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The Kennedy Curve

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

One of the more thought provoking responses to my submission last week on President Obama’s Domestic Imperialism came from Mensa member Mark S., who lamented that his “local Mensa group was so overloaded with liberals it was impossible to have a rational conversation.” 

Groucho Marx would be proud.

For years, I have puzzled over the mystery of the liberal mindset.  I have concluded that it makes no sense to ascribe the capacity of deductive reasoning to an adult American leftist. 

It seems that years of emotionally justifying their position develops strong synaptic connections that habitually direct all philosophical query transmissions to a central "audacity" neuron. 

The audacity neuron stimulates a glandular contraction that emits verbal utterances intended to trap its prey by placating logic.

The most distinctive display of this phenomenon that I have witnessed in my 55 years of life happened about seven years ago when I had the occasion to speak directly with Senator Ted Kennedy. 

I had long wondered why Democrats did not act more strategically with tax rates in order to optimize their collection of revenues.  I was about to meet the Democratic Party’s “Lion of the Senate” and I did not want to miss this opportunity.

I had studied Arthur Laffer’s theory of the relationship between tax rates and economic behavior, famously coined the Laffer Curve.  Dr. Laffer reasons that, once taxes exceed a particular rate, say 18%, revenue producers begin to pay more attention to protecting their earnings and less attention to growing their businesses. 

At some point, the burden of this defensive behavior results in larger pieces of much smaller pies and a net loss for the tax collector.

So, I began by citing the Laffer Curve and asked Senator Kennedy, “How do you calculate what would be an appropriate level of taxation?” 

I recall him shaking his head positively at the words “Laffer Curve” as if to acknowledge that he knew just what I was getting at and he was ready to teach me before I could even finish asking the question.

Quoting directly from my video of the conversation, the Senator began his answer with, “I think the question is, do you have in balance a… Let me put it this way; I wish we had the same review of tax expenditures that we have in terms of spending.  We add all kinds of incentives to the tax code.  We rarely, if ever, review them or repeal them. … We ought to look at the spending and find out what are going to be the results of that spending. … I think it’s a fair question to ask. …. With this spending, what are we getting for it?  … What the percentage is, whether its 16 or 18 percent, whatever … I think it really more has to do with what are we spending it on.”

I marveled at watching Ted Kennedy transform my engagement into a conversation that he would prefer to have. 

My error in posing my “monumental question” was my assumption that the goal of the leftist mind was to collect as much money for the government as humanly possible. 

I have since come to understand that the prime objective of the American liberal politician is to manage uniformity among the commoners. 

I call it the Kennedy Curve.

Economics are incidental.

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