Last week, both the Assembly Budget Committee and the Senate Budget and Appropriation Committee voted along party lines to impose a "temporary" surcharge (from 8.97 percent to 10.75 percent) on New Jerseyans who have taxable incomes of more than $1 million. The temporary surcharge was in effect last year, and Governor Corzine and the legislature did not renew it during the lame duck session after Corzine lost his reelection bid last November.
Both chambers will vote on the income tax surcharge bill on Thursday, May 20. With Democrats controlling both houses the bill is virtually assured passage. Governor Christie has vowed to veto any income tax hike. But Democrats and editorial boards assert that the governor's call for "shared sacrifice" should also include the state's highest income earners.
Although "only" 16,000 New Jerseyans would be affected by the income tax hike, the revenue would raise an estimated $637 million, which would be used to restore property tax rebate for senior and disabled homeowners and renters and eliminate higher deductibles and co-pays for seniors and the disabled under the state's prescription drug plan.
In short, Trenton's Democrats have embraced the ideology — the philosophy — that is summed up in one of the most famous sentences in the history of political economy: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs." Yes, Democrats unequivocally embrace the philosophy of Marxism, namely, that it is the duty of the state to take money from one group of individuals and give it to another group of individuals.
Helping other people voluntarily in need is a compassionate act of charity. Charity is a voluntary act of altruism. Coerced compassion is a contradiction in terms. The state is not a charitable institution. Only individuals can exercise compassion. Politicians who plunder their fellow citizens for laudable goals are "phony philanthropists."
About the same time Marx wrote these words, Frederic Bastiat wrote "The Law", where he elegantly described the redistribution of income as "legal plunder."
The battle lines were drawn more than 150 years ago: Marx versus Bastiat. And Marx has won. The redistribution of income is now so mainstream even Republicans support the progressive income tax, the redistribution of income from the suburbs to the cities to pay for public education and the rest of the welfare state superstructure that has bankrupted New Jersey.
Let's set the record straight: New Jerseyans are in a titanic struggle between the ideology of Marx and the philosophy of Bastiat, who embraced the principles of America's Founding Fathers. That is the issue before us.
The Democrats can pander to seniors and the disabled all they want, but they cannot alter the fact that we are in this mess because legal plunder has been embraced by both political parties and the New Jersey Supreme Court. New Jerseyans are finally waking up to the fact that legal plunder is self-defeating. Taxing and spending has reached a dead end.
If Governor Christie embraces the philosophy of Bastiat and rejects the ideology of Marx completely and without reservation, New Jersey's economy will revive. The governor must have his version of "fireside chats" with the people of New Jersey and outline how he will replace Marx's vision of society with the wisdom of Bastiat.
Murray Sabrin is professor of finance at Ramapo College. He was the Libertarian Party nominee for governor in 1997 and a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2000 and 2008. Check www.MurraySabrin.com for more of his writings.