Does She Get to Ride the 6 For Free Too?

|

The endlessly self-inventive Jennifer Lopez is trying out a new role: critic of public choice theory. According to Rush and Molloy, the modern Liz to Ben Affleck's Dick requested free use of on-duty Miami police officers for security during a recent visit. "Lopez's people said since they paid a lot in taxes," says Miami Beach Police spokesman Detective Bobby Hernandez, "we should give them officers."

Put aside for a moment whatever objections you may have to the overexposed chanteuse. Does she have a point? Detective Hernandez' rebuttal to the request seems like no more than an argument from force: "I had to explain that there are a lot of people with money here. They have to hire off-duty officers like everyone else." I presume from the context that J.Lo has a residence and pays taxes in Miami; if I were paying Lopez-sized taxes, I too might feel I was entitled to more than my share of public services. Or rather, I'd think that more than my share was my share. To be humane, we may concede that poor people should not be left without police or fire protection. But why shouldn't the people who pay most of the bills help themselves to a little extra?

(Like Salieri, J.Lo speaks for mediocrities everywhere. Kerry Howley wrote an appreciation back when she was still Jenny From the Block.)

Advertisement

NEXT: What Price Freedom Communications?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. A similar argument could be that given the large amount of money paid in taxes from professional ballplayers salaries (along with various and sundry other tax revenues resulting from the ballpark) the players and the team deserve that nice new stadium built with tax payer money.

    On the other hand, non-profits, like churches, don’t deserve the assistance they get from the fire dept when they are burning.

  2. I don’t have any children in public schools but I pay lots in property and income taxes. Should I have a larger voice in the running of the schools than those people with lots of kids?

  3. That?s reminds of Robert Reich?s ?The Work of Nations? in which he lamented how the wealthy were supposedly becoming detached from the rest of us because they sent their children to private schools rather than the government ones and lived in gated communities with private security rather than relying on police protection.

    Jonathan Chait also inadvertently made a similar point in his ?In Defense of Bush Hatred? in which he pointed out by cutting income taxes proportionately (?tax cuts for the rich?), the wealthy would no longer be subsidizing the rest of us with as much of a disproportionate share of the tax load and if taxpayers in the middle class had to pay more for their favorite programs, they would be less popular.

    I don?t agree that people should be treated differently by the government based on their relative wealth and that extends to taxing people at a higher rate for creating more wealth. As tacky as I find Lopez and her idiot paramour, it does illustrate a larger point that the wealthy often pay more in taxes while using and relying on government services to a much lesser extent.

    The fair thing to do would be to have lower general taxes (e.g. flat income tax or a sales tax without all of the exceptions and deductions) and fewer government services (military, courts, roads, police, and maybe a few others) and try to make those few services either paid equitably across-the-board or paid for by those who use them via user fees and pigouvian charges.

  4. And another of tinsel town’s pampered elite begins to understand what they mean when the say “tax the rich.”

  5. make her hire her own security — the police and fire depts are *already* protecting far more of her stuff than ours, simply because she owns far more.

  6. chthus – the problem is, there is an offset there. If you tax churches, charitible organizations, and other non-profits, the amount they spend on charity is reduced, which increases the number of people who need government assistance, which increases taxes. Maybe there is some net tax gain by taxing non-profits, but it’s not the clear cut simple answer that some make it out to be.

  7. “make her hire her own security — the police and fire depts are *already* protecting far more of her stuff than ours, simply because she owns far more.”

    My guess is that police and fire departments spend very little resources “protecting” her stuff. Further, I suspect that they spend most of their time and resources “protecting” the poor.

  8. Adam Carolla, one of my favorite political critics, says he wants people who pay a lot of taxes to have the government equivalent of the airport first class clubs. In exchange for all the taxes, he wants his own policeman and also wants the trash haulers to (a) show up later in the day and (b) get out of the truck and move the trash bin if it happens to be incorrectly pointing towards Mecca.

  9. c:

    That would be true if we allocated police and fire protection based on number of dollars protected instead of number of people protected.

    There is a legitimacy problem with the modern understanding of ‘beneficiary pays’ taxation. In today’s lingo, folks argue that you can tell who the beneficiary of any service is by looking at their bank account, which leads to crooked justifications for making wealthy people pay for all sorts of things that they don’t really benefit from. It is this simplistic view of who wins in ‘the System’ that gives weight to seemingly outlandish claims of paying your ‘fair share’, even if that is over 50% of your income.

    You really need to be able to draw a line from a specific benefit to a specific beneficiary to make the claim that so and so benefits excessively from X policy. If you are going to call it a public good that is controlled by one man having one vote, you had better fund it similar fashion to preserve legitimacy.

  10. Look, we need X dollars to run the government. Maybe x=y+2. Maybe it equals y-2. But for this discussion, the value of x doesn’t matter. It’s x dollars, and they need to come from somewhere.

