If you denied a request by your ten year old son for permission to buy a CD or go to a rock concert with his older brother or something, and then he went and asked your spouse and he or she said yes, you would probably punish your son for gaming the system. Your son would probably say, “But Mom said it was okay!” But you would know what was really going on.
The argument against taxing the (very) rich is most often that it would be “punishing success.” Well, we do punish some kinds of success in this country. We punish successful (and unsuccessful) burglars, bank robbers, drug dealers, con artists, murderers, embezzlers, and many other criminals.
Some of today’s wealthiest people fit into one of those categories, certainly. But many more, often acting through corporations, fit into the “play one parent against the other” archetype. What corporations do is lobby our government, often in ways that closely resemble bribery, to change the law more to their liking.
Tax laws, for example, are a favorite target of corporations and the super-rich who run them. They left the official rate high, (so they could continue to bitch, whine, piss, and moan) but they created a wonderful set of loopholes that mean that practically no corporation actually pays that rate.
In fact, the whole purpose of a corporation is to absolve the executives of any responsibility for its actions. A corporation legally insulates its operators, as long as it doesn’t violate what’s left of the law. But there is no law against creating ridiculously risky financial instruments and artificially inflating their value, essentially riding updrafts of hot air while pretending it’s solid ground.
Why is this not illegal? Because corporations and associations of very rich investors spend millions to kill financial reform. This is why nothing has really changed since the crash of 2007. The people calling for the heads of bankers and hedge-fund managers are the powerless – people whose net worth is measured in hundreds of thousands of dollars or less.
So, do we want to “punish” success? We absolutely want to punish the con artists who sent America into this pit. We also want to punish the success of those who have bribed their way out of paying for the function and infrastructure of the very country that has allowed them to become rich in the first place.
The success that allowed these corporations to become big and rich enough to sell out our country cam during the decades when the taxes they and their investors paid much higher taxes. Those taxes allowed America to become what it is – a land full of healthy, well-educated (on average) people with the means to physically travel to the places they are needed.
A lot goes into these factors, especially the health part. But taxes aren’t really punishment. As I’ve said before, it’s simply a matter of paying for what you get. You want a great country? Pay for it. It doesn’t come free. Conservative dimwits are fond of saying, “Freedom isn’t free.” Well neither is greatness. And private enterprise just isn’t effective at providing certain things like public health and education – two keys to a successful society.
The other side of the “punishing success” hogwash is that progressives or liberals want to “reward losers.” Let’s compare these punishments and these rewards… The punishments we’re talking about might mean buying a smaller yacht. The reward might mean paying the rent for a couple more months on the two-bedroom apartment where your family of five now resides.
So, to paraphrase what I’ve said before, please stop whining. If you’ve lost your job, been foreclosed on, and have to eat dog food to survive, you’ve got lots of good reasons to whine. It’s your right. But if you whine because you only get to keep $35million after taxes, kindly do us all a favor and shut your ridiculous, spoiled cake hole.
Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.