Economy

Why Asking For Higher Taxes Is Patriotic

Is it patriotic for a group of 45 millionaires to petition the government to raise their taxes?  You betcha.

In fact, Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength are willing to sacrifice their own fiscal well-being for the common good.   That type of selflessness is the highest form of patriotism.  We’re talking Washington at Valley Forge stuff. It’s also refreshingly realistic.

If Americans are serious about reducing the deficit,  they are going to have to abandon the idea that we can balance our books solely by cutting spending and reducing government waste.   While the government blows a ton of money on stuff taxpayers don’t want or need,  it’s not enough to bring our fiscal house in order.   Banning Congressional earmarks — though laudable — is like a placing a Band-Aid on a deep stab wound.

Extending the Bush Tax Cuts for the wealthiest Americans will add $700 billion to the deficit over the next decade.  Extending the breaks, which expire at the end of the year, to everyone else is even costlier.   The idea that the economy will hum like a locomotive if the tax cuts are extended is ludicrous.  Most of the tax savings that the wealthy will realize will wind up in their pockets or in their bank accounts.  Corporations are not going to be moved to part with the piles of cash that they are sitting on solely because their tax bills are lower.    While U.S. corporate tax rates are 35%, among the highest in the world, the rate they actually pay is much lower thanks to writedowns and loopholes that exist only in America.

“Reducing the income tax on top earners is one of the most inefficient ways to grow the economy according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office,” the group says. ” The tax cuts were never meant to be permanent.”

Of course, one of the loudest champions for higher taxes has been billionaire Warren Buffett,  history’s greatest investor.  He recently told ABC News that “People at the high-end, people like myself should be paying a lot more in taxes. We have it better than we’ve ever had it.”

Of course, he’s right.

Incomes for the wealthiest 1% of Americans rose by 281% between 1979 and 2007.  Millionaires had a top marginal tax rate of 68%.  Now, it’s 35%.  As Timothy Noah recently noted in Slate, the U.S.  has a more unequal distribution of wealth than some banana republics.

“C.E.O.’s of the largest American companies earned an average of 42 times as much as the average worker in 1980, but 531 times as much in 2001,” writes Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times. “Perhaps the most astounding statistic is this: From 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent.”

How patriotic is to help those who need it the least?

Jon Berr