    Now, should the government take most of those dollars from people who would otherwise buy CDs, speed boats, and silk tophats (heh, heh)? Or from people who would otherwise fix their 1982 Datsun and buy bread for the kids breakfast?

  11. I’ve written on this topic before. Why is it that so many people believe the more money you earn the less right you have to keep it? People who earn $200k have just as much right to keep their income as people who earn $20k.

  12. joe –

    What about the person who makes the top hats? What about the person who pumps gasoline for the speed boat?

    Don’t they need money to buy bread? By taxing the rich too heavily, you will reduce the amount of money that that could end up in the pockets of these people.

    If your argument is that the goverment can provide bread for the children of the gas station attendent, then power to you. But the gas station attendent gets much of his/her money from the rich, and more of the money the government takes from taxes ends up in the pockets of beaurocrats and political favorites and the makers of $300 toilet seat covers.

  13. joe – the size of x is not an inconsequential argument. Nevertheless, I do see your point and agree with it, at least at the most basic level. What some folks here don’t quite grasp is that government services are not like country club memberships or airline frequent flyer programs. With government services, you don’t necessarily pay for what you get, and you also don’t necessarily get what you pay for. We can all say what we will about the fairness/unfairness of that, but I would argue that some degree of unfairness is simply the nature of the beast when it comes to government services. Come to think of it, it’s also the nature of the beast when it comes to life more generally.

  14. jason and don – do you think that jlo pays higher insurance premiums that your average joe? Why would an insurance company charge her more? Why would she be willing to pay more? Because the insurance company has more stuff to “protect” on her policy than on mine. And she’s willing to pay because the protection of her stuff is worth more than the protection of my stuff is worth.

    When the fire department shows up to stop a fire at her home, they have prevented more damage to her stuff than they do when they show up at mine. She pays a higher “premium” because she gets more out of the system than someone who owns less.

    Cry not for J-Lo.

  15. joe,

    The value of X does matter. At least half of the point is that if you benefit from policy A but can force someone else to pay for 90% of its costs (someone who doesn’t benefit any more than you), you have the tendency to do so. You vote for more and more expensive government because you are 90% sheltered from costs.

    The other half of the argument is legitimacy. It is very difficult to swallow that ‘We, The People’ own public roads or public services when effectively ‘They, the Rich’ are paying all the bills.

    I am not arguing for a head tax or flat dollar tax, which would eliminate this disconnect altogether, but I am arguing that it is perverse for people who are using numerous services they ain’t paying for to then vote that they need to pay still less and get more.

    The people who benefit from a service should pay for that service, whether they are buying yachts or bread for their children. Conversely, the question goes, should people who pay more get more?

  16. C:

    J-lo can choose whether a given level of insurance poses more costs than benefits for her, and she can simply refuse to be insured if the premiums are too high.

    Give her the same option in the public sphere, and we have a deal.

  17. St Mack, “People who earn $200k have just as much right to keep their income as people who earn $20k.” Maybe “just as much right,” but certainly not “just as much need.” The actual, real world harm and benefit of a policy is an appropriate consideration, no?

    Butterfly, “What about the person who makes the top hats? What about the person who pumps gasoline for the speed boat?”

    1. Well, what about the person who fixes Datsuns? What about the baker of the bread?
    I don’t buy your assumption that the stuff rich people buy creates a greater mulitplier than the stuff poor people buy. Let’s call it a wash.

    2. Then there is the immediate benefit of the purchase. You would agree, would you not, that buying bread for hungry children and keeping the poor family’s only car running is more important, taken by itself, than getting the leather seats instead of the cloth in an Expedition? Actually, you can do a lot of the former for one upholstery upgrade. Advantage: poor.

    3. But the above two arguments assume that both the rich and the poor spend “extra” money at the same rate. Actually, the rich are more likely to stick it in a mattress or the modern equivalent. Nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t do nearly as much good for the economy as spending it. Again, advantage: poor. So we’re at 2-0-1.

    “By taxing the rich too heavily, you will reduce the amount of money that that could end up in the pockets of these people.” Same with taxing the poor too heavily. But the level of taxation is not the question. The distribution of taxation is what I’m after.

  18. She doesn’t have the option to make less money? She’s making this money involuntarily? Her record and movie negotiations invlove her begging for a lower rate, but the recording companies force multi-million dollar deals on her? Jeez, I didn’r realize she had it so bad…

  19. c – I see your point, and agree to some extent, but I’m not sure that’s necessarily why JLo pays a “higher premium”. I would guess the reason has more to do with the government playing a little multiplicity trick, i.e. in a simple society with one individual who earns $200k and one who earns $20k, the government gets more by taxing the higher earner 30% and the lower earner 15% than the other way around. Put another way, it’s a way for the government to take in more tax dollars without the appearance of higher tax rates. A bit of a trick, perhaps, but it makes some practical sense as well – joe’s argument above has some validity to it. Still, to me the bottom line is that no tax system that anyone ever comes up with will be deemed by all taxpayers to be 100% “fair”.

