Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Richness Found In Enriching The Rich Richly Enriches Us

I am delusional. I was told so by someone who does not like the idea of being taxed, and is aghast at the idea of the rich paying a greater percentage in taxes. After all, they take greater risks, create jobs, and run the economy -- why shouldn't they, like anyone, get to keep what they make? The idea of the "redistribution" of wealth makes their stomach turn.

It is such hyperbole in the name of wealth preservation that is enough to give one an ulcer.

It is safe to say that, given proper financial planning, those with millions and billions of dollars at their disposal are beyond the ordinary vagaries of normal existence. Short of blowing it all on gambling, drugs, alcohol, or risky investments, they are insulated from the vagaries of the world to a great extent. They will continue to wheel and deal and pile up their monies, secure in the knowledge that they need not travel in the normal circles of human society, but fly in the rarefied air of the ultra-wealthy. In their exclusive club, they vie for the position of top dog, for he (or she) who has the most toys and the biggest Swiss bank accounts, wins.

True, they invest, and move money around, placing it here and there, but rarely does that money have much more impact than buoying the profits of the companies they invest in, companies headed by wealthy compatriots, who are busy trying to pad their portfolios and offshore accounts with the profits of their companies, even as their workers are suffering. A recent report shows that CEOs at the fifty companies that have fired the most workers since the economic downturn began, are making forty-two percent more in compensation than the rest of their S&P 500 brethren.

While big business continues to ride a wave of profits, small business cannot catch a break. In Washington, D.C., Congress continues to fight over restoring the Bush-era tax cuts, which would benefit the wealthiest Americans, while unable to pass comprehensive reform to help small businesses create jobs. Given small business is often the greatest creator of jobs, this explains the lagging job numbers, and the slow pace of recovery. Still, profits continue to soar on Wall Street, and no one at a Fortune 500 company seems too eager to hire back any of the workers they so recently divested themselves of.

Couple that with reports that most companies that do business in the United States pay little or no taxes, and we are left to wonder whose side Congress is on. Looming budget deficits and proper funding of the government could be solved, in part, with the revenue that large corporations and their subsidiaries would pay in taxes, to support the country that allows them to operate and the citizens who provide them the skilled labor that runs their business here. Rich corporations make the rich richer, and in the process, do it by bankrupting the very people whose blood and sweat make those riches possible.

No one can begrudge those who have made vast fortunes their due, for it takes shrewd investment and some level of acumen to accumulate wealth. But if the only end to the accumulation of wealth is the final number you end up with at the end of the day, then what of it? What makes all the extra dollars and cents worth it, if to make them requires the reduction of the very people who performed the work to a life of abject poverty and suffering? No human, outside of a professional athlete, makes millions by their own toil and sweat; it is more often the result of the toil and sweat of others. Is life so cheap, people so disposable, that they can simply be used as chattel, chained to jobs they would rather not do, simply so they and their families can survive?

The rich should be taxed at a greater rate, for the simple reason that their riches flow not from a secret spring, but from the work of others. They should be willing to do right by those who make them rich, to encourage them to continue to do so, to ensure they are capable of doing so, and to provide the nation in which they operate to provide them with the educated and trained workforce needed. Philanthropy is good, but it is a narrow window; it is important for the Federal government to fulfill its mandate of seeing to the general welfare, and for that it needs tax revenue. All must pay their share, and those who make more, must pay a little more.

It is not so much about redistribution of wealth, as redistribution of misery. Our human duty is to help our fellow humans up, to provide them safety, and to be sure they can work as productive members of society. If fairness is the issue, then is it fair for those who can barely make due to pay a larger proportion of their income, though it add up to less money to support their country? Proportion is the key, because those with more, are using more resources and people to gain their wealth. In essence, they must pay the proper price, not the price they choose to set. Until a day comes when humanity can look at each other, realize our connectedness, and provide for others simply out of the goodness of being human, we must continue to ensure an equitable balance is struck.


  1. No, no, no, you don't understand. The rich are better than us:

    (Also, your comment on that 9/11 clip was so moving, I think I'll give it's own post tomorrow. Thank you).

  2. Also II: I'm about to tweet this sentence & a link, because this is really the crux of it, isn't it?

    It is not so much about redistribution of wealth, as redistribution of misery.