Vail Daily letter: Taxing the rich
July 29, 2015
In an otherwise lucid analysis of how economics functions in society, Butch Mazzuca ("Economics and the 2016 election," Valley Voices,July 13) drifts off into ideological fantasy land when it comes to the subject of taxing the rich. He notes that "I once read that there are two kinds of government assistance." The first one, he says, "occurs when 90 percent of us agree to impose taxes on ourselves in order to help the bottom 10 percent." And "the second occurs when 80 percent vote to impose taxes on the top 10 percent to help the bottom 10 percent. " He sees the first form of assistance as "consistent with the belief in equal opportunity and liberty" while the second "seeks equality of outcome and is entirely antithetical to liberty and the intent of the founders."
Mazzuca is saying in a nutshell that voting to tax yourselves to benefit those less fortunate than you is OK. While voting to tax those richer than you to help those poorer than you is wrong. My first question to Mazzuca is: When did anybody, no matter where they might be on the economic totem pole, ever vote to impose taxes on themselves? Certainly not the rich. That is why the tax code is so jerry-rigged in their favor. The lawyers, lobbyists and accountants they send to Washington to write the tax codes on behalf of their more than willing congressional stooges make sure of that. If the rich won't vote to tax themselves to help the poor then why should the ever-shrinking middle classes?
My second question is: How does taxing the top ten percent lead to equality of outcome? Does Mazzuca really believe that taxing the rich will somehow bring the poor up to an equal level with them? Should Donald Trump actually be worried that paying more taxes to help the downtrodden will lead to them being as rich, or as Mazzuca seems to believe as poor, as himself? The only consequence of forcing the rich to pay more taxes to help the poor is that the rich will be inconsequentially poorer and the poor will be inconsequentially richer. I don't believe there is much likelihood of our witnessing a street beggar winding up in Trump Towers and Donald Trump finding himself in assisted living.
What seems to be at the heart of Mazzuca's complaint is his displeasure with the fact that in a democracy where the poor and middle classes will always vastly out number the rich (the rich work very hard to keep it that way) the possibility always exists that the masses will vote to take money via taxation from the upper classes and distribute it among themselves. His anger is over the 1-percenters' loss of power and control over their own financial resources. That's why the terms income inequality and economic redistribution are so odious to him. They lead to a loss of freedom for the rich and is in his estimation "entirely antithetical to liberty." But from its inception in 1913 the federal tax code has been redistributionist in its tone and intent. That's what it means to have a progressive tax code where the more you make in income and investments the more you pay to the federal government who then decides how to spend and/or redistribute the accumulated proceeds. And while that may seem too Marxian (from each according to his talents to each according to his needs) to suit Mazzuca's tastes. It suits the rest of us non-rich just fine. In another time long ago the ethos of the rich was "noblesse oblige" or "to whom much is given much is expected." Too bad the rich of today in this country don't still feel that way.
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