As you know, the Intramuralist attempts to be a voice of wisdom. We are not a partisan site nor share any intentional partisan perspective. One of the challenges each of us face, however — and dare I suggest, it’s also a challenge we are tempted to ignore — is when we agree with a politician on one issue of primary, passionate importance, we tend to accept all other articulated advocacy as equally wise and true…
… like the passionate pro-lifer who never even flinches at the casualty of war…
… like the the passionate union protestor who cares not if promised pensions burden a municipal budget…
In other words, we are willing to forgo wise perspective in one area, if a politician advocates for the issue or policy we are most passionate about.
Like taxes. Taxes?!
Taxes schmaxxes!! Ok. Not my favorite subject. Too heady. Too much. I’d prefer to fall prey to another aforementioned challenge we’re tempted to ignore. I believe, however, that a basic understanding is significant. Humbly bear with me…
As some of you will concur, when initially attracted to the inspiring message of then candidate Obama, I was shocked at his explanation on tax policy, especially in regard to capital gains taxes. As referred to frequently amidst these posts, Obama advocated for higher capital gains taxes, admittedly netting less revenue, on the basis of “fairness.” At the time, I thought he misspoke; multiple supporters also seemed to think he misspoke. Interestingly, no less, “tax fairness” has evolved into a re-election promise.
So dismissing all partisan hats — ‘love him or hate him,’ so-to-speak (although I would never advocate “hate”) — let’s examine the wisdom of this so-called “fairness.”
Pres. Obama has announced his desire to increase taxes on those earning more than $250,000. In addition to the rhetorically included “millionaires, billionaires, and wealthy 1 or 2%,” this includes entrepreneurs and small businessmen, whose financial capital often surpasses that nominal amount. So what’s “fair”? What’s the “fair share” for each of us to pay the federal government?
According to the IRS, current “shares” equate to the following:
- Top 1% of earners net approx. 17% of total national income but pay 37% of total federal income taxes.
- Top 5% of earners net 32% of total national income but pay 59% of total federal income taxes.
- Top 10% of earners net 43% of total national income but pay 71% of total federal income taxes.
- Bottom 50% of earners pay approx. 3% of federal income taxes.
- Also, approx. $100 billion is “refunded” to earners who pay nothing due to tax credits which do not consider amount paid.
So we find ourselves with 3 logical, non-partisan questions…
(1) How much is one’s “fair share”?
(2) Is there any amount which is too much to pay?
And (3) If a person pays nothing, what causes that person to care what the federal government spends someone else’s dollars on? In other words, if 50% of the public contributes zero to federal income taxes, will they care if the government spends responsibly and wisely? Ah, great question.
While the Intramuralist will always advocate for caring for the least of these, I am also concerned about creating a national state of dependence. I’m reminded of another question; which is wiser: giving a man a fish or teaching him to fish? … feeding him for a day or equipping him to eat for a lifetime? Which one fosters dependence? And which one affirms the man, prompts him to grow, and propels him to far greater achievement, by which both he and those around him will one day benefit?
What is fairness? That everyone should pay more? That everyone should pay some? Is it simply a clever election year promise hoping those 50% will turn out and vote? I don’t know the right answer. I do know, however, that many suggest “the rich can afford it. They can afford to give 40% of their income away.” But affording it is not the right question; the question isn’t even if it’s fair. The question is if it’s wise.