Use the word demagogue and it brings up a negative connotation such as racism, xenophobia or anti anything. As you know, it is frequently used in conjunction with President Trumps rhetoric.
But there are more appealing, softer sounding demagogues as well and they have the same goal, to manipulate people, to create and play on fears, to take advantage of poorly informed individuals, to take advantage of ignorance.
They do this by telling half truths, setting up scapegoats, creating victims and making general statements that are readily accepted as fact because they fit into preconceived notions. They also provide ways for individuals to avoid responsibility and blame others.
Inequality, a rigged system, millionaires and billionaires, Wall Street, CEOs, business in general are all targets of demagogues. Some think Wall Street’s business model is fraud.
Others tell you you can’t get ahead in a rigged system or some group has blocked your opportunity. Some promise you a guaranteed job, a guaranteed income, a living wage or free this or that. And in doing so avoid all the facts and details and costs and consequences. Yet it all sounds so appealing.
Promises are made for higher taxes on the people many envy. Higher income taxes, a wealth tax, much higher estate taxes, pay for our Social Security, all designed to reinforce the notion that others don’t deserve what they have, they don’t pay their fair share and you deserve more.
But here is the thing. As appealing as it’s made to sound, no socialist country exists by only taxing its wealthy. They have high taxes and fees on all citizens (Value added taxes, payroll taxes, gasoline taxes, taxes on buying a car) which are required to keep paying for all the promises. Once a liability is created, once citizens become dependent, it must be paid for in good times and bad.
Think of it this way. We have a beautiful vast forest, but some of us want more wood to build with. Never fear, we will just cut down the mighty redwoods and leave the rest, but then that’s not enough so we cut the towering oaks, but that’s not enough so we take the maples until finally we are down to the lowly pine trees and that’s all we have left to keep us going.
If we add a 70% income tax, an annual wealth tax and a 70% inheritance tax as has been proposed those redwoods and towering oak will start to fall quickly. And most of us are the pine trees.