In an attempt to preclude accusations of snarkiness, I'll refrain here from asking why the higher professions have found it necessary to develop and publish elaborate canons of moral and behavioral ethics for mandatory compliance by members while plying their various trades. I'll simply note that the productive professions have done just that, while the political profession-ideologues and pragmatists, active politicians and passive commentators-has not.
Thus, members of the California bar are required not to withhold evidence which, if released to the opposition, might damage their own chances for a courtroom victory. I'd guess that the rule was put in place because "winning trumps everything" barristers might otherwise do just that sort of withholding and prior reliance on idealistic notions of conscience hadn't worked without a printed rule. This now appears in the California Code of Judicial Ethics: Canon 3D. It identifies seven categories of egregious lawyer conduct.
For example, item 4 of the California canon specifically proscribes "...Willful... withholding... exculpatory evidence... " Presumably, if item 4 weren't there, lawyers would do just that. Now, with rare exceptions, they don't. Having chosen not to adopt the written code, the political profession usually does.
Here's an example-
Drawing on a recent state-by-state income/wealth versus taxation study by the Washington-based Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, the Vermont-based Public Assets Institute published a news release last week with this ITEP quote: "...The Vermont tax system already falls most heavily on the very poorest families in the state."
You can find this 130-page study-with its multi-color bar graphs showing percentage-of-income tax levels for all income quintiles for all states-on the ITEP website.
Vermont is shown with the bottom income quintile paying 8.2 percent of income and the fourth quintile (middle-income) category from $54 to $85K paying 9.2 percent (an ITEP fact about distribution of tax burden not deemed mentionable or reportable by PAI) while the top quintile pays an average 7.7 percent, lower than the bottom quintile, hence the PAI equality-based-outcome-seeking angst.
It's the argument of both ITEP and PAI that such numbers illustrate an inherently wicked level of favor-the-rich unfairness. And why would ITEP, and with a greater verbal intensity PAI, choose to withhold the stats showing that it's the Vermont middle- and upper-middle-income quintiles which pay the highest percentage of their income in taxes, not the lowest?
Therefore, contrary to the breathless PAI reassertion that "The Vermont tax system falls most heavily on the very poorest families in the state", the truth is that the heaviest burden falls, as almost inevitably happens, on the long-suffering middle-income quintiles?
Even the proverbial oblivious-to-politics-resident of East-Overshoe, Vt., knows the answer: It's because the ideological template of the political left, in pursuit of re-distribution of wealth, requires that only those stats showing the poorest paying more and the richest paying less may be legitimately recited.
Absent any canon of ethics for politics that would motivate PAI writers to meet the "just the facts, ma'am" standards of fictional Det. Sgt. Joe Friday, these ideologues chose to ignore inconvenient facts which didn't fit their pre-conceived notions of Amerika; they only recited the facts which could be manipulated to fit their template.
Note the incompetent oversight or unintentional but non-malicious research gap: the inconvenient facts are there in black-on-white print and graphic full color charts on the Vermont pages (pp. 106-7) of the ITEP study PAI has chosen to analyze and interpret. The only way to miss the troublesome facts is to choose to.
As if mistating the tax burden distribution weren't enough, there's more.
It's the Holmesian non-barking dog, the missing set of income (or, more precisely, imputed income, the monetized value of goods and services received without payment by the recipient) data showing the value of transfer payments from the middle- and upper-income quintiles to the lowest income quintile via tax-and-spend re-distribution programs. These data aren't even mentioned in the ITEP study.
Perhaps the PAI news release scribes can be excused for similarly ignoring them? Yet the impact on total 'real' income the transfer payments represent is substantial.
Consider, that a family of four-with a nominal income less than $27,000/year receiving food stamps-enjoys a purchasing power gain of $668/month. That's $8,000/year, raising the real income to $35,000; that's an income level which, if entirely recorded as real income, would place that family in the highly-taxed middle-income quintile.
Food stamps are used to buy food with a non-taxable dollar value, unlike the hapless real middle-class family which buys its groceries with after-tax dollars. Similarly, there's subsidized housing and even Dr. Dinosaur. Why doesn't PAI mention these? Ask the guy from East Overshoe.
Retired Vermont school architect Martin Harris lives in Tennessee.