Joe Biden has been roundly criticized for his remark that paying higher taxes is a “patriotic duty,” at least for the (conveniently undefined) “wealthy.” (He later added that he–speaking as a Catholic--believed paying taxes was also a “religious duty.”)
There is a sense–a limited sense, I hasten to add–that I believe Biden is correct, or, rather, partly correct. To the except that obeying the law can be construed as patriotic, then paying one’s taxes is a patriotic act. But it is no more patriotic when Bill Gates does it than when you or I do it. (Mr. Biden has so amply demonstrated his confusion about religion, above all the Catholic religion, that charity dictates that I leave his statement about taxes and one’s “religious duty” out of account.)
The problem is that Joe Biden wasn’t taking about obeying the law. He was talking about Obama’s egalitarian plan to further the progess of socialism in this country by (among other things) promulgating polices that will redistribute wealth. Latching on the business profits (be they “windfall” profits or any other sort) is thread in this project. Raising income taxes on more prosperous Americans, thereby making them less prosperous, is another.
The power to tax, Chief Justice John Marshall observed at the end of the 18th century, is the power to destroy. Joe Biden–like Barack Obama, like Democrats en bloc–understand, applaud, and wish to arrogate that power to themselves. Obama is the most radical candidate for presidency in my lifetime. He makes McGovern look like Ronald Reagan. His tax policy is one expression of that radicalism. It would impoverish working Americans not just by taking their money from them but also by rendering them more and more dependent upon the state. The goal, as Tocqueville say back in the 1830s, is the goal of democratic despotism: to turn everyone into a ward of the state. That’s the truly objectionable aspect of what Joe Biden said: not that paying taxes, i.e., obeying the law, is a good thing but that your property isn’t really your property: it belongs to the state, to dispose of as it sees fit. We’ve heard that song before, comrade, but it’s not a tune that American ears find pleasing. That’s one reason, incidentally, that I am sticking by by prediction that John McCain will not only win, but will win big, in November. American voters still prefer candidates who understand the difference between what belongs to citizens and what belongs to the state.