Monday, September 12, 2011

Why should I pay more taxes than some lazy good for nothing?

Leonard Burman

I am sorry I worked hard and took risks big time and now have capital gains. Why should I pay more taxes then some lazy good for nothing who cant show up for work on time and hold a job. And I can move my capital easily where i can get a more favorable tax situation. Problem with most economist like you is they live in academia and not the real world. What this country needs is one tax rate for all Americans and not the cureent tas rates that tax success and risk. W/o investment job growth is stagnant or worse and GDP tanks. Federal, state and local spending just isnt there to bail the economy out. And govt spending is inefficient and riddled with corpuption. Stop taxing success.

I applaud you for working hard and taking risks. However, a lot of the difference in income is due to luck. I'm paid way more than my dad because I had great parents and was smart enough to get a lot of education. Other people aren't born with those advantages. I'm perfectly happy to pay higher taxes so that hard working people without my advantages can get a break.

I lifted that segment from a Washington Post Q & A about the impact of Capital Gains tax with Leonard Burman, because the question captures the baseless hatred of one American for another - a divisive hatred that threatens to tear our country apart.  Americans who espouse it appear to be mindlessly buying into a blame theory that tosses the pain associated with our current economy at the doorstep of the less fortunate.

Burman, a Daniel Patrick Moynihan Professor of Public Affairs at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, an affiliated scholar at the Urban Institute, and research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and senior research associate at Syracuse University’s Center for Policy Research, handled the question very deftly.  

Though his answer satisfied me, I doubt seriously it caused the caller to do anything other than scoff at Burman.

To read the rest of the Q&A, which was more focused on tax policy, click here.

You may not believe, as Burman does, that much of personal financial success is due to luck - lucky to have a set of parents who value higher education and make it available to their kids, for example.  Someone else might feel he or she is totally self-made.  I know a man whose parents brought him up in a modest blue collar household.  My friend is shrewd, figured out how to build a small empire, and is now a wealthy man.  Clearly, both scenarios exist.   The truth, however, is that the vast majority of Americans have rather modest means at the same time they have an excellent work ethic.  

Check this assortment of careers and the national average salaries that go with them:   

$22,000 - line cook, window glass cutter
$28,000 - ambulance driver, hair stylist
$34,000 - administrative assistance, warehouse worker
$40,000 - academic adviser, aircraft electrician
$60,000 - advertising account exec, entry aerospace engineer
$85,000 - software developer, real estate appraiser
$100,000 - dean of business school, regional sales manager
$150,000 - human resource director, research fellow

You can check out the national average salary rate for nearly any job you can think of by clicking this sentence.

Now tell me, do you believe your hair stylist, cheerfully listening to your problems despite being on her feet all day, is a laggard just because her annual salary might be under $30,000?   

And about manning those huge professional restaurant stoves till sweat pours off you like water?  Does that sounds lazy?  

And I want to believe the fellow driving the ambulance is intentional, caring and fast!   

At these salary levels, the hairdresser, the ambulance driver, the line cook, the warehouse worker are likely to be struggling to achieve a full life - full in the sense of achieving all the basics Americans want, from health insurance to mortgage payments to little league and dance lessons for their kids.  It's not hard to imagine that these Americans may feel squeezed - like there's never quite enough.   

Clearly these people are not the "lazy, good for nothings who can't show up for work on time and hold a job,"  Burman's caller assumes people without adequate means must be.  And they are the people assisted by a progressive tax structure.  

My worry is that a large chunk of American have bought into the Ayn Rand mantra - we are all equal in opportunity simply because we were all born in America."   The wrong-headed correlary: Those who don't manage to get ahead of the economic treadmill must be lazy.   This invokes a blame mentality that pits American against American rather than focusing us on collaboratively solving our nation's economic woes.  

Woe unto us if we do not open our eyes to each other's reality, be there for one-another as fellow Americans, even in our approach to the tax code.

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