How the Grinch stole everything

Thursday, December 16, 2010

So the truth finally appears. They used to haul out some threadbare baby blanket of an excuse to raise taxes -- golden shivs for convicts, dental exams for snail darters, fresh incense for Charlie Rangel's Bahamian party cove -- but not this time. The Democrats, crashing in power and popularity, are reduced to invoking simple jealousy. They barely mention the ol' standbys like the deficit (which only worries them when somebody else is spending), or pie-eyed, hungry children. Now they want to raise taxes because the rich simply don't need their money.

That's how Vermont's self-proclaimed socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders put it earlier this month. The rich "have a religious ferocity in terms of greed," which "is similar to an addiction. ... I am not quite sure how much they need," he declared from the floor of the U.S. Senate. (Motto: "If we run out of money, we'll just print some more -- but not for you!")

In a country where the national debt is approaching $14.4 trillion -- just shy of $45,000 a person, in case you're wondering -- you have to admire the fortitude of a fellow who thinks that the answer to the problem is not to trim government, but to drain cash from business-building investors to pump up the debt-bound monstrosity, which last year spent over $112,500 every second. (Seriously.)

Of course, the Democrats aren't going to get to raise taxes, not this time. The tax compromise is going to pass, and the liberal attempt to soak the upper-middle class and, yes, the rich will fail. Again.

But Sen. Sanders' call to limit wealth is more than partisan bluster. It's the crossing of a Rubicon. It has long been an article of faith -- call it common understanding, if not common sense -- that the redistribution of wealth "just because" is anathema to economic liberty. Yet here's a U.S. senator not only calling for it, but also castigating its opponents as "greedy."

As Chester Riley used to say, this is a revolting development.

Bernie Sanders is blazing trails. Too certain of his righteousness to sugarcoat it, he happily hoots that he wants the government -- under his tutelage -- to decide how much money you can keep. And as the spokesman-of-the-moment for the impatient American hard left, he's not alone.

Here's what he has forgotten, and tragically. Just as the point of a courtroom trial is not to find truth without regard to the violence done to rules and rights, the point of American government is not to create a particular kind of society at any cost.

The pinnacle of American rules and rights is individual liberty: the right to do what you see fit as long as it doesn't hurt somebody else. That includes the right to strive and succeed, or to be stupid and wrong and yes, Sen. Sanders, even greedy. The foundational idea of America is the sovereignty of the individual, and that includes the sanctity of both private opinions and private property. Sen. Sanders wants to circumscribe economic liberty -- for a just cause, he insists -- and he wishes to use the coercive power of government to do so.

You want something to be thankful for this Christmas? Be thankful that you live in a country where, for now, nobody draws the moral curve for you without your invitation. How ironic that a movement proudly allergic to moral judgments is setting moral judgment at the tip of its spear. Bernie Sanders wants your money because he claims to have a nobler notion of what to do with it than you. That makes Bernie the Grinch. And that's putting it kindly.

Michael Long is a Southeast Missouri native who currently serves as a speechwriter and consultant in Washington, D.C. He teaches speechwriting and public relations in the graduate school at Georgetown University. He can be reached at

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: