Rep. Allen West's Economic Incoherence

May 11, 2011 12:45 pm ET — Jamison Foser

Rep. Allen

In an interview with the Miami New Times, Rep. Allen West (R-FL) continues to demonstrate an incoherent economic philosophy, this time claiming it is "socialist" to recognize the (ever-growing) gap between rich people and the rest of the country.

Despite those cuts to the Medicare program, the Ryan plan sustains the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy, versus Obama's plan —

I want you all to stop talking about tax cuts for the wealthy ... these top brackets pay 40 percent of taxes in the United States of America, so when is it enough?

The richest one percent of Americans own 40 percent of all the wealth in America — as much as the bottom half of the country combined. That's why they pay such a large portion of the taxes: They have such a large portion of the money. And because, due to their extraordinary disposable income, they are able to pay a large portion of taxes. (The richest one percent pay about 28 percent of total federal taxes, by the way.)

All of that may be why the public largely disagrees with West: Two-thirds of Americans support tax increases on the rich, and evidence suggests that the rich don't flee higher taxes. And that's true even though Americans greatly underestimate the extent to which wealth is concentrated in the hands of a very few rich people.

West's interview continued:

The Bush-era tax cuts, which you have supported and which would be continued under the Ryan plan — they are for wealthy Americans; they're not just for small businesses.

They're for people that produce. And $250,000 — I mean, I don't know why we have people arbitrarily deciding who is rich or who is poor. That's a very socialist perspective.

Only about two percent of all American households have annual income of at least $250,000. West's claim that classifying some people as "rich" and others as "poor" constitutes socialism is simply bizarre. Oh, and it would mean that West himself is a socialist. See, West has said Congress should consider means-testing Social Security and Medicare, explaining "Donald Trump is not going to need Social Security or Medicare in his life. ... We need to make sure that these programs are targeted to people who really do need them, and not just have a blanket policy for everyone."

The bottom line is that West takes an incoherent and confused approach to economic issues. He opposes the progressive income tax "scheme" and insists that "arbitrarily deciding who is rich" for tax purposes is "a very socialist perspective" — but he makes exactly that kind of "arbitrary" distinction when it comes to Social Security and Medicare. 

Finally:

Do you make $250,000 a year?

I'm sure when you put me together with my wife. But then, I also have two daughters, one of them about to go into college. So I don't know if people take those things into consideration.

West seems to be under the impression that his household income is not particularly high for a family of four. He is wrong. The median income for a family of four is $75,000 — only one-quarter of $250,000. The vast majority of families sending kids to college do so on far less than $250,000 a year.

The possibility certainly exists that West is simply being dishonest when he suggests that the rich pay a wildly disproportionate share of taxes, or that a $250,000 income isn't particularly high. But, more likely, he simply has no idea what he is talking about. As former Sen. Alan Simpson reminds us, that's a shamefully typical attribute among policy-makers.

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