The Manipulative “Tax the Rich” Mantra

The “tax the rich” mantra is picking up steam, but it is really political number manipulation to mislead us into believing this is a solution to our scary deficit problems. Our President and, more recently, the governor of Minnesota have been chanting this mantra. If implemented, the facts indicate at best the impact on the deficits will be minimal. While many of us would be happy if our progressive tax policies required higher taxes for a few of the very wealthy, the arguments being made are aimed at scaring, seducing, and misleading the public and border on being lies. This mantra is good politics but bad for the long-term future of our nation.

The most recent example is in Minnesota where the Governor wants to increase taxes on 7.700 Minnesotans’ making over $1 million per year to cover a $5 billion deficit. This sounds reasonable until you look at the numbers. To cover this amount of deficit would require an average of $649,351 of additional taxes from each of these 7.700 Minnesotans’. Is this plan realistic or a con job to hide the true problems the state faces? More taxes on the wealthy may be reasonable, but this proposal would certainly impact Minnesota jobs and may motivate some high income Minnesotan’s to move to other states.

A similar proposal being espoused by President Obama and the Democrats is to eliminate the Bush tax breaks for wealthy citizens making over $200,000 per year. They claim it would reduce the deficit by $1.0 trillion dollars, and imply these taxes would “fix” our deficit problem. The fact is the $1 trillion number is over twelve years and is only about $80 billion per year or only about 5.5 percent of the 2011 and future projected annual deficits. Where is the other 94.5 percent of the money to pay the deficit coming from?

Adding insult to injury, our President makes a big issue about the jets, yachts, and other toys these wealthy possess. The majority of theses taxpayers make considerably less than $1 million per year. These are the risk taking, job creating small business owners, and professionals that have spent many years paying for an education who are the backbone of our nation’s future. Few if any of them have yachts or jets. Furthermore, the $200,000 per year bar will substantially increase the number of these taxpayers in a few years, since history shows the average income in the U.S. has increased 50 percent per decade since the 1940’s. Assuming this trend continues, citizens making $88,889 or more now will reach the $200,000 bracket in less than twenty years, while citizens making $133,333 or more now will reach this bracket in less than ten years!

This one simple example to scare, seduce and confuse us “blames” the deficit on Bush, drives a “wedge” between the rich and poor hoping to “outrage” the majority of us voters making less, allows demonization of a few “awful” super wealthy making millions each year, exploits our generosity and guilt religious beliefs, uses number manipulations, and sounds like a source of “free money” to those of us making less.

Perhaps we should increase the taxes on the rich, but if so we should be mindful it will take money away from the job creating private sector to cover the mistakes of our career politicians. We need to be highly suspicious of politicians whose first priority is reelection and remember that in politics power and greed trumps ethics, and hope and optimism trumps telling the whole – often pessimistic – truth. Let’s start demanding the whole truth.

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Dr. Cleland’s Ph.D. is from Purdue University where he specialized in complex systems theory. His technical training and experiences includes analyses of many types of systems, involvement with numerous federal, state, and local agencies, and management of a broad set of set of professionals, services, and trades people. He has managed scientists, engineers, policemen, firefighters, environment, health, safety and emergency planning experts, building trades and maintenance crafts personnel, and others.

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