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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Rich no more ‘deserving’ of wealth than the rest of us

    On April 15, thousands of Americans from all walks of life turned out to protest one of the most egregious things the Obama administration has done: Raise taxes on the rich a few percent.

    Let that sink in for a few moments. I submit that it’s absurd.

    When self-styled “”fiscal conservatives”” aren’t busy being possessed by fevered nightmares that they’ll win the lottery and purchase an “”MTV Cribs””-style mansion, only to have it taken away from them, they’re parroting the following line: Insisting that the rich pay a higher share of their income in taxes is a way to stifle their capacity to help the rest of us. But it’s not only bad policy; it’s also immoral. The rich are our most productive citizens, and progressive taxes simply punish success.

    The first part of that argument can easily be dismissed. In fact, the United States economy continued to function and grow under the reign of brutal socialist dictators like Truman and Eisenhower, when marginal income taxes on the highest earners were as high as 90 percent.

    Income taxes on the rich simply cannot be that bad for the rich, or else rich donors would not continue to support Democratic politicians who continue to try and raise their taxes. In a 2007 speech, mega-billionaire Warren Buffett lamented the fact that he, one of the wealthiest men in the world, pays just 17.7 percent of his income in taxes, compared to his receptionist, who pays about 30 percent. Buffett is an especially unfortunate example, as he doesn’t actively try to avoid paying his taxes the way many wealthy Americans do.

    But the faultiest underlying assumption of this argument is that wealth and productivity are strongly correlated, so people logically and morally “”deserve”” every dollar they can get their hands on. This cutthroat capitalist attitude is akin to saying that war is justified because might makes right.

    Consider Rush Limbaugh, a princess who draws in a $38 million yearly income and who is able to select which of his five candle-filled houses he’d prefer to stay in. Is he a good talk show host? Many Americans apparently think so. But is he really productive and helpful enough to society to justify this exorbitant salary? Is he 380 times more successful and useful than an underpaid, overworked laborer who makes only $100,000 per annum?

    The answer to both of these questions is no. The free market doesn’t give a rat’s ass about productivity.

    That shouldn’t be taken as a lament regarding the injustice of capitalism; it’s simply a reminder that the John Galt myth, that the rich are our best citizens and that losing them would be a major setback, is little more than the overwrought dream of a second-rate novelist. Many more factors go into deciding a worker’s income than his sense of hard work, and the salaries of the richest Americans are little more than gifts from themselves to themselves.

    The most commonly levied accusation against progressive taxation is that it’s a way to “”redistribute the wealth.”” But wealth redistributes itself anyway; when burdens on the rich are lifted, wealth tends to flow up, not down. Consider the effects of the Reagan and Bush tax cuts; greater disparities between rich and poor, as well as economic “”growth,”” despite stagnation in the median wage. As cartoonist Terrence Nowicki once noted, the so-called “”benefits”” of the trickle-down system can be likened to a two-story outhouse. A progressive tax is simply a way to prevent the “”natural”” redistribution of wealth to the already-wealthy.

    Among those who have advocated progressive income taxes is famous socialist Thomas “”Pinko”” Paine, who supported his desire to redistribute wealth with charts and graphs. Paine and his colleague, Thomas Jefferson, even pushed for the estate tax. After all, why do the children of the rich have more of a right to be wealthy than anyone else?

    Of course, Paine can’t hold a candle to well-known communist Adam “”Stalin”” Smith. Smith realized what many modern conservatives still haven’t: Life is like a toll bridge, and the rich, since they benefit the most from the bridge’s existence, should pay more in tolls.

    Though Smith’s misgivings about income taxes probably don’t apply to the modern world, his idea of a progressive consumption tax could very easily see fruition. I suggest an “”asshole tax,”” a tax on extreme luxury items which no one but the most disgustingly rich Americans should bother buying; giant houses, fancy cars, yachts, personal aircraft, and so on. There’s no limit to the number of ways we can fulfill Adam Smith’s dream.

    The nationwide April 15 tea parties were a magnificent product of “”astroturfing,”” or phony grassroots organizing. Likewise, the concern of lower- and middle-class conservatives for the welfare of the super-rich is a totally manufactured one. There simply is no reason ðððððððððððððððððð- moral, economic, or otherwise – to be worried at the prospect of raising marginal taxes on the highest earners a few percent.

    ÿTaylor Kessinger is a senior majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology, math, and physics. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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