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Dunaway: A wealth tax is evidence of the "Dumbo Syndrome"

Published in Blog on August 13, 2019 by Convention Of States

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You remember the movie. The big-eared elephant Dumbo has the extraordinary ability to fly, but he thinks his powers come from a magical feather rather than his ears. 

According to a recent op-ed by Rita Dunaway, the same kind of delusion has infected many of Americans today, including some of the wealthiest. They believe that our country's ability to prosper comes not from the hard work and ingenuity of its people but from the magical federal government. 

A few of the wealthiest Americans recently penned a letter describing exactly this mentality. They believe the federal government should tax them at a higher rate in order to fix problems like climate change, healthcare costs, and the economy.

Dunaway explains how this vision of America is a far cry from our Founders' original vision.

The letter states, “Those of us signing this letter enjoy uncommon fortunes, but each of us wants to live in an America that solves the biggest challenges of our common future.” The question is, who or what is the “America” of which they speak?

The context of the letter reveals that to these writers, “America” is the federal government. And this is a great poverty of thinking.

The best (and historically correct) view is that our government is but a small portion of what makes America both great and good. It is a sort of contractor. We delegate certain functions to it that we really need it to do. But it is not, and could never be, a worthy substitute for our families, churches, philanthropies or businesses.

In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville observed, “The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.” When we reach a point at which citizens see themselves as dependents who wait for and expect government to do what needs doing, we are no longer operating as a healthy free society. 

This please-tax-us-so-we-can-help letter is a sad appeal for government to do what the ultra-rich are more than capable of doing themselves. In the classic tale, Dumbo eventually loses the “magical” feather and finds that he can fly just fine without it. If we drop the idea that government is our only means of making society better for everyone, we, too, will find that we can “fly” just fine on our own. 

America isn't the federal government, but it's easy to see why some people think so. Washington has grown so large and so powerful that it now has the ability to insert itself into nearly every aspect of American life. In many ways, the "United States" has become synonymous with "Washington, D.C.," and we've lost our freedom and self-governance as a result.

That's why millions of Americans have joined the Convention of States movement. An Article V Convention of States can propose constitutional amendments that limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government as a whole. These amendments can include limits on federal power via the Commerce Clause and the General Welfare clause, limits on taxation and spending, and amendments that impose term limits on federal officials.

With this complete package of amendments in place, it will once again become clear that, as Dunaway says, the American people don't need Washington to fly. We can solve our problems the way we've always solved them: with hard work, ingenuity, and self-governance. 

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