Please go to this website and scroll to the right and tell me we don't need a wealth tax. Please explain why. We're not talking about some 80 percent tax on $2 million, the kind of squid ink people shoot into these discussions to capitalize on the devout American belief that everyone is, at very least, a pre-millionaire. One of the core problems we face is that the amount of money we're often talking about is not comprehensible to the human mind. We cannot imagine, really, what it means to have a billion of something, much less 100 billion. People who have a billion dollars—a strictly theoretical concept we've all agreed is real—have long benefited from this insufficient imagination, the mind's default conflation of a million and a billion. This tool offers something precious: a real grasp of scale.
It's easy to get roped into some discussion about whether Jeff Bezos deserves to have $139 billion while many of his workers are just a speck on this endless rightward scroll. He doesn't, of course, no matter how brilliant a monopolistic mind he may be. He does not contribute enough—he has not created enough value for human beings—to currently possess, at this moment, 20,000 times more money than the average American doctor will earn in a lifetime. It's absurd. Ridiculous. The guy just spent $165 million on a house. Did he even really notice it's gone? The claim he's "earned" the right to control resources on this scale requires a kind of devout belief in Free Markets, that they perfectly distribute resources, which is not true even in a country with actual free markets. The United States is not that, which is part of how Jeff Bezos got so rich.
But don't get tangled up in what people do and don't deserve. It's a dead end, and nobody actually cares. This is a results business. It doesn't matter that you should have won the game if you didn't. The richest 130,000 households now hold nearly as much wealth as the bottom 117 million families combined. This is a relatively recent development, an outgrowth of our decision to remake our country in the image of Ronald Reagan. But the fact is that we cannot go on this way, as a nation where half our citizens live paycheck to paycheck, tens of thousands of veterans from our sprawling imperial wars sleep on the street each night, and one of our oligarchs can spend a fraction of his own $60 billion fortune on a presidential campaign built on vanity and, of course, his strident opposition to candidates who might unduly raise his taxes.
What were the candidates proposing, really?
— Elizabeth Warren suggested a two percent tax on all wealth above $50 million, and a three percent tax on all wealth above $1 billion. The senator's campaign estimated this would impact 75,000 households and raise over $200 billion a year.
— Bernie Sanders proposed more brackets: a 1 percent tax on $32 million or more, 2 percent on holdings between $50 and $250 million, 3 percent between $250 and $500 million, 4 percent between $500 million to $1 billion, 5 percent from $1 to $2.5 billion, 6 percent between $2.5 to $5 billion, 7 percent from $5 to $10 billion, and 8 percent on wealth over $10 billion.
Is this really so extreme? To tax an amount these folks won't notice, in order to fund programs that people in need will very much notice? Should we fund universal childcare, or should we let the money sit in some guy's Scrooge McDuck pile that at some point comes to serve more as a trophy, a symbol of power? But again, don't get into things like "empathy" or "justice." Nobody seems to care. Focus on the fact that our society has become dangerously unstable, as evidenced by the state of our politics and the generalized rage that roils beneath our affairs. We would be foolish to ignore that at least part of this is tied to the fact that millions and millions of our citizens have lost all hope, and any faith in the way things are done—and for good reason. Social mobility is in decline, parents rightly fear their children will be worse off than they are, and all the great promise of the American experiment is being squandered through greed and avarice.
The same people who oppose taxing extreme wealth also oppose deficit spending, because there is apparently no acceptable way for us to invest in our own citizens. (It's certainly not about The National Debt, if the recent Tax Cuts For Rich People and Corporations Bill is any indication. On the other side, trillions of dollars have appeared to respond to the current pandemic, and rightly so.) They also often oppose paying people a living wage. They oppose most efforts to alleviate the crushing debt burdens that have driven the poorest down while the richest surge upwards. They oppose efforts to make education or healthcare more affordable. They oppose attempts to strengthen the social safety net while we push more and more people off the cliff.
Oh, we should leave it to charity? Isn't that what we're doing now—letting a few people eat up all the resources and dole out bits and pieces at their own saintly discretion? How's that working out? Tax them. Do it now. This has gone on long enough.
You Might Also Like