All day long we hear from the right-wing media that class warfare is being waged on the wealthy and they throw figures at us showing that the wealthy do in fact currently pay all the income tax…. it goes something like this:
1) The top 3% of the wage earners pay 75% of the total taxes as it stands.
2) If we taxed these top wage earners at 100% of their income, it wouldn’t pay for a third of the federal budget.
3) If we taxed corporate profits at 100% and added it to a 100% tax on the top wage earners, it wouldn’t pay for half the federal budget.
4) If we taxed the top wage earners at 100% and taxed corporate profits at 100% and took away the entire net worth of all the billionaires, it still wouldn’t pay 3/4 of the federal budget.
5) We don’t have a tax problem… we have a government spending problem.
At face value, every statement above is fairly accurate. In fact statement 5 is the absolute truth but there is more story to tell about the economic realities we’re faced with:
1) No serious person suggests that we tax the rich at 100%.
2) No serious person suggests we simply steal the rich mans net worth to pay down the national debt.
3) One small sector of society paying 75% of the taxes collected by the IRS has nothing to do what the government needs to collect (given the current debt crisis) or should be collecting under normal circumstances.
Many people are proponents of tax reform. They like the Fair Tax but since they believe most Americans can’t understand it, they lean toward a flat tax as having the only real chance of reform at all. Take a look at Herman Cain’s 999 plan. The simple 9% federal income tax would break out as follows;
You make 50,000…….. you pay 4,500 in income tax.
I make 1,000,000…….. I pay 90,000 in income tax.
Total taxes collected….94,500 of which you pay (in round figures) 5% and I pay 95%.
Oops! Looks like the top wage earners still pay all the taxes. Outside of maybe a little transparency, what changes here that really means anything? Government desperately needs to start paying down our dangerously large debt but tax reform won’t suddenly put the moocher class to work. If the wealthy won’t pay a lot more taxes than they do now and the moochers never pay any taxes at all… guess which class of Americans take it in the shorts with a flat tax?
Now begins the rant about how much longer and harder I work than you do, how much smarter I am than you….about how I’m the entrepreneur.. a risk taker that has provided you with the job and the life you have and how I deserve so much more than you. In fact to hear some of them talk, you’d think that between the two of us, I am the only one that counts as a human being. What gets lost in the shuffle is that the risk I take creates a lavish life for me only if I can hire a lot of you for comparatively nothing…. like your 50 grand. Now put this in perspective with the tens of millions who work full-time for 12 bucks an hour or less.
The truth is that the efforts of the risk taker AND the efforts of the employed work hand in hand to create wealth. Both are critical components to the process and both deserve proper reward. I’ll gladly create as many jobs as I can for the so-called middle class as long as I can get away with paying such ridiculous wages compared to what I’m going to take out of the process. Of course you have opportunity to get ahead…. you can work harder. In fact without sleep, you could work 24/7 (three full-time jobs) for a whole year and triple your 12 bucks an hour. Go get ‘em Sparky… though one wonders (if your reward is to forever only grovel at my feet in today’s economic realities) why you would participate. Why are you willing to join in an activity that will make me wealthy if all you’ll ever get out of it is a comparative kick in the teeth?
Changing the tax code might make it simpler but simpler doesn’t address the problems we desperately need to fix.