It’s war on the wealthy. And while I hope to some day soon parley my law degree into solvency, if not comfort, I can assure you that at this point in time I have far more in common with those protesting Wall Street than those being protested.
Well, insofar as my bank account and wallet is concerned, that is. Rich or poor, I consider myself to be part of the “making” class, not part of the “taking” class.
As much as I thought that this upcoming election would be defined, on a macro level, by discussion of the proper size, scope and role of the federal government more so than by discussion of any smaller and more focused issue, the economic crisis has reached such a breaking point that we’re back to the days of “It’s The Economy, Stupid.” Staring down the barrel of absolute disaster, and witnessing disaster in progress in Greece, Italy and other nations abroad, debate about the current state of the economy and what we will be facing in the future is a debate that Republicans should be winning. Unfortunately, the left in America continues to shape the discussion with the wide dissemination of alternate reality.
What gets me more than anything else, recently, is this notion of “fair share” and the extent to which the inflammatory rhetoric repeated by President Obama has tipped the scales for those on the left already disillusioned by the idea that people should keep what they earn. More than 700 people were arrested in New York City following a protest at Wall Street and a march across the Brooklyn Bridge. Dozens more were arrested in Boston after protesting Bank of America. Other protests were seen across the country, from Chicago to Denver to Los Angeles to Seattle. (As an aside, of the millions who have attended Tea Party rallies, how many arrests have there been? Only one idiot that I know of, though I could be wrong.)
Dim-witted souls permeating pop culture are eating it up, adding fuel to a fire already burning from the kindling of disillusionment. Comedienne and all-around wonderful lady Roseanne Barr suggests that wealthy bankers who do not share their wealth be sent to “re-education camps” and then be beheaded. Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons–worth $340 million–called for the federal government to raise taxes on the wealthy. And, to a certain extent, a segment of the younger population facing mounting student loan debt and uncertain job prospects are listening. With our entitlement society serving as the dry grass and tinder woven throughout the fabric of our nation, that fire is ready to become a conflagration.
The notion of “fair share” is certain to become a recurring theme as we advance toward November 2012. “Fair share” are two words that evoke the frustration of the have-nots. “Fair share” are two words rooted in a political philosophy that is floundering due to economic realities — to paraphrase Margaret Thatcher, the redistributionists are simply running out of other people’s money to redistribute … the takers are outnumbering the makers.
At the heart of it all, though, the “fair share” argument is farcical one. Take a look at the numbers from 2008, thanks to the National Taxpayers Union:
Right now, as I struggle to get my law career going and Joanna struggles to find a full-time nursing position, we fall in the top 50 percent of all taxpayers. (Ooh, I feel special.) What that means is that folks who make as much as we do or more are paying a whopping 97.3 percent of all income taxes paid. The top ten percent of all taxpayers–those making more than $113,799–are paying close to 70 percent of all income taxes. The top one percent are paying nearly 40 percent. The bottom 50 percent, those making less than $33,048 and likely with the time on their hands to protest Wall Street, are paying less than three percent of the total personal income tax paid.
While liberals will be quick to point out that folks in the bottom half still pay other taxes, such as payroll taxes and excise taxes on gasoline, aviation, alcohol and cigarettes, other than the payroll taxes those other taxes are consumption-based taxes — paid by everyone. Even acknowledging the other taxes paid by those in the bottom half of wage-earners, what about the table above is fair?
If 40 percent of the total federal personal income tax is not enough for the top one percent of wage-earners, how much is? If paying less than three percent into the system is not fair enough for the bottom half, what is?
From this point on, when folks on the left drone on and on about “fair share,” our answer should be YES. We are absolutely in favor of people paying their fair share — starting with the bottom 50 percent. I’ve had enough of it. It’s time to fight farce with fact.
Facts fall on deaf ears, however, to a crowd not willing to listen. If the professional left were concerned about numbers and facts, people like Cornel West (see right) would understand that we ARE putting money into Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, so much money in fact that we may shatter our society because of it.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Medicaid spending reached $339 billion in 2008, and is projected to grow at 7.9 percent over the next decade, reaching a yearly cost of $674 billion by 2017. In contrast, according the Congressional Budget Office, the total cost of the Iraq War between 2003-2010 was $709 billion. And Medicaid is only one facet of the “War on Poverty.”
The entire “class warfare” argument is bunk. All of it. Despite what the president says, for example, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary not because of loopholes enjoyed because of his wealth, but because the vast majority of his income comes from dividends and is therefore taxed as capital gains — which are taxed at a lower rate for everyone than the personal income tax paid by his secretary on her salary. All that the “fair share” rhetoric is disingenuous, and designed to foment the exact type of disillusionment and insurrection as we saw this weekend in New York, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and Seattle.
And it’s only going to get worse. It’s going to get worse as our own economic situation becomes more and more bleak as we face the inevitable double-dip recession. (In reality, I don’t know that we ever recovered at all from the first one.) It’s going to get worse as the holidays near and people realize that they simply don’t have enough to go around. And it’s going to get worse as we near the election and the rhetoric from the president and his proxies reach a fever pitch.
The questions, however, remain. How much is enough? How much more can the taking class take? How much more can the productive class give? And, frankly, what kind of outrage will we be facing when we’re forced to dial back entitlement programs down the road because we were unable or unwilling to make difficult decisions now?
Despite making the arguments I make, my own financial situation is not so different than the financial situations that cause so much frustration among the protesters. I owe more in student loans than most Americans owe on their houses. On Saturday, we chose between paying the rent and going food shopping. On Sunday, we dug into the change bowl in order to afford formula for our six-month-old. Tucking my five-year-old daughter into bed Sunday night, I noticed that she has more cash in her pink glass piggy bank than Joanna and I have in our savings account.
I will not pretend to be wealthy. But that doesn’t mean I cannot be wise. I urge you to be the same