Sunday, January 31, 2016

When I wrote this... a couple of week ago and reread the following passage: makes me wonder, if people have $100 million to throw around like that, are taxes on the rich too low? Think about it: Is that the best possible use to society of that money? Someone tweeted to me this week that "the private sector is much more efficient at spending money." And I'll admit, when I was an Ayn Rand-sympathizing libertarian, I used to think that way too. But, nowadays, especially when I read about examples like the Pritzkers and Northwestern, I'm not so sure anymore. I repeat: Is that really the best use of $100 million? Or might it be better spent on -- oh, I don't know -- shoring up the safety net?

I think I leaned back in my chair, shook my head, and thought something along the lines of, "Boy, if my thirty- or even forty-something libertarian self knew how he'd think in his mid- to late-fifties, what on earth would he say?" And, I'll admit, there are times when I ask myself how someone who cast his very first-ever vote for Ronald Reagan in the 1976 Minnesota caucuses could become such a bomb-throwing liberal. (I have some ideas, but I still have to laugh at myself sometimes.)

But then this morning I read an interview in the New York Times Magazine with arch-conservative Hugh Hewitt -- who worked in the Reagan administration* -- and my eyes bulged right out of my head. Check this out (my emphasis):

Question: Most Americans think we should raise taxes on the rich, but the Republican candidates don’t, except Trump, who has said he would consider it. 

Hugh Hewitt: I asked him about a wealth tax, and he said no. But I find that concentration of wealth in Silicon Valley deeply disturbing. Those billionaires are very smart, but they moved to Silicon Valley at the right time. Someone was going to invent Facebook. I’m glad Mark Zuckerberg did it, but it wasn’t an act of genius; it’s an act of timing. Should he have tens of billions of dollars?

Q: That’s a pretty radical position for a conservative. 

HH: I don’t think it’s very good for the society to have billionaires. It creates envy. And envy destroys republics.

Q: So you’d say to the Silicon Valley elite, ‘‘You didn’t build that.’’ 

HH: No. They did build it. I would say, You should keep an enormous amount of money for your entrepreneurial ability and your success. But there is a limit in America to how much any one person is going to have. You don’t need 10 billion dollars. Nobody does. The country does.

Wow! (I'll give you a second to rub your eyes and process that.)

Done? Okay.

So maybe I'm just a product of my times. Maybe we're in a new Gilded Age and the pendulum is just swinging and swinging me right along with it. But you have to admit: something is happening when a conservative Republican like Mr. Hewitt talks like that.

* Can you believe I couldn't find one picture of this guy with the Gipper?

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