The big economic question in much of the world today is usually framed as the fight between advocates of austerity and advocates of growth. But another way to view the debate is as a contest between those who think that 21st-century government can be effective and those who don’t.
Indeed, some of America’s most outspoken capitalists have begun to fight the “Buffett Rule,” which would set a minimum tax level for millionaires, and other calls to raise taxes for those at the very top, with the argument that money is best left in the bank accounts of the superrich because they are more effective at using it than the state is.
“I’m a job creator. I’m one of the guys who can help us out. I’m a Silicon Valley guy who can invent and create,” T.J. Rodgers, chief executive of Cypress Semiconductor, told me. “If you tax me more, I will either give less to charity or I will fund venture companies less, or I will sell the stock in my own company or other companies I own, like Intel and Google. I will do one of those three things to return the money to the government.”
If that were to happen, Rodgers told me, the economy would be hurt, because he is better at investing money than government bureaucrats are.
“The money will go into cash for clunkers or another program. And somehow we’re supposed to believe that taking money from the investments, my investments, out of Silicon Valley, where they have been very, very good for the economy, and putting them into cash for clunkers, or the new scheme, whatever it is, is somehow going to make America’s economy better,” he said. “It’s just wrong. It’s going to hurt the people that they’re pandering to. It’s going to hurt the very people that think if we vote for this, then we’ll get more money. What will happen is the economy that they depend on will be less robust and they’ll be in worse shape.” “Cash for clunkers” is a term for a U.S. government program in 2009 that provided rebates to those who traded in older, fuel-guzzling cars for more efficient models.