"You didn't build that."July 19 2012 at 12:31 PM
Well, yes, we did.
Here's the Economist's Democracy in America blogger (no pillar of the right, to put it mildly):
Let's suppose for the sake of argument that it's best if government provides the public goods business needs to become a viable and successful enterprise. Even in that case, Mr Obama's conclusion, that the rich ought to pay more in taxes, does not follow. As it stands, high-earners do "give something back": 35% of yearly income. But that's just to the feds. Here in Iowa, they pay an additional 9% to the state. Maybe it's just me, but that seems like a lot! According to the Tax Foundation, in 2008 "the top 5% earned 31.7% of the nation's adjusted gross income, but paid approximately 58.7% of federal individual income taxes". If that's not giving something back, what is?
In this light, it's easy to see why Mr Obama's observation that it takes a village to make a fortune is in one respect irrelevant and in another offensive. It is irrelevant because the class of people Mr Obama wants to "give back" has already paid most of the tab, and continues to pay most of the tab, for the tax-financed public goods upon which they, and the rest of us, so crucially depend. At the federal level, the top 10% of the distribution paid over 70% of income taxes in 2009 (again, according to the Tax Foundation). Mr Obama's in-it-together point is mildly offensive in context because it is used to imply that top-earners who resist paying an even larger portion of America's tab do so only because they are in the grip of an absurd myth of self-reliance.
Together with a bit of simple democratic mathematics, the facts about the portion of tax revenue contributed by the rich plausibly suggest that they pay more than their fair share for the infrastructure of capitalism. The rich have money, which can buy political influence. But the middle class have votes, which in a democracy is influence. So it's not surprising that the public goods upon which the middle class equally depends are financed disproportionately by the wealthy. Of course, no one ever got elected by identifying middle-income voters as the free-riding class. Asking the minority who already finances rather more than most government expenditure to "give something back", as if it were currently skating by unfairly on the more open-handed spirit of the less privileged, is plain, old-fashioned demagoguery. That's only to be expected, but it's healthy to see it for what it is
Mr Obama's notion that the rich get more out of our common institutions than they put in is questionable, to say the least. And his suggestion that opposition to higher top income-tax rates could only be based on by-the-bootstraps social atomism is a silly bit of bad faith.
- Oh no you di int!!! - Anonymous on Jul 19, 2:00 PM