Jewish World Review Dec. 13, 2010 / 6 Teves, 5771
Our Greedy Government
By Mitch Albom
Instead, how money works remains the biggest mystery this side of cancer or "American Idol" voting. We can't even get a consensus on a stupidly simple question: Should we raise taxes?
The obvious answer should be no. Who wants to raise taxes? Instead,
Sorry. But for something that has been going on since the Bible, Mesopotamia, the Roman Empire and the American Revolution, shouldn't we be able to say whether taxes help or hurt? How much more experience do we need?
Taxes stimulate jobs. Taxes kill jobs. Taxes help small business. Taxes ruin small business. Taxes make things fair for the poor. Taxes falsely sustain the poor. Taxes let government function. Taxes let government malfunction.
Heck. We don't even know what to call the suckers. Pundits refer to "the Bush tax cuts." But even Bush's rates are higher than taxes once were, so how could they be "cuts?" And since they have been the norm for at least seven years, why aren't they called the "status quo?"
MONEY JUST DOESN'T GO THAT FAR
The current debate suggests a near-40 percent tax rate is fairer for the richest citizens -- and "richest" means households earning more than
"Why should we give breaks to
Well, for one thing, paying 35 percent in federal taxes -- the current highest rate -- is not really "a break." And every household earning
Take such a married couple, both working, with four kids out in a nice suburb. Say two kids are in college. The parents make too much for scholarships, so that could be two times
Now. At a 40 percent federal tax and a 5 percent state tax, and a 1 percent city tax -- typical to many areas in this country -- you only get to keep 54 percent of all you earn, or in this
Yes, this is oversimplified. Yes, there are deductions. And yes, you can argue that not everyone has to send their kids to a good college, not everyone needs two cars, not everyone has to have a nice house. But then, what's everyone working for? Isn't that what the American Dream was once about? Should we set the bar at the lowest aspiration? Should we tilt a system to unemployment and benefits payments?
You all have heard how a tiny fraction of Americans pay more than half of all taxes. And how a big chunk of Americans pay no taxes at all. The only thing you honestly can conclude is that the system is broken.
Well, raising taxes (and that's what it is; stop calling it "eliminating cuts") can't be the only solution to a broken system. The focus should be on whoever is breaking it. Here's a hint: It isn't the wage earner.
Let the economists wrangle over models and theories. The finger ultimately points to the party taking the money, not the one giving it, and that means the government. And if the history of taxation proves anything, it's that there comes a point where people say to that government, "You're taking enough." Here's my theory:
We're already there.
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