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OPINION

Bill Maher Discovers His Inner Grover Norquist

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

To the list of liberals who vote for higher taxes -- and then proceed to complain about them -- add comedian Bill Maher.

Incredibly, the caustic, left-wing Maher recently warned, "ln California, I just want to say: Liberals -- you could actually lose me." As a resident of California, a state with high income taxes, Maher complained that his taxes are "over 50 percent." What's more, Maher made a point seldom heard except on Fox News or by a rich Parisian. Maher said, "Rich people ... actually do pay the freight in this country ... like 70 percent" of the taxes. (Presumably, Maher meant that the top 10 percent of taxpayers pay about 70.5 percent of the federal income taxes.)

Holy Grover Norquist! Was it an epiphany or merely the latest example of liberal hypocrisy?

Maher, just two years ago, painted this picture of the filthy, clueless, racist, sexist, homophobic, selfish, greedy rich:

"America's rich aren't giving you money. They are taking your money. Between the years 1980 and 2005, 80 percent of all new income generated in this country went to the richest 1 percent. Let me put that in terms that even you fat-ass tea-baggers, sorry, can understand. Say 100 Americans get together and order a 100-slice pizza. The pizza arrives, they open the box, and the first guy takes 80 slices. And if someone suggests, 'Why don't you just take 79 slices?' --) that's socialism! ...

"We have this fantasy that our interests and the interests of the super-rich are the same, like somehow the rich will eventually get so full that they'll explode, and the candy will rain down on the rest of us, like they're some kind of pinata of benevolence. But here's the thing about a pinata -- it doesn't open on its own; you have to beat it with a stick."

But -- now -- Maher complains.

Golfer Phil Mickelson, also a Californian, recently complained about high taxes. As with Maher, Mickelson earns the bulk of his money through ordinary income, not through Warren Buffet-type investments that get taxed at a lower rate. Mickelson said: "If you add up all the federal, and you look at the disability and the unemployment and the Social Security and the state, my tax rate's 62, 63 percent. So I've got to make some decisions on what I'm going to do."

But then came the backlash in this era of social media. People, in essence, said: "Look, Phil, we know you didn't vote for Obama. But nobody sympathizes with a white, rich, California-living Republican who makes big dollars hitting a little white ball. You come across as a spoiled, ungrateful whiner."

Mickelson actually apologized! For what? For engaging in a pastime older than golf -- complaining about taxes?! For railing against tax hikes he did not vote for?! Apology?

OK. Let's play this game. Like Mickelson, Maher is a white rich guy (net worth $23 million) living in the very same beautiful state. Like Mickelson, he complained about high taxes. But unlike Maher, Mickelson likely voted against Democrats who promised to raise them. Maher embraced Obama.

As for California's state income taxes, Maher attacked the Republican California gubernatorial candidate who thought state government was too big. The winner, California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, successfully pushed to increase the top marginal state income tax rate from 10.3 percent to 13.3 percent for every dollar above 1 million, the highest state income tax in the nation.

Of the more than 12 million households in California, only 166,000 -- or just over 1 percent of the state's households -- account for nearly half of the state's income tax revenue. This would include Maher's.

Did Maher not believe his party when Democrats hammered the greedy rich for failing to pay "their fair share"?

Former Democratic Chairman Howard Dean, just after Obama's re-election, pulled no punches about the quest for more taxes from everybody -- to pay for the welfare state that America just voted to keep and expand. Dean said: "The truth is everybody needs to pay more taxes, not just the rich. That's a good start. But we're not going to get out of this deficit problem unless we raise taxes across the board." Maher enthusiastically supported Obama and routinely attributed Obama's political opposition to racism. Did Maher think the Democrats' entitlement state would be paid for with magic dollars from someone else's pocket?

Here's the deal. Voters last November pulled the lever for four more years of expanded government -- and for four more years of instructing Congress to get somebody else to pay for it. Bill Maher now says "ouch," that the rich already pay a disproportionally high share of the income taxes.

The question remains: Did Maher have an epiphany, and will he now use his considerable platform to similarly enlighten others? Does he now recognize that, as former British Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher once said, "The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money"? Or is Maher just the latest in a long line of rich lefty hypocrites who want an expensive welfare state -- on somebody else's dime?

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