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October 27, 2011

Making the Rich Pay

Patricia A. Kelly

“Senate votes to end millionaire farm subsidies,” read a recent Frederick News Post headline. The article referred to stopping direct payments made to farmers to grow certain crops, paid regardless of yield. Those now excluded would be farmers with adjusted gross income greater than a million dollars per year.


The first question the article brings up is why any direct subsidies are paid at all, ever. Insurance against crop failure is one thing, having the government pay farmers for crops for the federal stockpile is another; but direct subsidies? Whatever happened to growing what you can actually sell?


The second is why it has become the rage to try and get money from millionaires.


President Barack Obama has been traveling around the country in his mega-bus, rolling up his sleeves and telling all that having millionaires taxed at a lower rate than their secretaries is wrong, and must stop. It’s hard to keep track of all his proposals, but one of them is supposed to correct this.


The only problem is that, according to the Congressional Budget Office and the nonpartisan Congressional Committee on Taxation, millionaires are not and never have been taxed at a lower rate than their secretaries.


Out of  the 237,000 American returns reporting income of $1,000,000 or more, only 1470 paid no federal tax, due to government mandated deductions, which amount to a trillion dollars a year and benefit all income levels equally. The 10 percent of the population making the most money pay more than 50 percent of all taxes collected, and 70 percent of federal taxes. The average person making $1,000,000 per year pays 29% of his income in taxes.


On average, those making $50,000 to $70,000 per year pay 15 percent. Those making $40,000 to $50,000 pay 12.5 percent. Those making $20,000 to $30,000 pay 5.7 percent, all the result of deductions.


What has led to the assertion that the rich pay at a lower percentage is that investment income is taxed at 15 percent, and many millionaires derive much of their income from this source. Even Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner demurred when asked about President Obama’s assertion, saying it depends on source of income.


Much that is written in recent years reports a growing gap between the rich and the middle class in our society, and a lack of identification with lower income people by the rich, leading to less charitable giving directed to basic human needs, and more to organizations and trusts.


Americans did donate $291 billion in 2010, and the rich were definitely involved. In the last few years, 38 mega rich people joined Bill Gates and Warren Buffet in pledging to give half of their money to charity. That’s big, and donations by the rich can have a huge impact.


The rich don’t get that way by sitting in front of their televisions drinking beer and eating hush puppies, by the way. Once in a while someone like Lindsay Lohan comes along, but most of the rich are the high achievers of society. They get an education, in school or out. They work long hours. They create businesses, and real jobs. They take care of themselves and their families.


Now, a huge battle exists about what to do with them. Republicans – some of whom contributed with legislation to the downfall of the real estate market, the mortgage fraud, the selling of investment packages filled with mortgages of questionable value – are sure the rich shouldn’t be taxed more. The Democrats, our president at the lead, are gunning for their money.


What should we do about the rich, those creepy sapsuckers who make more money than we do? Why shouldn’t we ride on the backs of society’s achievers, many of whom studied or worked 80-hour weeks in their youth, single mindedly following their dreams of success?


What about us, the proletariat?


Maybe we should penalize the smart people, too, the ones who get straight A’s in school. Maybe it’s because they’re white, or girls, or something. Maybe the teachers liked them better. Why can’t we get A’s and feel good about ourselves, too?


While we’re at it, why don’t we level the playing field and take everyone’s money, dole it out to everyone equally, and give everyone equal economic security, no matter what their contribution or achievement?


“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” If you want to know how well that worked, just go to Russia today and look at the government owned and crumbling infrastructure. Note the return of Russia and China to capitalism. Duh….


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