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Fishing for votes

April 15, 2009 - Rob Weaver
We appear to be at an important tipping point with regard to the federal income tax burden. Political leaders from both major parties appear to realize it, but few recognize the solution.

First some background: A disproportionate amount of the federal income tax burden is exacted from the richest Americans. In 2007, for example, the wealthiest 1 percent of the population earned 19 per­cent of the income — yet paid 37 percent of the income tax. The top 10 percent foot 68 percent of the bill.

Currently, the bottom half of Americans — those below the median income level —  earn about 12 percent of the income but pay barely 3 percent of the taxes.

Clearly, this is a problem, and a dangerous situation for all involved. If
"democracy fails when the people realize they can vote themselves the treasury," it certainly is at risk when the majority can vote themselves income earned by a minority.

Such a redistribution of wealth is not a long-term solution; helping lower-income people improve their status by creating educational and economic opportunity is. It's an old idea: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and he can feed himself.

That's not a concept I hear espoused by enough conservative politicians.

Nor would it be politically advantageous for liberal politicians to seek a such a long-term solution. After all, if you give a man a fish, he'll need you to give him another tomorrow. This dependency is easier to maintain when the fish are being requisitioned from someone else.


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