“So should we soak the rich? You bet we should.”

With these 10 words, New York Times’ columnist Nicholas Kristof ends his most recent column, one that on many levels — the majority of which we will not address given the space of our, or any, editorial page. But the basic fracture cleaving this country is one that separates Democrats and Republicans and progressives and conservatives almost without resolution.

It comes in the form of a question: Is the government entitled to your money, and, if so, how much? For almost 150 years, or until the first wave of progressives whipsawed an amendment into the Constitution establishing a “graduated” income tax. The same decade also gave us one of the greatest alterations of the idea of checks and balances, and for some reason remains of the most overlooked and misunderstood amendments — that which authorized the direct election of senators.

Since then, senators have been free agents, seemingly pursuing their own goals and those of their parties instead of their states — which is why the Framers did not make the Senate an instrument of the people (as they did the House), but rather of the states (and their elected representatives, who chose the senators). It was the senators’ duty to advance the states’ desires in Washington. No more.

Such amendments shift far more power to the federal government. For one thing, an income tax gives Washington more authority over peoples’ lives — and in the most basic way: It tells folks how much money they can make before the government starts taking ever-increasing chunks of it.

Believe us when we say this is no hosanna to the excesses of the Gilded Age of old or to the conspicuous consumption, through compensation, of the current likes of Jeff Bezos. It’s a fine line, we admit, but no, we are not taking a stand for willy-nilly wage and salary obscenity. Instead, we are simply asking, “Is government entitled to that slice of your daily bread that, say, a Bernie Sanders or even a Nicholas Kristof sanctions?”

For this reason, the current debate on tariffs loses focus when the suggestion is posited that the United States eschewed tariffs. How do you think we started the process of achieving world dominance power but largely through the vehicle of tariffs. And, oddly enough, the champions of such fiscal tools were Republicans more so than Democrats.

Getting back on topic, Americans are not foolish enough to believe that 1) taxes never existed before the second decade of the 20th century when the 16th Amendment implemented the income tax (remember Franklin’s quote about the “only two certainties in life”) and 2) they will never go away if only we elect the right people.

No, the question revolves around the truth about taxes (who pays them and are they “soaked” a little bit already?) and how much is enough before the very fabric of the American Dream is rent beyond repair? Remember, too, as Lady Thatcher said, under such a system, you eventually run out of “other people’s money.” When citizens of this nation are either wards of the government (reliant on Washington almost for their very existence) or the beasts assuring that existence through their hard work, then the Dream equation becomes so skewed that the United States can never achieve the promise the Framers predicted (or at least hoped) for it.

(9) comments

Ping

Eh...I ain't gonna carry water for the rich.

Spock Here

If the Amazons and Walmarts put some of their enormous profits into actually "trickling down" to employees by way of increased salaries, education, training, etc, that would not only help their workers get out of being "working poor", it might elevate their image. When one sees the wealth combined with indifference, it doesn't help with attitudes about the uber wealthy

hagansan

The Congressional Budget Office reports that between 1979 and 2007 incomes of the top 1% of Americans grew by an average of 275%. What sort of society do we want to live in? Should it resemble the egalitarian wealth of the Old South? the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt? Arguments supporting obscene wealth in the face of so much poverty and adversity within our nation are fundamentally absurd.

Should we soak the rich?? You betcha.

DavidSparkman

There is a basic problem with soaking the rich. It is the definition of "rich." If we use the definition used by the original Income Tax bill it would be the top 1%. Well, we know how that ended up. Anyone with a job pays taxes now. So if we "soak the rich", the term rich will become, as before, anyone who has a job. Politicians can spend any amount of money available so there will never be limits on their greed.

hagansan

Wikipedia reports that if the wealth of our nation were divided evenly, each household would be worth $760,000. The trend towards wealth inequality has grown dramatically in the past 25 years; the top 1% now owns 40% of the nation's assets, which is more than the bottom 90% of citizens.

Much of this wealth is carried through wealthy family's generations by inheritance, supported by extremely favorable inheritance laws that are despised by the wealth as the 'death tax'. Paris Hilton stood to inherit over $100 million until Barron, patriarch of the family, decided to give it to charity. How does anyone deserve to inherit $100 million? Our fathers shed blood to free us from royal tyranny; but what makes one a princess more than if Daddy wills you $100 million?

DavidSparkman

Generall Macauther tried that in Japan when he gave the land back to the serfs that worked it. It was a great experiment in social equality. What happened was the serfs sold the land back to the original landowners for a few bottles of Sake. They simply didn't want the responsibilities of management. If everyone was suddenly worth 3/4 million dollars as suggested, they would quickly lose it buying trinkets and being scammed. As the saying goes, "a fool and his money is soon parted." The rich play an important role in improving our society that is never mentioned. They build and invent things and provide special skills that others cannot or will not.

paulmiller

So the working class in America are naive fools who would squander their opportunities on trinkets? It's funny that liberals get called elitists, when sentiments like this are so condescending and cynical.

Spock Here

Yeh, Sparky is good at that....

Spock Here

It's the kind of thinking that's similar to people on SNAP buy only lobster and Tenderloin, so they should not be allowed to do that.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.