I am optimistic but also believe that in making his economic case, the Republican candidate will have different challenges because of the ongoing growth of our welfare state and the attitudes it has ushered in, along with heightened class warfare.
We could be seeing a paradigm shift in the way people view their social compact with government. More and more people believe that government exists not just to perform essential services as delimited in the Constitution, but as a grand equalizer of economic outcomes.
It's one thing to argue that those who earn more should pay a higher percentage of their earnings in income tax. But it's a completely different idea to suggest that the government should use the tax code and other legislative schemes not just to ensure sufficient revenues to operate the government, but to more equitably distribute people's remaining income -- or, possibly, assets.
This is not just a matter of semantics. In this new paradigm, some contend that irrespective of the government's operating needs, it has a moral right -- and a duty -- to proactively intervene to redistribute income.
I observe this latter attitude with increasing frequency. It's not just President Obama indicting corporations and "obscene profits" by saying that the wealthy should spread the wealth around and that at some point, people have made enough money.
It's liberals I encounter who are constantly complaining about the "largest wealth gap in our history" and blaming it on George W. Bush and the evils of capitalism.
In their disappointingly simplistic view (articulated in an email I received), the Bush tax structure created this "gap" by "transferring money from the middle class to the rich ... and transferring our debts to our grandchildren."
But wait. Under the Bush tax rates, higher-income earners paid a higher percentage of their income in taxes. Any transfer of wealth was from higher-income earners to lower-income earners. Plus, almost half the people don't pay income taxes at all, and some 60 percent take more from the government than they pay in.
I told the emailer he was factually wrong and also misguided to believe it is government's function to proactively redistribute wealth. (We're talking more than safety nets here, by the way.)
He replied, "Yeah, the CEO of Disney 'earned' $50 million last year without the help of government through the invisible hand of the market."
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