By John P. Badgerow
April 06, 2011
Money is power. In a democracy such as ours, there should never be so much power in the hands of so few people as there is today. The gap between the wealthy and the poor began to widen dramatically in the early 1970s and has grown at an alarming pace over the past decade. Now the middle class, too, is rapidly being left in the dust.
There is no single, easy solution to this “crisis of the gap” but a potentially effective way of addressing it is to greatly increase the rate of income tax on the wealthy. This increase would begin to narrow the gap by restraining (not stopping or reversing) income growth among the wealthy without slowing continued growth in the incomes of the vast majority of Americans. The gap would narrow from the bottom up. The additional tax revenues could be used in many ways that would benefit all Americans; for example, improving the nation’s deteriorating infrastructure (which would also create numerous jobs and save billions of dollars in the long run).
Whenever anyone calls attention to the crisis of the gap, they are immediately and vociferously accused of promoting class warfare. The term “class warfare” is used not because it’s accurate but because it’s inflammatory. It’s meant to deflect attention. The very people who have long been dedicated to the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few have just as long been using this tactic of blaming those who witness it. Not only are we expected to accept what they’re doing, we’re expected to accept it silently. There are some very powerful people out there who want to keep it that way.
“Socialism” is another inflammatory term in common use these days. Heavier taxation of the wealthy is not socialism. It’s not the redistribution of wealth. The poor should not be made wealthier at the expense of the rich. The rich should not pay taxes to support the poor. The rich should pay taxes to support America. It is the middle class and the working poor who have built and sustained America. It is the middle class to which the poor aspire and from which the wealthy arise. Now it is the middle class that falls increasingly into poverty while the already wealthy become increasingly more so.
Certainly, not all wealthy people are the same. Blanket condemnations are seldom appropriate. Some of the wealthy have contributed great sums of money to charitable causes, thereby bringing much that is good into the world. The donors to The Kalamazoo Promise are a prime example. Their anonymity is the mark of true charity. Unfortunately, such examples are all too rare. The vast majority of the rich give in a way that is self-aggrandizing or for an ulterior motive and give precious little in proportion to what they have. Also, speaking of blanket condemnations, those who characterize the poor as lazy and without ambition should spend a day with a single parent or a couple caring for their children while working three or four part-time jobs and attending a community college to get something better.
There are those who would say we should not further tax the rich because that would be penalizing them for their success. In the first place, some of them are rich through inheritance or good luck rather than personal success. But, much more importantly, it would take a far greater level of taxation than will ever be imposed to truly penalize the rich. At worse, they may have to do without a few more of their customary luxury items. In most cases, instead of having perhaps 10 times the money they really need by any reasonable, objective measure, they’ll only have eight or nine times the money. Never cry for the rich, they can take care of themselves — all too well.
There are also those who would say we should not further tax the rich because this would put an undue burden on the small business owners who employ millions of Americans. But an overwhelming majority of small business owners have annual incomes below $250,000. They are of the middle class, not the rich.