Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Are wealthy people trying to tell me life's not fair? Really?

President Obama has ceded some ground to Republicans in the never ending fight to work down the national debt.

His plan originally called for spending cuts and allowing the Bush-era tax cuts to expire for those for making more than $250,000 annually. Now, the president has altered that proposal to affect only Americans whose yearly salary tops $1,000,000.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has publicly declared any tax increase would not be considered and was 'off the table.'

It seems the two parties are at an impasse. Shocking, I'm sure.

Conservatives believe the wealthy of society are paying their 'fair share' in taxes and reject the notion of paying more. They also contend that taxes on the class of 'job creators' (secret code for wealthy) are sufficient and no one should see an increase on taxes. Conservatives also contend to raise taxes only on the top 1% is unfair and amounts to a penalty for being successful. They call it 'class warfare.'

I have to concede this point to the Republicans and Speaker Boehner -- what President Obama has proposed is not at all fair. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office released data in 2008 that broke down tax rates and income from 1979-2005. The information revealed the top 1% of earners paid 27.6% of all federal taxes. Additionally, they also earned 18.1% of all income. No doubt exists these earners are paying a hefty ransom.1

However, the story doesn't end this way for top earners. But that which we could call unfair is a two way street. The way our society financially rewards people is not at all fair. How about an examination of some America's top earners?

The top 100 CEOs in the United States earn a range from $17,620,808 to $84,515,308.2 Wow! Ironically, a large number of these executives are paid these large sums despite running an unprofitable organization.

Carol Bartz, the recently fired CEO of Yahoo, was 'earning' more than $11 million annually (for nearly two and a half years) despite no tangible success. Could anyone legitimately look the average worker in the eyes and say she was fairly compensated?

Philippe Daumann, chief executive of Viacom, will gross more than $84 million this year. That sum is 2,497 times what the median American worker makes.3 Would you really have people believe one man deserves this much money annually?

Executives of major businesses deserve a generous compensation, yet the dollar amounts which are attached to these jobs is nothing short of obscene, particularly when so many Americans are struggling.

Other occupations that also fall into the category of ridiculous salary? Professional athletes (including NASCAR), most entertainers, higher education executives, corporate attorneys, Bernie Madoff, hedge fund mangers, and any celebrity turned motivation speaker (Bill Clinton has collected more than $65 million in speaking fees since 2001).

I find it insulting that Republicans would attempt to lecture anyone on fairness when money is involved. Even if a person making $1,000,000 annually paid a rate as high as 40% in taxes, that person would only have a meager $600,000 remaining to feed a family and take care of any other purchase to his or her liking.

Furthermore, since conservatives are fond of invoking the high moral ground, I would like to remind them of Jesus' words:
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.4

So, yes, the top earners in society are being asked to do what is unfair. Yet, these people enjoy luxuries while millions have been underpaid for decades and now face economic hardships the top 1% will never even think about: foreclosure, utility bills, food.

If Republicans really want to make this issue a bourgeoisie / proletariat thing, we know how that turns out.


1Statistics from the Congressional Budget Office, www.cbo.gov

22011 Executive PayWatch: 100 Highest Paid CEOs


4The Holy Bible, NIV, Luke 12:48


  1. Don,

    Interesting post. I am a big supporter of gutting our tax system and doing something different. I find it nearly criminal that someone making 6 figures can "write off" enough to pay no income tax.

    One thing I would like your thoughts on is this fairness idea. The common talking point is the rich should be paying their fair share. I have yet to hear anyone say how much that fair share is. The answer seems to be the old quote "just a little bit more"

    I also wonder what other people's fair share is? When 47% of people pay NO income tax what is a fair share is a conversation that could be had in both directions.

  2. I enjoyed this post. I don't know a lot about this, but I understand that something needs to be done in this country. It may not be what is exactly fair, but we can't be a Great Society if so many of our citizens are in financial trouble while a few have SUCH an excess. I kind of feel like someone should just bite the bullet and do what needs to be done (raise taxes on the wealthy) whether it's fair or not. Maybe some 'from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs,' which I realize is socialism....but I don't know what else there is to be done.

  3. I weep every time the rich are sorely oppressed, because their tax rates may go up (like say during those awful Clinton years!!), or how their rates may be higher than everyone else's — never mind how much their SHARE of income has risen since 1979 while the rest of our share is dropping. The top 10% of earners now make HALF of all the income. The relevant statistic isn't what proportion of the nation's taxes comes from the rich, it's what proportion of the rich's income gets paid in taxes.