  20. Uncle Joe,

    Your point is valid if you accept need as your standard. I do not. Once need becomes the standard the system becomes tax the more successful (From each according to his ability) and hand it out to the less successful (to each according to their need).

  21. for the record, I don’t think it’s “why” she pays a higher premium either — I think it’s why it’s fair that she does. And you’re right on this point: she doesn’t get quite what she pays for, and poorer people get more than they pay for. But that’s ok. In fact, it almost goes without saying that government services aren’t “get-what-you-pay-for” type services. For those services that we find the get-what-you-pay-for model humanely acceptable, we have the private sector. Protection from crime and violence is not a service where get-what-you-pay-for would produce humanely acceptable results.

  22. J-Lo has already gotten her disproportionately high consideration from law enforcement in the form of a statement having to be made by a public employee to the news media addressing the concerns of a single citizen, as opposed to the “yeah, right”, chuckle, and instantaneous dismissal that 99.95% of the other taxpayers in Miami would’ve gotten.

  23. St Mack,

    “Your point is valid if you accept need as your standard. I do not.”

    That and 20 bucks will keep the heat on in a 1br in the South Bronx for two days this February.

  24. ‘Protection from crime and violence is not a service where get-what-you-pay-for would produce humanely acceptable results.’

    That is a nice sentiment, but it doesn’t tell us what system produces those results. Is it the system where flatten out the costs for social goods to the extent possible, or is it the system that allows people to vote themselves as much protection as the guy down the street can afford?

    How about retirements? Medical care? THERE’S where things get yucky.

  25. Thank goodness I don’t live in the S. Bronx. However, if I did and my neighbor needed help that I was able, and willing, to provide I would do so.

  26. But you don’t. Funny how that works – the people who need help have neighbors that need help, too.

  27. Good thing they have fine people on the Left who are willing to steal from their neighbors to pay for the heat in the Bronx.

    It just gives me a warm fuzzy thinking about how noble I could be if I could just steal from Bill Gates whenever I wanted.

  28. “3. But the above two arguments assume that both the rich and the poor spend “extra” money at the same rate. Actually, the rich are more likely to stick it in a mattress or the modern equivalent. Nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t do nearly as much good for the economy as spending it. Again, advantage: poor. So we’re at 2-0-1.”

    This is not true. No one sticks their money in a matress. They stick it into mutual funds, which is not *anything* like sticking it into a matress. My understanding is that tax cuts for the middle class work as short term stimulation wheras tax cuts for the rich work for long term growth where everyone is ultimately better off. People in need of bread are not paying any taxes anyway. Certainly, a balance needs to be struck.

  29. JDM – I also don’t agree with joe’s #3 point. The modern equivalent of stuffing money in a mattress is to invest it in mutual funds, which is basically investing in a broad range of companies. This has the effect of providing capital for these companies to purchase fixed assets (property, facilities, equipment, etc), invest in new technologies, create new products, and so forth. All of this creates jobs and stimulates the economy. I rate #3 as more of a push. The economy needs the poor (and more broadly, the whole spectrum of the middle class) to spend money on their necessities on a day-to-day basis in order to generate cash flow, make payrolls, pay suppliers, and so forth. But the economy also needs the rich to invest their money (with the expectation of some future rate of return) in order to build factories, purchase equipment, and more generally, to finance business opportunities in the first place. There will always be rich people. There will always be poor people. And there will always be people in between. And that’s a good thing, because the economy literally needs all of them to function.

    On joe’s other points, I think #1 probably goes to the rich, because in the end the spending of a rich person does create more economic stimulation in the classic “money multiplier” sense than the spending of a poor person, but that’s simply because the rich person can afford to do more spending. On point #2, I agree. In fact, joe’s point #2 is one of the few arguments for the progressive tax system that I am sympathetic to. Otherwise, the argument put forth by JLo and others that progressive taxes are inherently unfair has merit.

  30. If we use “need” as the standard for who gets the money/services/benefits, then there will be an incentive to create more need, but there will not necessarily be an equal incentive to create the means to meet that need.

    There is a very real point at which it becomes a disincentive to produce, e.g. the recent additional requirements for CA businesses who employ 50 or more people to provide health insurance for employees and their families. Business owners at or near that staffing level will have a difficult choice to make when that law takes effect. I see five basic options:

    1. Simply turn down opportunities for additional business and revenue growth so that staffing levels remain low enough to avoid this costly mandate

    2. Charge my customers/clients more for products/services in order to offset the cost of this mandate.

    3. Outsource potentially critical operations in order to maintain business growth and keep staffing levels low enough to avoid this costly mandate.

