|Mr Khan said:
Because I believe there are long term economic benefits that can only be gained through government action.
Take for example high speed rail. High speed rail has no short term financial gains and generally few if any long term financial gains for any private entities interested in taking on such a project, thus it never happens. However, there ARE long term economic and social gains to be had for the population at large if a high speed rail system is implemented, and it has had considerable effects on economic activity in places like Japan. In Japan and Europe, it was the local governments that were responsible for funding such projects, and the same is true here.
In the end, it's a difference of perspective. You seem to have a more individualistic perspective of the world, in which everyone should focus primarily on accruing their own personal wealth. I see society more as a collective, where often we must come together and make short term financial sacrifices (taxation) in order to enable long term economic gains that will increase society's overall productivity and well-being. That includes things like funding for federal rail projects, other mass transit projects, the post office, ports, and a social safety net that catches people when they face unexpected hardships, allowing them to eventually get back to work and be productive members of society.
I'm also in favor of a job guarantee, to ensure that everyone who wants to work is given the opportunity to do so, thus no productivity is lost due to idle hands:
It's not that the general populace isn't able to take care of themselves or anything of the sort. It's that certain ventures seem to only be possible through government action.
Also, you mention redistribution of wealth being morally abhorrent, but when it comes to certain individuals, I feel that wealth is being unfairly distributed in the first place, with capital owners using high unemployment and the accompanying decrease in laborers' collective bargaining ability to stall or decrease wages despite productivity going up. From the Washington Post:
|So, if not to workers, where’s the money going? Of the companies that comprise the Standard and Poor’s 500, net income (chiefly, their profits) has risen 23 percent since 2007, the last year of the bubble, the Wall Street Journal reported this week. Their cash reserves have increased 49 percent during that time — in large part because they’re neither hiring in the United States nor boosting their workers’ incomes. Workers are producing more: “In 2007, the companies generated an average of $378,000 in revenue for every employee on their payrolls,” the Journal reported. “Last year, that figure rose to $420,000.” But workers are seeing none of that increase in their pay.
Meanwhile, CEOs are getting paid tens of millions. This is unfair, and it's something progressive taxation can be used to counteract.
Europe and Japan are broke, so I don't see any reason to use their model for this high speed rail business. Inventions and progress comes from inventors and the productive effort of the people, not bureaucrats and politicians. I'm all for tax credits for inventing something the government sees as good or necessary, but I couldn't support wealth redistribution because someone in the government decides unilaterally that "this high speed rail is good. We shall tax our citizens money to make it."
And I think the idea of a job guarantee will have the opposite effect you're suggesting it will have. If everyone is guaranteed work no matter what, then there is no incentive for anyone to improve or better themselves. It would lead to people being forced into a professions they make not like, but because the government has them take a test, they are in that profession from 22-retirement. I can see that going very badly, and it draws some pretty horrible parallels with Communism, among other things. Next thing you know we'll all be wearing matching gray uniforms and sleeping in bunk houses. I think it would literally destroy our society. No joke.
Social safety nets create a moral hazard, and the ultimate impact they have is that certain people will purposefully underperform in order to qualify for benefits. We already have a lot of that in our society. It breeds crime, resentment, and poverty cycles itself from generation to generation, rather than only occuring once and being over and done with.
I'm not against taxes or excises, per se. I am opposed to an income tax, however. Because the income tax implies that it is the government that earns our money, and they simply allow us to keep a certain percentage. That to me is immoral. We work for a living, it's our money. I think taxes should be relegated to only products or services that we use, as we go, rather than scraping off the top everything society brings in. Taxes for gas or tolls on roads is totally fine. Because, if you use gas or drive on a road, you should pay for your use of it. Same with the Post office.
That would only make sense as taxation to use things that the government has provided, gas not being one of them. The issue being that the government provides generally only public goods (aside from the little matter of the post office) that are more difficult to monetize. Sure roads have tolls, but how do you monetize, say, environmental cleanliness?
Just because some abuse social safety nets does not mean that the system itself is inherently flawed. There will be people who abuse all things, and no mechanism is perfect for solving all ills, but such social safety nets mean that society will provide for its own, to make sure that they have the dignity that they are morally entitled to. The need for government employment is to correct against those who want to work but cannot, because most people want to work on the whole, and this underlies the need for government intervention. It's not about "unilateral decisionmaking" it's about accounting for things that the free market cannot grasp, public goods like the health and education of the people, the cleanliness of the environment, industries that need a push before they can become self-sufficiently competitive, or large-scale mass transit systems. The ideal balance of Social Democracy is for the free market to work where the free market works (which is still the vast majority of commerce), and for the government to pick up the slack everywhere else. Much like too much democracy is a bad thing, verifiably, so a too-liberated market is also verifiably bad.