In a TNR Online debate with Jon Chait over Chait's The Big Con, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist trots out the bizarre argument that a progressive tax system is equivalent to discrimination based on race and sexual orientation:
In the 1950s it was considered by too many acceptable for the state to discriminate against gays and African Americans. Now it is not. Back in those bad old days it was considered politically acceptable to target "the rich" and treat them differently than others. We are slowly moving away from tolerating discrimination based on economics just as we now reject discrimination based on race or sexual orientation. The drive for a single-rate, flat-rate income tax is the moral equivalent of the 1960s civil rights movement which rejected different laws for whites and blacks. Everyone should be equal before the law. The state must treat us without discrimination.
South Africa was a bad place when they discriminated by race. East Germany was not an improvement with its discrimination by economic class. Soviet Socialism targeting landowners/Kulaks and National Socialism targeting Jews and Gypsies were both wrong. Idi Amin went after the Asians; both a race and merchant class in Uganda.
George Wallace and Strom Thurmond recanted. Someday those who would promote hatred and discrimination based on income, wealth, or property ownership will do so also. We are making progress but it does discomfort those who were so used to their prejudices being recognized in law.
As the ownership society grows and deepens ... we are all Kulaks now.
This linkage is strikingly similar to the arguments made by the Heritage Foundation's Daniel Mitchell. Here's what I wrote about Mitchell for Spinsanity back in 2002:
In an Op-Ed in the Washington Times this week, Mitchell condemns the Supreme Court's infamous 1857 decision in the Dred Scott case (which ruled that slaves who escaped to free states were still considered the property of their previous owners) and then attempts to connect the case with a proposed change in corporate tax policy, writing that "some U.S. companies soon may be treated in a similar manner" to slaves under Dred Scott due to a bill in Congress that would prevent U.S. corporations from re-chartering in countries with "better tax laws," such as Bermuda. "The politicians who support this are acting as if these companies belong to the government," he writes...
Last year, in an interview with the New Republic's Anand Giridharadas, Mitchell similarly compared tax evasion with the civil rights movement, saying that he could not condemn a family that "deposits their assets offshore in the face of a confiscatory tax like the death tax, any more than I would condemn Rosa Parks for sitting in the front of that bus."
I don't think this tactic is going to take off like, say, the "death tax." In particular, would any politician dare make these kinds of comparisons to an African American audience?