There's a video going around of Harvard Professor/TARP supervisor/MA Senate candidate giving the progressive's rationale for raising taxes. It's all about the social contract:
"There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody," she said at a campaign event. "You built a factory out there—good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. . . . You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea—God bless, keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay it forward for the next kid who comes along."
What words don't capture is Warren's hectoring humorless tone, especially the sneering sarcastic way she says "good for you." It might be the 21st century, but we still have aristocrats looking down on grubby merchants and money changers.
Still, this line of argument is evergreen on the left, and just the sort of thing that stokes the sort of resentment that leads to full ballot boxes in November, so Republicans, especially Scott Brown, will need to counter it. Russ Roberts offers the best I've seen.
There's much truth in Ms. Warren's statement. But if government stuck to what it does fairly well—roads, police, fire and the courts; enforcing contracts that help businesses interact with their customers and other businesses—the federal government wouldn't need to spend over $3.5 trillion a year, as it now does. And of course it's state and local governments—and not Washington—that primarily fund police, fire and education, so it's a bit strange to ask the rich to pay their fair share of federal income taxes because they enjoy police protection.
Much government spending supports activities that are ineffective or even harmful to the economy, often helping the politically powerful at the expense of the rest of us. Wouldn't it be great for the federal government to stop federal export subsidies, propping up financial institutions, meddling in the education system, and trying to engineer the entire health system from the top down?
Warren loves to talk about roads, police, and teachers because she knows that even conservative voters will accept that government must pay for these. But they are just cover for everything else that the left wants "us" to pay for. If what you care about is basic government services, well, there's plenty of tax revenue coming in to pay for that. What we can't afford are bloated school budgets, unsustainable entitlements, and Obamacare, not to mention the interest on the stimulus that was supposed to fund shovel ready projects, but never did.
Anyway, Warren doesn't really care about cops and roads. I'm sure she supports the sort of green legislation and union contracting rules that make it so expensive to even begin contemplating building "roads." And, I'll bet she has no problem with the sort of procedural shackles that the left always wants to load on to the police. (wanna bet she was on Henry Gates's side on the night when the Cambridge police "acted stupidly?")
Still, Warren's video has proved very popular with the resentful left. It's hard to imagine she could win a Senate race, given her sourpuss style, but Massachusetts is probably the one place where that might work.