Soak the Super Rich


By: David Bozeman

Once again, the government class (and its most docile followers) has appropriated the language to cushion the blow of its self-perpetuation. ‘The rich?’ That’s so 2008. Besides, that canard has lost all but its minimal PR punch. The target today — and who could reasonably object? — are the super rich. As usual, the state supporters employ the most malleable terms — you’ll hear it defined as any amount from $10 million to ‘the richest among us.’ Such precision should make for sound fiscal policy.

Ben Stein, economist, author and actor (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) has publicly adopted the ‘tax the super rich’ mantra. One of the few conservatives to be deemed intellectual by the left (in reality, he doesn’t propose tax hikes because he’s intelligent, he’s considered intelligent because he propose tax hikes — if he campaigned for across the board cuts, he’d rate maybe a few IQ points above Sarah Palin). You’ve heard the lame chorus of arguments: the super rich can afford it, the country’s in crisis, they benefit greatly so it’s time to give back and blah, blah,blah. . .

I will never approach Ben Stein’s mastery of economics, but, speaking as a citizen, I find the whole soak-the-rich policy of debt reduction lazy and predictable. Surely our best economic minds can, at the very least, offer something original for public debate. Besides, it’s that very mentality — they can afford it! they can afford it! — that helped put us in the mess we’re in. Reduce the debt, yes, but stop the cycles of fiscal and moral insanity that are likely to bring even more economic calamity down the road, assuming, of course, we survive the current round.

Stein argues that the 1950s, with high marginal tax rates, saw robust economic growth, so one doesn’t necessarily lead to the other. Perhaps not, Ben. You don’t have to have charisma to win the presidency, either, but it’s far better to have it than not to. Likewise, I would rather predicate economic prosperity on MORE dollars in the private sector and less in the hands of bureaucrats. Eisenhower’s successor, JFK, saw it that way, too.

Ultimately, Warren Buffett and the other zillionaires itching to pay the government more possess a unique form of exhibitionism in that they can show off their fabulous wealth AND their grand benevolence in that they want to give it away. It’s quite a leap, of course, to assume that any added revenues would go solely to debt reduction, as opposed to continued pork, stimulus, wealth transfer — call it whatever you want.

If Stein, Buffett and others really want to help us reduce the debt, they can show us ALL how to become rich. They can launch a national campaign to restore America’s fading vision of itself as a nation of hard-working, can-do individuals. To the countless cities and towns that have lost manufacturing jobs to other countries, the tax-me-more tour could promote enterprise zones and teach seminars on American exceptionalism. For the unemployed, particularly black youth and those in the inner cities, why not educational vouchers for technical training and business creation? Why not a national campaign to emphasize Economics 101 in our school curriculums the way pop stars now promote science?

Granted, America’s wealthy are fabulously generous to the less fortunate, but therein lies my point. We need more individuals in this country like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates and maybe a few less Timothy Geithners and Barney Franks. We have ceded far too much individual initiative and responsibility to a federal behemoth and lost pride in our national identity as the freest, most prosperous superpower on earth. The soak-the-richers face an epic dilemma: use their wealth to, arguably, cure the symptom (the debt) or help rid this nation of a malaise so malignant it could well become the new normal in a shadow-of-its-former-self America.

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