    4. Lay off employees to reduce staffing levels and avoid the mandate.

    5. Move to a state with a more business-friendly regulatory environment (granted, for some this won’t be much of an option).

    6. Eat the cost of this mandate, and reduce my own personal income.

    Health insurance ain’t cheap, particularly with the regulatory structure in the states on the West Coast, and I can see most business owners who choose not to provide health insurance for employees choosing options 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 before giving any serious consideration to #6.

    Should employers provide health insurance? That’s another debate. The issue here is that each of these options reflects the disincentive for a business owner/operator to grow his/her business, when growing that business means they are then forced to pay for someone else’s “need.” People naturally do what they can to increase their rewards, and decrease penalties. If we reward “need,” then people find ways to increase their need. If we penalize production and success, then people will shy away from activities that have those results.

  31. Jason Lingon:

    I have to go with C on this instead of what you wrote:

    “That would be true if we allocated police and fire protection based on number of dollars protected instead of number of people protected.”

    I can’t speak for Miami, but in many large cities, wealthier neighborhoods and shopping districts get a disproportionate (to population) amount of police/fire protection, but proportionate to the tax base. Urban planners have an incentive to maintain tax revenue, and rising crime rates screw property values like little else.

  32. Miami is, as far as I can find out, much like my city in that the percentage of property tax one can pay hits a cap.

    I pay less per x for my 3x home than someone with a little x or half-of-x shack pays. Not that I’m volunteering to pay extra or anything

  33. *yawn*

    Please privatize the military while you’re at it and wake me when you’re done. Thanks!

  34. c wrote: “jason and don – do you think that jlo pays higher insurance premiums that your average joe?”

    My guess is that she is more likely to be insured for most of her items than the average joe, and, absent insurance she is less likely to miss her stuff being destroyed or stolen as the average joe. I probably need my car more than she needs her ten cars (or whatever), even though her “average” car’s paint job might be worth three times as much as my car. In addition, my car is probably more likely to be stolen or otherwise damaged (well, assuming she lives like a normal rich person–she might just decide to date a rap star and use her car in a drive by shooting or some such).

  35. anon (joe?):

    But one reason there is such a disparity of wealth is the provision of government services on a basis other than the cost principle. How do you think those rich bastards got to be billionaires, except by sucking on the taxpayer’s tit? If it makes you feel any better, I’d prefer to first move those services that disproportionately benefit the plutocrats to a cost basis, give the market a few years to iron out the inequalities resulting from earlier privilege, and then shift everything else to a cost basis.

    And how much does building a sidewalk in front of one business or home cost, anyway?

  36. Keith,

    That is true, but I don’t think the amount of extra policing in wealthy areas even closely approximates the difference in taxes paid. More like J-lo pays for 40 cops and has two in her neighborhood, while I pay for 1/10 cop and get one in my neighborhood.

    I don’t have figures on police allcation, but I do know what the effect of federal, state, and local taxes is on someone with a lot of cash. I dunno …

  37. D,

    *yawn*

    Please socialize the grocery store so we can wait in queues for toilet paper, and wake me when you’re done.

  38. Brad S.,

    “I think #1 probably goes to the rich, because in the end the spending of a rich person does create more economic stimulation in the classic “money multiplier” sense than the spending of a poor person, but that’s simply because the rich person can afford to do more spending.”

    But the question is not how much benefit per person, but how much benefit per dollar. Do you believe a CEO getting a $100,000 tax cut will stimulate as much growth with it as a 200 working stiffs getting $500 each?

  39. I, for example, would hire an English tutor. Cripes.

  40. c,

    Actually, a get-what-you-pay-for model of public services would introduce cost competition, and use market pricing to steer resources where they were most needed. The result would be to drastically lower the average cost per-consumer, and make them more affordable for everybody.

    When you’re spending other people’s money on other people, and you don’t have the possibility of dissatisfied customers taking their business elsewhere, there’s not much of an incentive to keep costs down or do a good job. For that matter, when you’re consuming public services without regard to the cost of providing them, you don’t have much incentive to prioritize or be reasonable in your demands.

    As Murray Rothbard said, any time you remove the cost principle from public services, you get chronic shortages and bottlenecks. Any system of services not regulated by market prices is fundamentally irrational.

  41. “a get-what-you-pay-for model of public services would introduce cost competition, and use market pricing to steer resources where they were most needed.”

    You presume that having the resources to, for example, build a sidewalk corresponds to having the greatest need for that sidwalk. I would say that 10 minimum wage workers probably have a greater need for a sidewalk than one wealthy person, despite the fact that they lack the resources to build it.

  42. Gee, who could that have been?

  43. “How do you think those rich bastards got to be billionaires, except by sucking on the taxpayer’s tit?”

    Hmmm. I don’t recall J Lo sucking my tit. I must have been very, very drunk . . .

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.