Letters to the Editor
Readers write about whether or not the wealthy should pay higher taxes than the middle class or the poor in America.
Should the rich pay more taxes?
Regarding the Oct. 17 Opinion piece, "Obama, Joe the plumber, and the gospel of envy": Scott Johnson notes that the top 1 percent of income tax filers "paid nearly 40 percent of all income taxes" and "the bottom 50 percent paid just 3 percent."
But according to the same Tax Foundation statistics he cites, the top 1 percent of wealthy American taxpayers held over 22 percent of the total adjusted gross income (AGI), while the bottom 50 percent of taxpayers split only 12.5 percent of that income. In other words, the apparent disparity in the distribution of the tax burden is not mainly the product of an unfair tax code, but more a reflection of the ever-growing gap in the distribution of wealth. This apparent disparity will continue to grow as the income gap grows.
By proposing modest tax increases for a few, Sen. Barack Obama is not declaring draconian measures by which Joe the plumber's "wealth should be seized in the name of equity." The tax increase is not a matter of class envy, but a response to an economic crisis. All Americans will need to tighten their belts in one way or another. The financially fortunate among us should be asked to contribute from their excess.
Scott W. Johnson rightly condemns the collectivist notion that the wealth of the productive and successful be distributed among those who did not earn the money. The idea that our Constitution was written by a plutocratic elite is absurd. The Constitution was originally created to protect each citizen's individual right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and most important, the right to his or her own property. As Ayn Rand once said, "Without property rights, no other rights are possible." Mr. Johnson deserves a commendation for his efforts to protect these rights.
The history Mr. Johnson tells is interesting, if selective, but the real problem in the commentary is its intellectual dishonesty. He erects a straw man version of the welfare state and the taxes that support it and takes his best shots at it. Not once do we hear of the specific things that our taxes pay for. I would wager that Mr. Johnson is willing to pay for the police and the justice system that protect his property. He might also be interested in paying to educate his fellow citizens, to pave our roads, and to support our troops.
Mr. Johnson is concerned about the rabble confiscating the riches of the wealthy. I'm concerned about the wealthy confiscating my dollars to enhance their lush lifestyles.
Many of our nation's wealthy didn't get there on their own. They inherited wealth, took advantage of all kinds of tax incentives, and enjoy highly inflated salaries. Yes, there are numerous self-made millionaires, and more power to them. But judging by poverty numbers and the tax information cited in the piece, there are far too many working Americans who are shut out of the "American dream."
Instead of fearing the idea of spreading the wealth, let's embrace the notion of spreading economic opportunity. That's what Senator Obama's tax plans are really doing – giving that bottom 50 percent of Americans a chance to keep more of the money they earn and enjoy some of the advantages of education and healthcare that 1 percent of Americans take for granted.
The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Any letter accepted may appear in print or on our website, www.csmonitor.com. Mail letters to Readers Write and Opinion pieces to Opinion Page, 210 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA 02115. E-mail letters to Letters and Opinion pieces to OpEd.