Editorials

America’s Taxes: Should the Rich Pay More?

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Taxes. Everybody hates paying them, and even more people hate filing them come tax season. The idea of taxes has been around since the dawn of civilization, and for good reason. The revenue generated by taxing the population of a nation is used to improve the infrastructure and overall standard of living of the country through several means. According to the Tax Policy Center, 80% of all government revenue comes from income and payroll taxes alone, roughly equaling 2.4 trillion dollars a year with an additional 420 billion coming in from corporate and excise taxes respectively.

The federal government has developed a system in which taxing its citizens is deemed fair, but to others this system seems to favor a specific class of citizens within the societal hierarchy. There are those who believe that the wretchedly poor of society are leeching money off the backs of those who work the stereotypical 9 to 5 day job, with jobs still available to them as well. However, the belief is that these people would otherwise rather exploit the welfare programs that the government provides for the truly needy and ultimately be unproductive to society.

Conversely, the opposite group of this debate finds that the elite and prosperous of society are not paying their fair share of taxes to the government through a myriad of means. The primary belief is that this occurs through legal loopholes and evasion that goes unchecked while they continue to profit without repercussions for their illegal actions. Of course, these are two extreme views of how taxes and welfare should be administered in the country, but they are nonetheless valid points and should be addressed.

The system in place by the federal government, a progressive tax system, involves taking more money out of high-income earners than a particular individual makes. For instance, someone making over $500,000 a year will be paying nearly double what someone making only $40,000 a year will pay. This is meant to assist lower income earners to afford a higher standard of living. On paper, this seems to make sense; but there are arguments on both sides that object to this seemingly fair system. For instance, an individual making $500,000 a year is most likely someone who has a college degree, owns a business, and/or is an innovator who earned their living and most likely jumped through many difficult hurdles in order to achieve the status they currently enjoy.

A conjoining argument would be that America is the land of opportunity and that anyone is able to make a large amount of money if they have the motivation. On the opposite end of the argument, some people agree that America, just like any other country, needs a strong base of civil service workers such as construction workers, janitors, and other professionals along those lines to maintain a clean and developing society. Not everyone has the opportunity to become what he or she dreams, simply due to job supply and the demand for menial labor.

To summarize, the rich claim that they earn their keep for working hard in life to achieve a high standard of living. Compound this with the ideology of trickle-down economics, which states that the rich are the job creators due to their large amount of capital, and one may understand how the rich do not deserve to be taxed more. However, the conception of the idea of trickle-down economics in modern times during the Reagan era hasn’t seemed to work. As of today, the top 1/10th of the 1% of Americans own as much wealth as the bottom 90%. Additionally, since the 2009 recession, the top 10% of Americans gained 24 trillion dollars in wealth, which is ¾ of all wealth gained by America since the recession. It is clear by this data that the wealthy of the nation continue to gain unprecedented profits while millions remain homeless, impoverished, and indebted to the most powerful entities within society.

The rich indeed earned their wealth, but it is evident they need to give some back to the people in order for society to advance equally and fairly; however, that doesn’t necessarily mean additional taxes need to be levied. Today, notable companies such as Apple, General Electric, and Microsoft continue to hold over 2.1 trillion dollars in offshore tax havens, equaling to over 640 billion dollars in potential corporate tax revenue. The big banks and CEOs who were responsible for the 2009 housing market crisis received no punishment for their actions and continue to practice risky and potentially dangerous business practices to this day.

It’s up to the American people to elect those who would fight to make the economic playing field of the nation fair for all Americans. These elected officials must also ensure that the richest of the nation pay their fair share and that the laws of the country are extended equally to everyone.

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