Wealth Redistribution, Part 1: And Your Point Is?

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Conservative columnists and commentators (I consider myself a conservative moderate) often use the term “Wealth Redistribution” as if it were an unequivocal evil thing, like say child pornography.  However it has been a part of our culture for centuries, if we include British culture.  I’m talking about Robin Hood.  He stole from the [evil and greedy] rich and gave to the [over-worked and over-taxed] poor so they could eat and pay their taxes.  Therefore when President Obama and the Democrats push for raising taxes on “The Wealthy” to pay for social programs, this is not categorically a bad thing.  The flip side of this coin is that it is not categorically a good thing either.  Some government programs make it too easy for the hard core lazy to be non-contributors.  While most would agree: a) we don’t want kids (or anyone) to go hungry, and b) we favor some help for those diligently looking for work,  we do not favor providing much beyond the basics of food, shelter, clothing (and I’ll add basic medical) because it is bad for society as a whole.

To move this discussion along, can we agree: 1) Some payments to those less fortunate are acceptable, and 2) Most of us are OK with paying some taxes in support.  If yes, then we agree some level of Wealth Redistribution is acceptable.  Thus  our discussion becomes: 1) Who are the wealthy? and 2) Should they pay more?

I’ll address these in reverse order:

  • 2) Yes, the wealthy and the rich should pay more because they are making more money, and more importantly, it is through the efforts or with the funding of “regular folks”.  I’ll repeat, the wealthy and rich acquire their wealth through the support of many others.  A few examples: Wall Street bankers make money investing other people’s money.  Executives head up businesses with many employees.  Sports and entertainment stars have many fans buying tickets, CD’s, DVD’s, and endorsed products.   Because the wealthy are supported by a large number of regular folks, and the rich by an even larger number (the many are giving to the few), it is fair to ask them to share more of their wealth (the few can return some additional fraction to the many).
  • 1) Who’s wealthy and who’s rich?  I like round numbers, so I propose incomes of $200,000 and $1,000,000 per year as defining “wealthy” and “rich”.  I chose $200,000 as the lower end because I’ve seen numbers that there are small, family-owned businesses making that much “on their own”.

The question, “How much should they pay?” (proposed tax rates) will be discussed in Wealth Redistribution, Part 2.

People form societies for the common good.  In a modern complex society, that requires paying taxes.  If we are to give our Grandchildren a better world, we need an equitable system of taxation.  Our present system needs revision based on honest discussion, not partisan rhetoric.

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