Taxing the rich

by Neil Rickert

A recent post at Confessions of a Former Conservative begins with a quote from facebook on grade sharing:

Support Grade Sharing !

This new rule will only affect students with over a 3.8 GPA.
what it will do, is take a percentage of their grade and it will be applied to the students with a lower grade .

Share this with your kids, students, and liberal friends and watch the sparks fly !!!

This apparently comes from an argument on taxation, though I don’t have a facebook account so I haven’t tried to track down the details.

I agree with formerconservative, that it is a poor analogy.  Beyond that, my take on the taxation issue is a little different.

For myself, I have done reasonably well economically.  In fact, I have done well enough that I can afford to have a blog.  Well, okay, it’s a free wordpress blog, so that doesn’t say much, though it does require computer and internet access.  My ability to do well economically has depended on my use of social support services.  These include education, transportation, communication, etc.  So it is only fair that I pay part of the cost of those important support services.  Those at the highest income levels depend disproportionately more on those social support services.  They might not depend on them for individual needs – perhaps they use private schools, and live in a private estate with its own private roads.  However, their ability to earn their income does depend on those services being available.

I disagreed with the Reagan tax cuts and with the Bush tax cuts, because they were paid for by increasing debt that our children and grand children will be responsible for.  The argument from some on the political right – “It’s my money, and the government should not take it away from me” – is just nonsense.  It should be understood as a declaration that they are deadbeats, wanting to sponge off society but unwilling to pay for the services that made their income possible.

Getting back to the grade question – yes, in some ways, that also depends on social services, such as education systems and public libraries.  However, those who earn high grades are already paying it back.  There is nothing more rewarding for a teachers, than to see their students do well.  And having a well educated work force is good for the economy.

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4 Comments to “Taxing the rich”

  1. Neil,

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Wealthy individuals in America, generally wouldn’t have been able to earn their status and income without utilizing social services, and public funded infrastructure. One could argue that since their wealth depended on selling goods and services, then even the roads and highways used to transport those goods and services far outweighs the infrastructure utilized by an average American (“average” in terms of wealth and/or income). They also live in America, which many wouldn’t have been able to gain as much had they lived anywhere else. If this is the case, then “paying” that country back by complying with higher taxation sounds reasonable as well — especially if the alternative could have involved living in Uganda digging ditches, rather than acquiring serious wealth.

    The “grade analogy” is completely bogus. One can achieve wealth many times by just being in the right place at the right time (regardless of how hard they worked), whereas grades and scholastic aptitude are more often a direct result of significant effort. As you mentioned, the fact that certain students get high grades is a reward in itself because they are going to benefit the community, illustrate to their teachers that their teaching efforts have paid off, and the workforce benefits in certain ways as a result of creating citizens capable of acquiring more skills in less time. If we apply a metric of some kind to “effort” and we see the income disparities between people in the country, there’s no argument that can convince me that hard work and effort are proportional to those disparities. Does a CEO “earning” $4,000,000 per year really work 100 times harder than a teacher earning $40,000? I don’t think so. First of all, there are only so many hours in a week and you may have the lower earner working 40 hours per week, and the higher earner could work as much as 80 hours per week (many cases the lower earner can work MORE hours than the higher earner), which would be a 2:1 ratio of total hours worked for the sake of the argument. If one were to adjust the ratio by including college education for the teacher (4 years for the required Bachelor degree) and compare it to the education needed for the CEO (As little as ZERO years needed and perhaps as much as a Master’s in Business — 5 to 6 years). So we may have a ratio varying from being in the teacher’s favor, or worst case a 0.6:1 ratio between the teacher and CEO. Which profession provides the best investment in society and the community? In my opinion, the teachers are by far more important for developing the minds that will eventually enter the workforce (even if those students become CEOs). Bottom line — the wealthy individuals in this country need to pay higher taxes to eliminate poverty (at the very least). With the average salary in America around $45K per year, we can see the disparity between income and even more so with wealth, and it’s a no-brainer. Perhaps if the same high income earners didn’t also own the politicians, then a true democracy would have fixed this problem by eliminating it’s existence in the first place…as the majority do not fall in the same category as the wealthy individuals that own the politicians (they own most of them at the very least, creating an illusion of democracy). The worst part is that fear-mongering conservatives (as well as some liberals) want to convince the general population that hindering the ability to gain unbelievable wealth (or trying to tax the wealthy more) is somehow “un-American”. They use McCarthyistic tactics to label social services and any limits on Capitalism as “communist” (as if that’s a bad thing in itself, which it’s not). Using fear to manipulate the populous is so effective, but it has got to change. Eliminating the problem of money in politics would solve this problem, but it’s a self-perpetuating cycle exacerbated by the fear mongering. Sigh!

    Peace and love!

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    • One could argue that since their wealth depended on selling goods and services, then even the roads and highways used to transport those goods and services far outweighs the infrastructure utilized by an average American (“average” in terms of wealth and/or income).

      Yes, indeed, they do depend on those services.

      Without adequate public services, you get an economy like that of Haiti or worse (as with some parts of Africa).

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  2. Obviously their “grade analogy” is used to point out that if we “earn” something (be it money or a grade) that it shouldn’t be given to those that didn’t earn it. It would be a great analogy if money and grades were comparable items on many dimensions, but that just isn’t the case. As I pointed out earlier, money and grades aren’t both earned proportionally relative to some common metric (i.e. effort, education, etc.). Grades are a helpful way (in some ways, harmful in others) to illustrate a student’s effort/progress as well as the efficacy of the educational system and teaching methods. Money however, does not illustrate effort/progress otherwise we could assume that wealthy people expend more effort and have “progressed” further than those making less money which is utterly ridiculous. While there may be some correlation between effort, efficiency, etc., with regards to income, it is not proportional when comparing it to the acquisition of grades.

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  3. I wanted to add that, in the case of the “grade analogy” with regards to someone “earning” money or a scholastic grade of some kind, the analogy fails when justifying or defining “earnings”. How do we decide if someone has “earned” what they’ve obtained? Just because they have it does NOT mean that they earned it. It only means that it was acquired. In the case of grades, students are put through the same content and curriculum and the grades are intended to measure progress. Citizens are not put through the same conditions when trying to consider earnings or income in evaluating “progress”. It’s the whole concept of “earning” that I diverge from their train of thought. That’s why I mentioned effort, hours worked, education, value of work performed to society, etc., when trying to determine what has been earned, because they are reasonable metrics that are quantifiable (most of them).

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