It may seem to many of my readers that I am some kind of know-it-all. It is true that 84 years give one a lot of time to read, learn, experience and get in trouble, but I confess that lots of things still puzzle me. One of them is this: Why is it that there is so much resistance to increasing taxes on the very wealthy, especially at a time when the wealthiest Americans, the top 1 percent, own approximately 50 percent of the total wealth in America?
I am not here to persuade you one way or the other. As has often been said, a person is entitled to his or her own opinion but not his or her own facts. The facts are that prior to the recent election, the pollsters reported that well over a majority of Americans were in favor of increasing the tax on the income of the wealthiest people (and perhaps increasing their estate taxes). After the election, exit polls reported that the number of Americans in favor of increasing taxes on the rich has expanded. However, it is certainly true that a substantial number of Americans disagree with raising taxes on rich people. Why?
To me, the kind of hard times that we are suffering now make it incredible that someone should take the minority view. During the campaign there were various Republican defenses against raising the tax on the rich. Among them were that the very wealthy are a source of capital for the economy, that spending by the rich trickles down to help the economy (Republicans generally avoid the term “trickle down,” but that is what it is), that the rich have earned their fortunes by hard work and thereby fulfilled the American dream, and, finally, that allowing great wealth to accumulate greatly is in the nature of capital.
Another theory is that taxing the wealthy is a large step towards socialism. Socialism has become the bugaboo of our political system. But it seems to me that we are not on the road to socialism merely because we do tax the rich, or care for the needy and provide universal health care as almost every civilized country in the world has done. Socialism is defined in Miriam-Webster as “any of the various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.” We are no more on the path to socialism under Obama as president than we are on the road to dictatorship.
One other thought, before I open the question: prior to and during the campaign the Republicans attempted to use the taxation question as leverage to ensure that the Democrats would agree to make cuts in the budget to eliminate various social programs. Obamacare, for instance, should be eliminated in favor of vouchers. I don’t mean to get into a debate about the wisdom of doing this, although I think it unwise, but it does seem that budget-cutting should be examined independently. The rigid insistence on both sides has led us to "the fiscal cliff," which, if allowed to go into operation on Jan. 1, is virtually sure to lead to a great depression.
Help me, please. Instruct me on why the very wealthy should not be asked to pay a larger share of the tax burden.