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Chronicling the collapse of a failed society
My recent post “Save the Rich, Pay Your Taxes” engendered a massive amount of debate on what is obviously a highly polarizing issue. Clearly, the notion of taxation in the United States is extremely contentious, and everyone – regardless of their level of knowledge of the issue – seems to have their own passionate view.
I do not claim to be a tax expert, nor do I claim to have all the answers. But what is readily apparent is that the current tax code is broken, and I think most people would be able to agree with that statement. Yes, there are undoubtedly examples of wealthy Americans paying a higher tax rate than working and middle class Americans. And there are also many examples of impoverished and working class Americans who pay very little taxes — though again, given the nature of payroll taxes this is far less likely.
But the major problem I see is that it is even possible for wealthy people to pay lower tax rates. Why are hearing these stories of millionaires paying tax rates of 14%, and in some cases as little as 1%? If I heard that a teacher on $25,000 per year is paying just 10% in taxes, I wouldn’t feel the slightest concern. But when I hear of someone earning hundreds of thousands – even millions – of dollars each year, is paying a similar figure, I become enraged.
The tax code is riddled with loopholes that allow people to avoid paying their fair share. Certainly, it is probably possible for working and middle class families to pay a fraction of what they do today, just as most wealthy people (and corporations) pay a fraction of the legal 35% limit. But the complexities of the tax code ensure that the only people fully able to exploit those loopholes are the wealthy, as they are the only ones with the means to hire the required professionals.
Sure, I could devote hours of my life to studying the tax code in order to cheat the system (and yes I would call it “cheating,” even if it is technically legal), but who really has the time? Picture someone with a spouse and children, who works anywhere from 40-60 hours per week. Is such a person really going to come home in the evening and squander his/her precious family time reading up on the highly esoteric tax code?
My contention is not that working and middle class people should not pay taxes. We should. Everyone should. But it is imperative that everyone – including corporations – pays their fair share. There should be no loopholes that allow millionaires and billionaires to pay a lower tax rate than the masses. Corporations – which depend so heavily on tax-payer subsidies – should be firmly held to their tax brackets. In the cases of companies like Exxon Mobile, this would mean an astounding $11.9 billion per year in additional federal tax revenue.
The message is clear: simplify the tax code. Make the rich pay their fair share. But beyond all that there is still the matter of allowing the public a real say in just how that money is spent. Will we continue to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on corporate handouts and our vast military empire? Or will we actually use our hard-earned tax dollars for programs that actually benefit the masses?
Answering such questions will require a thorough reexamination of who were are as a nation, and who we would like to become. One can only hope that the side of universal human progress and development will prevail, and not the side of unfettered greed that has reigned thus far.