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Taxing idle rich leftists

By Bruce Walker
web posted October 4, 2004

Leftists never tire of living in luxury all the while lambasting little guys who are trying to earn their right to the American Dream. Perhaps it is time for conservatives and other normal people to pick up the gauntlet the Left is constantly throwing about the income tax code being grossly unfair to the poor and overly fair to the rich by restructuring the argument.

The income tax is a tax on income. It is a tax, overwhelmingly, on productive work. A large income does not make one rich. Wealth makes one rich. Unearned wealth also makes one guilty of the wealth enjoined but unearned. Rather than surrender this wealth to noble causes, the rich support laws to keep the competition out -- the progressive income tax.

Rather than enact progressive and punitive taxes on income, why not propose progressive and punitive taxes on wealth? What if Republicans "agreed" with Democrats that the current system favors the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class, and what if Republicans said that the current system, created by Democrats, has proven incapable of correcting this unfairness -- what would Democrats say?

What if Republicans then proposed their own plan, which provided that all income was taxed at a flat rate of five percent, but that all wealth was taxed based upon a very progressive wealth tax?

How progressive? Here would be my plan: (1) No tax on the first $250,000 of wealth, which would be a home, two cars and a modest retirement plan; (2) Tax five percent of all wealth between $250,000 and $10,000,000, which would allow people with that much wealth to preserve their wealth without work or increase their wealth with work; (3) Tax twenty-five percent of all wealth between $10,000,000 and $100,000,000, which would tend to move rich people into wealth of about $10,000,000; (4) Tax fifty-percent of all wealth between $100,000,000 and $1,000,000,000; (5) Tax ninety-percent of all wealth above $1,000,000,000.

This would make the very wealthy suddenly quite interested in productive and remunerative work. Those very rich people indifferent to work would find themselves reduced -- horrors! -- to the lowly status of multimillionaires. Suddenly, the chic and isolated Leftists of the super-rich would be looking for ways to use their wealth in the market economy and would find the obstacles to the creation of wealth, rather than its lazy perpetuation, harmful and annoying.

By simultaneously people to work to keep much more of their income, we would all spend a great deal more time serving each other, which is the sort of society which the Founding Fathers envisioned, than in lounging around a Pacific side swimming pool, trying to figure out how to be perceived as good and noble.

Would the super-rich resent this? Maybe, but with almost no exceptions the super-rich are guilt-ridden Leftist pawns or worse. And some of the super-rich have understood the wisdom of not counting wealth as that important. Andrew Carnegie spent the last years of his life trying to give away as much as his wealth as he could. Warren Buffet has famously and gently told his children that they will not inherit a billionaire's estate -- which seems motivated by love for them.

The super-rich contribute overwhelmingly to the Democrat Party and to Leftist causes: who cares what they think? Moreover, this proposal would put the Left in an impossible position of opposing reducing income taxes, which would allow the poor and middle class to become rich, but supporting people who have not earned a penny in their life keeping all their wealth intact, even punishing them if they use their wealth to produce goods and services.

The ideal, of course, is for everyone to have enough wealth to be independent of the need for government social programs, educational systems, and the like. As it becomes easier for people to reach this status, the need for the programs drops accordingly. Most of us do not work to become Bill Gates of Microsoft, but rather to become Steve Douglass of My Three Sons -- hard working, comfortable and secure.

The "winners in life's lottery," as Dick Gephardt famously described them, are not the Bill Gates or Arnold Schwarzenegger types of this world but the John Kerry and Ted Kennedy types of this world. If the latter two are "winners in life's lottery" than the former two are the "workers in life market."

Bruce Walker is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right. He is also a frequent contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.

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