Horse Leech Economics

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The blood-sucking annelid is no fun at all. Parasitic nuisances, in biblical Palestine, they would fasten onto the nostrils and tongues of horses when they came to an infested pond to drink. The horse leech is therefore a fitting symbol for a particular kind of economic theory.

“The horseleach hath two daughters, crying, Give, give. There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough: The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough” (Prov. 30:15-16).

The Wall St. Occupiers say that they are of the “99%.” They are not numbered in the ranks of that despised 1%, those rich people swanking around the world like they just want us to covet all their stuff. The narrative here is that these ordinary folks just want the rich to pay their “fair share.”

Let us take off the green sunglasses of class envy for a moment and see if things look any different. Currently, the 50% that constitutes the lower-income population of the United States pay no income taxes. At the same time, the top 1% (those reviled by the occupiers, our champions of justice) contribute about 40% of the tax revenue. And then, the demand goes forth that those who are carrying 40% of the load need to step up and pay their “fair share.”

Okay, let’s define that. What is their fair share exactly? Clearly, it must be over 40%. When will we stop and acknowledge that they have now arrived at their “fair share?” Any dispassionate analysis that takes more than thirty seconds should see that “fair share” means nothing more and nothing less than simply “more.” Have the rich paid their fair share yet? I don’t quite know — does the horse still have any blood in it?

Jim Wallis has praised these people as “citizen economists,” and has said that they simply want a “just economy.” No, they don’t. If they wanted a just economy, they would be able to define that phrase without using the words more or gimme. They want to enshrine a standing violation of the Tenth Commandment in our tax law. They want Envy to ascend the throne of snarky privilege, in order to spit at the rest of us.

Ten guys go to eat at a restaurant every week for lunch. Five of them eat free. One of them picks up the tab for forty percent, and four of them pay the other sixty. Then one day the five guys decide to beat up the one rich guy, because they have heard that he was not willing to pay his “fair share.” Wallis calls these five worthies “citizen economists.” I call them citizen moochers, citizen deadbeats, citizen layabouts, citizen lotus eaters, citizen slackers, citizen spongers . . . or, as I guess we would say nowadays, citizen economists. But after the thrashing they gave him after that lunch, he didn’t show up the next week. Quite baffling and mysterious, the whole thing.

I do have one complaint about the rich though. I do not begrudge them their wealth, their privileges, or their wives’ earrings the size of baseballs. Okay by me. I do not fault them for hiring lawyers to hide their stuff, and for figuring out ways to move their assets off shore. If someone figured out a way to install a bank on the moon, I would not blame them for placing significant electronic deposits there. I do not fault them for not showing up for the lunch anymore.

I do fault them for not defending themselves. I do fault them for not funding more think tanks dedicated to economic sanity. I do blame them for the fact that there are many capable defenders of the wealthy who do not have the resources to do the job right — and who do it anyway. They are the true citizen economists.



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