Roger Simon gives a straw man quite a lashing

ROGER SIMON GIVES A STRAW MAN QUITE A LASHING…. The headline on Roger Simon’s latest Politico column — “Class warfare is not the ticket” — was the first hint of trouble. As is probably clear to everyone, when the media establishment refers to “class warfare,” they’re invariably complaining about tax rates for the wealthy, overlooking Republican policies to redistribute wealth upwards.

Of course, moving past Simon’s headline, we get to the lede.

The rich are different from you and me. They are swine.

So say many of the Democrats in the House of Representatives who would rather that jobless people lose their unemployment checks and middle-class people lose their income tax breaks than that the rich get a dime extra.

Some Democrats hate the rich. Most Americans, on the other hand, would like to become the rich…. Congressional Democrats want us to hate the rich for being rich.

Simon supports these observations by pointing to … nothing in particular. There are “many” congressional Democrats who consider the wealthy “swine,” but Simon doesn’t quote or mention any of them. “Some” Dems, we’re told, “hate the rich.” Which Democrats? Simon doesn’t say. I guess we’re just supposed to take his word for it.

I don’t. This kind of analysis is lazy and wrong, and Simon really ought to know better than to peddle such cliches.

There’s a meaningful debate underway over taxes, economic inequalities, and how best to generate growth, sparked in part by the disagreement over the tax policy agreement reached by the White House and congressional Republicans. I happen to think the deal, despite glaring and offensive flaws, is probably worth passing. But I also know better than to think those on the left who disagree with me are motivated by some anti-wealth spite. There’s a reasonable, persuasive progressive case against this deal; to chalk it up a Democratic desire to convince Americans to “hate the rich for being rich” is ridiculous.

Simon’s column went on to argue, “Only half of the wealthiest people in America inherited their wealth. The rest earned it. But whether their wealth is earned or inherited, I just want the rich to pay their fair share of taxes, not some kind of punitive share.”

Jon Chait could hardly contain his annoyance.

Isn’t it great how you can use words like “only” to do the entire work of your argument for you? Another way to phrase that first sentence would be, “Only half of the wealthiest people in America earned their wealth. The rest inherited it.” I’m especially tickled by Simon’s disclaimer that he wants the rich to pay a “fair share” of the taxes, not a “punitive” share. Right — that’s the whole debate. What is a fair share? Are Clinton-era tax rates on the rich fair or punitive? Simon has nothing to say about this at all.