Monday, August 29, 2005

Sick of Them Whining About Taxes

Some of my compassionate conservative friends and relatives who mistakenly believe that I am either misinformed, misguided, brainwashed or maybe just plain stupid continue to send me their insipid e-mails under the false impression that I will suddenly see the error of my ways.

One that I have gotten numerous times that really infuriates me is the bogus restaurant /tax analogy. If you are unfamiliar with it, you can review it here.

Like much of the propaganda that comes out of the right wing spin machine, it is rife with hyperbole and fallacious reasoning, and it completely ignores pesky reality.

Here are the facts.

You don’t have to be a communist or a socialist to see that when 70% of the wealth of a country is owned by 10% of the population, (and of that 10%, 1% owns 38% of the wealth,) that the only way to manage the country’s finances is to impose higher taxes against the richest people. It is not “punishing” them. Is not “unfair.”

Proponents of the flat tax say, "Rich people would still pay more than the rest of us." True, but imagine if you earned $30,000 per year. What if the flat tax was 18%? This amounts to $5400 in taxes. So now you have $24,600 to live on for the year. That is a devastating blow to your quality of life. Difficult to live on 30k if you kept all of it. Now imagine you make $20,000,000 per year. 18% = $3,600,000. May make you angry, but paying that amount has no effect on your quality of life. At all. You still walk away with $16,400,000. Even with 3 big houses, 5 expensive cars, lavish vacations and a boat, you get to bank much of that money. Besides, income represents a much smaller percentage of the richest people's wealth than the rest of us.

I'm tired of the myth that the richest people simply "work harder." Consider the people who sit on the board of directors of Exxon. How hard do they work? How is it that they get to make so much money given the fact that the oil was in the ground, just waiting for whomever was lucky enough (more than likely, ruthless enough!) to claim it first? Do even the middle and upper middle classes work harder than the working poor? The minimum wage is what? $5.15 per hour? Many of us sit in air-conditioned offices, go out to lunch, write e-mails, talk on the phone and pound the keys on our computers. Compare that to the jobs that pay even $10 per hour. What do they do for that money? I think anyone reading this knows that they work very hard for that little bit. Those people lead difficult lives, and there often is no viable way out for them. Don’t they deserve at least minimal health care, decent schools for their kids, and safe neighborhoods in which to live? And who hasn't noticed how fashionable it has become to deride these people, to patronize these people, and to blame them for their lot? One only needs to flip on the talk radio station to find out.

America comprises all of us. The single most significant aspect of our country is that we are not monolithic. America is Christian, Jew, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan, Wicca, Agnostic and Atheist. We are Black, White, Asian, Native American. We are rich, middle class and poor. We are intellectuals, anti-intellectuals, idealists, realists, philosophers, hedonists. We are entrepreneurs, professionals, artists, laborers. We are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual. This is what makes us great. While it often goes against our nature, we are supposed to try to tolerate those who believe and live differently than ourselves. Schools are there to teach us practical knowledge, and churches exist to teach spiritualism.

Our blood comprises both white and red blood cells. The human body can only survive with the delicate balance of their coexistence. I hear people often say, “Did you ever see a poor person give someone a job?” The answer to that question is obvious, but it is asked to make a point. The question that ought to be obvious, but is not often asked is, “Could wealthy people be wealthy without the rest of us?” Wealth has no meaning, no opportunity without middle class and poor, therefore, wealthy people have a responsibility to those who enable their lifestyle. True, the wealthy provide jobs for the rest of us, but those jobs are a contract. They pay us for our labor, and our labor increases their wealth. People do not provide jobs out of the goodness of their hearts. Rich people could not be wealthy in a vacuum. Yes, the wealthy do provide jobs for the rest of us, but, the rest of us provide the means and the benefits of wealth. Who protects their wealth from theft? Who protects their freedom? Who buys and consumes their products? This is in essence, the argument for a progressive tax system. On the surface, it seems unfair to tax the wealthy at a higher rate than the rest of us, but indeed it is ultimately to our collective benefit.

The fact is, I believe in capitalism, but in order for it to thrive, it must be regulated by the government. We must have a progressive tax structure, and it makes me feel sad ashamed when I hear people of means whine about it.

Don't forget this week's Top Ten!
Update 30-Aug-2005 - The Viscountess weighs in with this.


Blogger Kevin Wolf said...

Unfortunately, the right - and I do blame them - has made the case (a bad one, but successful among many) that America was built by individuals and values individuality above all else. This is bullshit, as cooperation is what gets things done; anybody who's ever held a job knows this. But under the guise of individual "liberty" you can argue that paying any taxes is an abridgement of that liberty. (One should also keep in mind that if "the wealthy" includes corporations, they use colossal amounts of social services while paying less in taxes than they used to. Shift the burden, that's their strategy, and our government helps them do it.)

What these conservatives never say, what they ignore and attempt to cover up, is that capitalism today has run amok. No ideology taken to its extremes is a good thing. Marx's critique of capital has its good points - but to forcibly base an entire society on it is insane. Ditto every ultra-right wing idea regarding capitalism and the "free market."

1:30 PM  
Blogger Neil Shakespeare said...

The problem is the rich don't even THINK about it. George Bush is so notoriously cheap that he has NEVER, repeat NEVER picked up a check in his entire life. I was watching a documentary on IFC and they had this quote, on camera, from one of his oldest dearest friends.

Reporter: Is it true that George W. Bush has never picked up a check in his life?

Friend: Yup. Never. And I mean never.

5:42 PM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

The greed and indifference of some rich people is certainly deserving of our contempt, but what about the members of the middle and lower classes who actually make their argument *for* them? I had a woman at work tell me "I feel sorry for rich people having to pay so much of their money in taxes." I had a "conservative Christian" tell me, "I hope to BE one of them one day, and I won't want to pay those taxes!" It makes me sick that their strategy of getting people who are hurt by their policies of greed to support them has worked out so well.

If I actually accumulated (notice I didn't say "earned" - not sure that word applies when we are talking about so much money) $20 million and had to give $12 million to the government I imagine it would be mildly annoying, but the net $8 million would sure help to ease the pain. We aren't asking them to pay even that much.

I guess that is why I will probably never be rich.

NS: "Bush - born on 3rd base but thinks he hit a triple!" - Jim Hightower

6:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree they deserve some health care as it is a great aspect to many lives.

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spoken like someone who has rarely had to pay taxes in his life. Or does your "partner" do that for you as well?

10:52 AM  

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