Commentary: Don’t feel guilty about taxing the wealthy

Commentary: Don’t feel guilty about taxing the wealthy

As our nation pounds hard against a national debt north of $31 trillion, let’s start with the obvious: Our expenses are greater than our income. And while this is not the crisis Republicans imagine when a Democrat is in the White House, common sense suggests that bringing spending and revenue into closer alignment would be a good thing.

The Republicans’ default formula for this dilemma? Reduce expenses and lower taxes. But so far this attractive campaign slogan has not solved the problem.

First, expenses are very difficult to cut. The federal government mostly funds programs that citizens want and need. More than 60% of federal dollars are committed to non-discretionary programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Add in infrastructure, education, health care, veterans benefits, law enforcement and defense spending, and there isn’t that much fat in the budget.

And the counterintuitive idea that lowering taxes will lead to higher incomes has never worked out either.

Democrats have not been much more successful than Republicans in aligning spending and revenue. But some Democrats address the question of where to get more money by asking another question: Where is the money?

It is not surprising that much of the money in our country belongs to the very rich. As a result, a number of states are considering tax policy changes that use some version of the “wealth tax” long advocated by Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren is in charge.

According to The Associated Press, for example, California is considering an annual tax of 1.5% on assets over $1 billion and 1% on assets above $50 million, a change that would affect 23,000 ultra-millionaires and 160 billionaires. Other states are considering similar measures; for the most part they stand little chance of enactment. But they raise an interesting question: Why are we so reluctant to tax the accumulated wealth of our wealthiest citizens?

To ask the question is to invite insinuations of envy and petty resentment of the hard work, intelligence and luck of our most prosperous citizens. But not to ask the question is to associate the idea of ​​ultra-wealth with more virtue than it deserves.

The very rich in America depend far less on personal virtue than on a stable, secure, orderly society based on the rule of law and blessed with abundant natural resources and healthy infrastructure. They depend on most Americans, of all economic classes, to accept and support our society’s stability.

And when our national stability is threatened by external forces—Nazis, communists, al-Qaeda—the wealthy expect all Americans—and often especially the poor and middle class—to fight and sacrifice to defend the stability that their wealth enables. And Americans have always done it.

The American Dream was never about ultra-prosperity, but wealth has become the American Fever Dream. In fact, wouldn’t our nation sleep better at night if we all – every citizen – enjoyed as a privilege of our citizenship a basic level of comfort and security, with health care, a few paid days off and a dignified retirement.

Of course, in America we have the opportunity to strive for more, and many do. But many others willingly take on careers—as nurses, teachers, policemen, firefighters, health care workers—that they know will never make them rich, but that contribute more to the well-being of our nation than many of the ultra-rich. .

Then there’s this: We like to call ourselves a “Christian nation,” even though the founders would have balked at this mischaracterization. But we are good at ignoring the parts of Christian teaching that make us uncomfortable, like when Jesus told the proud rich man to “go and sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure have in heaven”.

And look at Luke 12:48: “For to whom much is given, much will be required of him.”

And nowhere are the ultra-rich more given than in America.

So, go ahead and tax the rich. And don’t feel guilty about it. They will be fine.

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