A version of this column appeared originally in THE DAILY BEAST.
The Obama administration and its allies are so eager to portray tax hikes on the rich as the solution to all our problems that they desperately desire to persuade the public that tax cuts for the rich caused all those problems in the first place.
Perhaps the most outrageous expression of this argument comes in a controversial new video from the California Federation of Teachers called “TAX THE RICH: AN ANIMATED FAIRY TALE.”
This eight-minute piece of puerile propaganda features the warm and winning voice of the 83-year-old Hollywood legend Ed Asner, who previously provided his vocal talents to a far more worthy example of the animator’s art: the fanciful, Oscar-winning Disney-Pixar masterpiece, UP.
This time, Asner concentrates on a distinctly downward trajectory, tracing America’s steep decline from the golden age before tax cuts for the rich to the suffering and despair of the present day. “Once upon a time,” he intones, “there was a land that was happy and prosperous. They had a great education system, safe streets, and jobs for everyone.”
Never mind that during the idyllic Jimmy Carter era of 70 percent top marginal tax rates, the “safe streets” mentioned in the video featured rates of violent crime nearly double the levels of today, or that the Carter unemployment rate of 7.6 percent (at the end of his term) nearly equaled our current level of joblessness and hardly provided “jobs for everyone.” Asner’s narration insists that high levels of taxation created a virtual utopia: “The people of this land paid for their good life by investing in their future together. They called this ‘paying taxes.’”
Then, the serpent of greed slithered into this American Eden: “But over time rich people decided they weren’t rich enough. So they came up with ways to get richer. The first way was through tax cuts.” The animation cleverly illustrates this reduction in rates by depicting giant scissors, slicing away (with heavily amplified sound effects) at benign images of parks and schools, like menacing instruments of national castration.