sphagnum moss, dark water, and politics
Friday, October 10, 2003
Not your favorite blue monster
Josh Marshall reminds us about the NPR Fresh Air interview where Grover Norquist compared the estate tax to . . . .the Holocaust. The relevent text:
NORQUIST: The argument that some who play to the politics of hate and envy and class division will say is, "Well, that's only 2 percent -- or, as people get richer, 5 percent, in the near future -- of Americans likely to have to pay [the estate tax]." I mean, that's the morality of the Holocaust: "Oh, it's only a small percentage. It's not you; it's somebody else." And [in] this country, people who may not make earning a lot of money the centerpiece of their lives -- they may have other things to focus on -- they just say it's not just. If you've paid taxes on your income, government should leave you alone, not tax you again.
First off, this bizarre and offensive comparison is not only morally tone-deaf but historically ignorant. Whether he is equating the two or their 'underlying morality' is irrelevent. The fact that he would say it at all shows little to no moral or ethical understanding of what the Holocaust was. He's literally comparing tax codes to genocide.
Nevertheless, the moralities are emphatically not the same. Jews were not slaughtered because they only made of a small percent of the population, but because of a twisted ideology which extoled the extermination of unpure, contaminated others as the highest form of virtue. That people followed the terrible logic of Pastor Niemoller's poem - the one that starts
First they came for the Jewsis undeniable, but here we reach a level of abstraction so high as to have no connection to reality.
Norquist completely misunderstands - or intentionally distorts - the motives behind those who oppose repealing the estate tax. This measure was spun as repeal of the "death tax," a horrible thing that plagues most Americans and causes the loss of family farms and small businesses by desperate heirs. In response, it was pointed out that the estate tax only affects a small percentage of Americans - the very rich. At issue was not the survival of treasured family farms or businesses, but the creation of vast inherited fortunes. This was not justification but explanation. The morality that underlies it is not that of Nazi genocide but of American egalitarianism and social responsibility. It's the idea that great wealth is better spent improving the society which intimately nurtured and richly rewarded its deceased owner than being turned over in its entirety to lineages of de facto aristocrats in a society of ever-increasing inequality. Perhaps this is class warfare, but in that case you should ask yourself which class it is, exactly, that is waging it?
posted by Dan S. on 10:16 PM | | link
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