Monday, May 08, 2006

Do your clients face higher taxes?

Ben Stein, in his latest New York Times column, praises the good life that high incomes make possible. But he's also concerned:
On my way back [from the Yale Club], two young men accosted me in front of Rockefeller Center. They told me they were recent Yale graduates who were making a great living working at hedge funds. They told me that their boss made $100 million a year trading currencies, and that there were dozens like him making more money than I could imagine. (I have my doubts, but that's what they said.)

Suddenly, as the men happily walked away from me, I had a vision. Here we all are under the gorgeous crystal dome of prosperity, drinking, making money, eating swordfish, changing money at the temple, showing off ourselves to others, bragging — and all of it, every bit of it, is made possible by the men and women who wear the uniform.

Every bit of it is done under the protection of the Marines, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Coast Guard, serving and offering up their lives for pennies. And we're also under the protection of the police and the firefighters and the F.B.I., who offer up their lives for nothing compared with what others make trading money on computer screens.
"It's fine that there are rich people," Stein acknowledges. "It's even fine that there are superrich people."
But if they are superrich, they derive special benefits from life in the United States that the nonrich don't. For one thing, they can make the money in a safe environment, which is not true for the rich in many countries. It is just common decency that they should pay much higher income taxes than they do. Taxes for the rich are lower than they have been since at least World War II — that is to say, in 60 years.
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Whatever rationale there may have been in 2001 for lowering their taxes is long gone. It's time for them — us, because it includes me — to pay their (our) share.
For the record, high-income Americans already fork over the bulk of U.S. tax revenue. That's one insight to be gained at a web site recommended by Randy Cassingham,

Look here to see how the share of tax paid by the 30% of U.S. taxpayers with the highest incomes compares with taxpayers in other nations around the world.

Look here to see how relatively little the poorest 30% of American taxpayers pay.

Moral: In Scandanavian countries and others where both poverty and $100-million incomes are rare, average citizens of necessity have to bear a larger portion of the tax burden.

But let's also remember that even poor Americans are wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice by world standards. Look here at how GDP per capita varies around the world.

1 comment:

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