I apologize in advance, because I am going to talk about a piece that I have not yet read. To be clear, I do not intend to read Megan McArdle’s “Piketty’s Tax Hikes Won’t Help the Middle Class.” I’m afraid that I can’t wait to weigh in — not on the review itself, but on its topic. How much doesn’t inequality not actually not matter?
My first objection is to McArdle’s central argument, “Taxes are gay.” I find this offensive and wrongheaded. First, taxes are bi-curious at best. Second, using the word “gay” as an insult, even against an inanimate concept such as taxes, is not the way we do things here in the 21st century. Besides, the sexual proclivities of taxes are really neither here nor there when it comes to the pressing issue of securing government revenues in a fast-paced world. Even if, as McArdle argues, “taxes are a little light in the shoes, if you get my drift,” it’s unclear what else she proposes be done to raise funding for schools, roads, and emergency services. It’s true, as McArdle says, that “God is dead and all who worship the fetid carcass of religion should be put to the sword, and their riches applied to the public coffers for the good of all,” but is that not, in a sense, a form of taxation? I think Ms. McArdle may want to check her bias, here.
Second, I find McArdle’s review, which I believe concerns Lemony Snicket’s The Capitals In the 21st Century, to be filled with distortions and misreading. It’s true, as McArdle writes, that “Snicket argues that the born wealthy are more powerful than Alexander Ovechkin on a power play.” But she misrepresents him entirely we she suggests that his preferred response is to “bar the rich from public affairs like ace goalie Jaroslav Halak blocking a slapshot.” McArdle seems intent on implying a more radical response than Snicket actually argues for. Snicket’s diagnosis is unsettling, it’s true, but I hardly think it’s fair to write “this book is like if Che Guevara rewrote Mao’s little red book right after snorting Trotsky’s ashes off of the tits of Emma Goldman.” Surely, we can discuss political differences without resorting to hyperbole!
I also find it unpersuasive when McArdle writes about the plight of the working poor. McArdle claims that the real issue for fast food workers is not their low wages, but rather “listening to the hippity-hop, dancing in public, and carrying on with the baggy clothes and the girls wearing trousers.” While I don’t doubt that culture plays a role in helping people escape poverty, this goes a bit too far. She also seems to underestimate how badly low wages hurt our most vulnerable. When McArdle argues that “your average McDonald’s worker should be satisfied, at the end of the day, to suck the disgusting gristle from the grease trap of the skillet that cooked the capitalist perfection that is the McRib, and consider themselves well paid,” I wonder who is really guilty of “class war.”
Finally, there is McArdle’s dubious takedown of Snicket’s statistics. By now, Snicket’s controversial equation “r>g,” where r = points per game from center Nicklas Backstrom and g = penalty minutes/100 for winger Tom Wilson, has become something of a mantra in left-wing circles. McArdle responds with her own equation, which seems much less convincing– s = (bs – epst)*hyk, where s stands for success, bs for number of bootstraps, epst exposure to public school teachers, and hyk the Coefficient of Hayek. While I appreciate McArdle’s focus on hard work, this seems to do little to address the book’s real thesis.
Oh, also, I think McArdle’s concluding line, “Paul Krugman is into little boys,” is just a cheap shot, and frankly not relevant to the book in question.