The word envy does not, perhaps mean, what Charles Coulson says it means

In a column called Killing Your Neighbor’s Cow, religious conservative Charles Coulson recycles the standard right-wing argument that Occupy Wall Street and its supporters are just resentful the 1 percent have been more successful, and that “the line between clamoring for justice and envy can be very thin.”
As slacktivist points out, there’s really a wide gap between justice and envy, certainly in classic Christian thought. (more from slacktivist here). The folk-tale Coulson cites——a peasant resentful of his new neighbor’s cow asks God to strike it dead——is just a laugh at the mean-spiritedness of people; there’s nothing suggesting the peasant was trying to get justice at the time, he’s just pissed off.
If the critics of the rich were pushing envy, we’d be looking at something really radical: 100 percent taxation for incomes over x amount, really massive distribution. Not say, the merits of restoring Clinton-era income tax rates. Hell, even though there are arguments a tax rate of 70 percent on the very rich would work, I don’t see many people pushing it (and that’s a good thing. Even though that was the top rate when Coulson was working for Nixon, I still think it’s unfair).
It’s noteworthy that Coulson’s examples of envy are all focused on the peasants envying the rich. Apparently he has nothing to say about the “53 percent” lie that the 47 percent of the population who don’t pay income tax are therefore leeching off the hardworking producers (I have links here discussing this bullshit). Which certainly seems a kind of envy-based argument, implying the “lucky duckies” (as the Wall Street Journal calls the poor) are exploiting the hardworking middle class and rich.
Coulson also argues that “income redistribution will do nothing to help those in need or create a more just society, it just creates a bigger government.” This ignores the side-effects of the current slump: Cities that have turned off street lights, counties that replace asphalt roads with gravel, Topeka KS decriminalizing spousal abuse because it says it can’t afford to prosecute. Guess what, Mr. Coulson? I’d like my government to be big enough to handle those jobs.
For Coulson, as Slacktivist notes, there are no exceptions: Any proposal for raising taxes on the rich is envy-based, period, and therefore cannot possibly be just. But if we follow that logic, we might as well get rid of all taxes completely: They’re all taking money from someone and giving it to someone else. So apparently Coulson doesn’t think taxation is theft, just that taxing the rich is theft.
Meanwhile, this column argues that the idea of the rich as job creators who contribute far more to our economy than they’re paid for is codswallop: Giving big tax cuts to millions of people rather than a handful of rich types will do far more for the economy. As someone who’s long supported “trickle-up” economic policy (cut taxes on the lowest income groups that pay any, then work your way up the income ladder until the cuts run out), I greatly enjoyed it.
Slightly OT, here’s my latest And column, on Sen. Lindsey Graham’s deranged conviction that giving the government the power to lock up Americans it claims are terrorists, without ever having to produce evidence, will keep us safer. Not for the first time I’m reminded how much Republicans in Washington resemble leftovers from the USSR: Isn’t locking up enemies of the state for life the sort of thing Stalin would have done?


Filed under Nonfiction, Politics, Writing

2 responses to “The word envy does not, perhaps mean, what Charles Coulson says it means

  1. Pingback: More on Bain Capital and Romney « Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: “I’m antifa but I vote the Nazi party ticket!” WTF? | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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