A while ago I came across the "Parable of The 10th Man," which was quoted in its entirety in a William F. Buckley column, and has appeared in numerous conservative blogs and columns all over the web.
I'm not going to recount it here. Just search for "The 10th Man" and maybe throw in the word "parable," and you'll find it easily enough.
Please go read the parable before you read the rest of this, if you haven't read it before.
The thing about that parable that infuriates me is that whoever composed it never specified what the men in the parable were having for dinner!
The parable falls on its face on this point, and I'm disappointed that I cannot find any challenges to it online, so I'm posting mine here.
The bill the men all pay at the end of the "dinner which they all shared" obviously represents the total tax burden of all stripes of Americans at all economic levels, and the portion each man pays obviously represents his proportionate tax burden.
But what is represented by the dinner itself that they're paying for?
Since we Americans pay taxes based on what we earn and what we own, I would assume the dinner represents what the men earn and what they own.
To make the parable represent reality, it needs to include the following details.
The men arrive in the restaurant, and the man who pays that big whopping percentage of the bill is treated to a sumptuous 7-course meal, with bottle after bottle of rare wine and exquisitely prepared gourmet food and dessert. The waiters hover around him anxiously, flattering him and offering him delicacies the likes of which few men ever see, let alone taste.
The other nine men are all kept well away from his table so as not to disturb him while he eats, or, for that matter, to even be permitted to see what it is he's being given to eat. They sometimes catch a glimpse of the 10th man's meal as it's being brought to him, and can only wonder what it would be like to be served such fare.
The middle-level men, the ones who pay between $12 and $18 or so, are given a meal equivalent to a value meal at Wendy's. A burger, maybe, or a chicken sandwich, some fries, and a coke. If they're lucky, maybe there's a piece of prepackaged pie or a cookie.
The man who pays $3 gets one single hamburger, and is kept out of view of the middle-level men so as not to disturb their eating.
The men who pay nothing at all get a couple of packets of ketchup, and are given the opportunity to go and beg for scraps from the man who has only a hamburger. If they're lucky, they can get a little piece of a roll to put their ketchup on. Sometimes they sneak over to the area where the men are eating their combos and steal a french fry or two, but when they're caught, they are punished by having their ketchup packets taken away.
When the final bill comes, the middle-level men are actually paying more than two or three times as much as they really should be paying for their meals, and are justified in grumbling about it.
The man who pays $3 got the hamburger he paid for, and not a scrap more.
The men who pay nothing at all got more or less nothing at all.
And the 10th man is actually, in the end, paying a lot less than the actual cost of his meal, because the middle-level men, the ones who had Wendy's combo meals, subsidized a substantial portion of his bill, because God knows he's not going to cough up the whole amount. He's got mansions to build and private planes to buy.
So the reason the men lynch the 10th man is because when it is announced that the price of the entire meal is being lowered, it's obvious that over in his secluded area, the 10th man had a private discussion with the owner of the restaurant (who represents the government that is charged with the responsibility of protecting ownership and privilege for all Americans) that resulted in his being allowed to pay even less for his massive meal, and that he'd assumed that throwing a tiny discount to the people who were actually paying for much of his portion of the bill would mollify them to the point where they'd not question why his bill was going down by so much more than theirs.
What the proliferation of this parable makes clear to me is that wealthy conservative people share a kind of "let them eat cake" world-view, in which the only difference between themselves and poor people is that poor people pay less taxes. This ludicrous story is used by people like Buckley to purport the idea that every American is sitting at the same table enjoying the same dinner, as if a single mother of three living in a crime-infested, roach-ridden slum somehow enjoys the same standard of living as a multi-billionaire in his mansion.
I have grave doubts that any rich person has ever had to lower his standard of living because the government was taxing him too much.