthy.

Ezra Klein, Brad DeLong, and Michael O'Hare do a fine job pointing out that the professor needs to help himself to a steaming cup of shut the fuck up. But they still missed the thing I found most offensive.

We pay about $15,000 in property taxes, about half of which goes to fund public education in Chicago. Since we care the education of our three children, this means we also have to pay to send them to private school.

That's funny. I pay property taxes, at least via my landlord, and I don't have any kids at all! UNFAIR!

I don't care where people send their kids to school, but public education, even in the beleaguered state of the CPS, is a public good. It actually educates a lot of the kids who can't go to private school, and failing that at least keeps them off the streets. The professor teaches at the University of Chicago Law School, a stone's throw from Woodlawn, and lives a short walk from some of the poorer reaches of Kenwood/Oakland. I'll leave it up to his imagination what his neighborhoods would be like in the absence of the public schools where the parents—you know, the ones who don't care about education—send their children.

We also have someone who cuts our grass, cleans our house, and watches our new baby so we can both work outside the home.

Again, I don't know where Prof. Galt lives, but I can't imagine a lawn within a couple blocks of Obama's house that takes more than 15 minutes once a week for a few months out of the year to mow. Although I do imagine cleaning a big house is a pain. It's remarkable how maintenance scales with purchases.

I’m the president’s neighbor in Chicago, but we’ve never met. I wish we could, because I would introduce him to my family and our lifestyle, one he believes is capable of financing the vast expansion of government he is planning.

Well, too late for that. One would think that a specialist in "corporations, securities regulation, bankruptcy, law and economics" with private-sector experience might have at least some dim awareness of the "vast expansion of government" that was occurring well before our Marxian overlord took over (not to mention the very vast, very quick expansion of government that was recently caused by securities regulation), which in his radical Marxism he plans on . . . maybe not really reining in and perhaps expanding in a manner similar to Comrades Bush, Clinton, and Reagan. As Ezra Klein puts it:

The argument for taxing people who make more than $250,000 isn't that they're bad people, and it isn't that they won't notice the tax increase. It's that we've got a very large budget imbalance, and we're going to need to do a lot of things to correct it. Taxes on the rich have dropped even as the incomes of the rich have skyrocketed. So one of the obvious things to do is update the tax code to correct for that drift.

But this is clearly not how Prof. Galt approaches money. Brad DeLong:

Professor Xxxx Xxxxxxxxx's problem is that he thinks that he ought to be able to pay off student loans, contribute to retirement savings vehicles, build equity, drive new cars, live in a big expensive house, send his children to private school, and still have plenty of cash at the end of the month for the $200 restaurant meals, the $1000 a night resort hotel rooms, and the $75,000 automobiles. And even half a million dollars a year cannot [buy] you all of that.

I would be more sympathetic to him if he seemed to have any interest in actually avoiding the "massive expansion of government" rather than complaining about having to pay for it (through a minor, marginal tax increase). Because then we'd know where the rubber meets the road: does he favor the dismantling of the welfare state? Public education? Health care? National defense? If not, it would be interesting to see what sort of Marxian he actually is: the kind who wants to go back to the massively progressive tax brackets that kept the U.S. government solvent during its expansion in the mid 20th century, or perhaps the sort of half-Marxist Reagantot who's down with the massive public spending but not really interested in paying for it.

But he demonstrates no interest in how the government actually spends its money, no more so than on how he actually spends his own; and no interest in how the government should cut back, no more so than on how he should. Besides taxing people who make more than he does, because they of course can afford it, and clearly deserve to pay more instead of him.

Cleaning houses and mowing lawns aren't just for the little people any more: so is, apparently, one's civic duty.

Update: Oh, I see. He does have ideas, in a post he disappeared.

I think it is obvious that we need to increase government revenue, cut spending (as the president promised — “go through line by line” through the budget), and rationalize the tax code. This is what Senator Bradley and President Reagan did in the early 1980s. It is time to do it again.

Yes, that worked out great. It was also during the Reagan administration that the "rationalization" of the tax code actually helped institutionalize the ability of the rich to not pay the amount in taxes the prof thinks they so badly need to pay. Not that I'm being partisan about it; you can attribute some of that to man of the people Dan Rostenkowski.

If you read through his follow-up, you'll find that he thinks the deficit and the size of government aren't the fault of anything anyone thinks it is (wars, TARP, etc); it's the need to cut government ("includes defense and many other sacred cows") while simultaneously taking in more money ("increase government revenue"). But not by raising marginal tax rates to what they were when the government wasn't so broke, and not by cutting the things government does well ("national defense, a judicial system, and environmental regulation").

Moar fun, from comments:

The nanny is a must for two-income couples with kids. Many people have them. Mine is a nice Thai woman who runs it out of her house.

I do not know how you can describe something as a "must" which virtually no one has, and which, if one is to imply from his own self-described middle class childhood, he presumably did not have the advantage of growing up.

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