Taxing “Rich” People

It’s been said by some in the debate over raising taxes on “the rich” that the rich by and large understand they need to pay more taxes than they currently do, and agree that they should.  I support this view.  Not to say the rich are anxious to pay more – I don’t know anyone who is – but most are smart enough to recognize the need to.

Over the years I’ve been fortunate to work with a number of individuals whose income and net worth easily put them at the very top of the so-called 1% in our country.  I can objectively say that most of these people are smarter than the majority of us and they work quite a bit longer and harder than many of us.

The anti-tax increase side of the debate argues that upping taxes on the rich only penalizes their superior intelligence and work ethic.  “We should be rewarding these people rather than penalizing them; we should be honoring their great contributions rather than stigmatizing them,” the argument goes.

I agree, but that isn’t the point.  Taxes are no more penalties than the absence of taxes are rewards.  Instead, taxes are what we, the members of our society, pay to keep our society running.  As we all know, taxes are what we pay for police protection, roads, schools, national defense, and so on.  And I think it’s fair that those who benefit most from our society also contribute the most to protecting, supporting, and building it.

There are lots of places in this world – actually, I would argue most places in this world – where superior intelligence and hard work don’t produce nearly the same personal gain as they do in the United States.  Our country is a miraculous place where freedom, democracy, and the rule of law combine to create an environment where hard work and smarts can enable anyone to get ahead.  No guarantees, mind you; but the possibility exists here like it exists few places elsewhere.

So I think those who benefit most from this great country should also contribute most to protecting and fostering it.  And I think most of them agree.