The Legend of Billie Jean starts off with a girl and her brother who are harassed in a Texas town by a gang of teens. When her brother’s scooter is destroyed by them, she goes to the ringleader’s father, who owns a business. She demands he reimburse them for $600 in repairs. He wants to take it out in trade $50 at a time. When he’s accidentally shot by the brother, the two kids become fugitives. Billie Jean becomes a national figure when she produces a video, claiming “fair is fair.”
During this cross-country adventure, she runs into a ridiculously wealthy young man who gives her video equipment and cops who are apparently unable to outwit a bunch of teens. Collections are taken up for the siblings well in excess of $600 and the man who owed them the money is raking it in by selling memorabilia. The movie reaches its conclusion when Billie Jean gets the money and the man’s concession stand goes up in flames.
I tell this story because I think an inordinate number of liberals use this as a blueprint for what being rich means. Rich people hang onto their money at all costs. They accumulate it in immoral ways and they spend it in an unworthy manner. Assuming that the man was culpable for his son’s crimes, being shot led to more than $600 in medical expenses. If this went to the People’s Court, no one would get jack.
Reasonable people can disagree about what taxes wealthy people should pay. George Bush cut personal income taxes for 10 years to send a signal that people would have more money in their pockets. Bill Clinton raised the top rate for personal income taxes, then lowered the corporate tax rate. He recently suggested we lower it again and remove the special loopholes that benefit a few companies. Obama so far has defunded Social Security for his tax “cuts” and expressed his enthusiasm for taxing CEOs, which I’m sure doesn’t make them hesitant about hiring at all.
The goal should be a tax system that is both effective and fair. Soaking the rich should not be a goal. It may not even be a good long-term result. We certainly don’t need the kind of class warfare that is literally going on in the Eurozone. If people don’t like the austerity measures of their governments, vote them the hell out. If you respond by looting the stores, you’re just making sure businesses are less likely to make loans and more government money will go to police instead of social programs.
Fair is fair. Protests are a legitimate and frequently effective public expression of dissatisfaction. Rioting is effective advertising for a group’s opponents. Do we really want to address income inequality by shooting the shop owner and burning down his store? I know for certain some people do.