Tax me more
By Bruce Walker
The current arguments over the Bush tax cuts, if the grade school playground "make the rich pay their fair share" taunts can be called arguments, avoids an obvious question: huge numbers of these "rich" Americans are leftists, and yet these rich leftists try to reduce their tax burden as much as possible. If the best government policy towards wealth is to tax it heavily, then why don't leftists lead the way? Isn't this sort of leadership – leadership by example – the most effective?
Mike Huckabee, when he was Governor of Arkansas nine years ago, created the "Tax Me More Fund" which allowed those leftists in the state who felt that tax rates should be higher to send a check to this fund, which would be used to help the general revenue crisis that Arkansas was facing at the time. Huckabee did not have the support of the Arkansas Legislature. He did not even have the support of Republicans in the legislature. But he acted anyway.
The "Tax Me More" policy gained political traction in other states like Kansas, Oregon and Alaska, but not at the federal level. But listen to the rhetoric of leftists and see why a federal "Tax Me More" plan makes sense: (1) leftists, including many rich leftists, argue that the federal government cannot afford tax cuts, (2) they are that, particularly, the rich – those with an income over $250,000 – need to pay a greater share of the tax burden, (3) Politically, Democrats cannot increase taxes over Republican opposition now, and (4) the left has urged us all in many areas of our lives to make sacrifices for the common good.
How many leftists are there in America who posses incomes over $250,000 per year? Seven of the top ten richest members of Congress are Democrats. These seven are very leftist Democrats too. Moreover, many of these leftists in Congress have seen their fortunes grow while they were federal legislators in public "service." The Congress is full of millionaires. The Obama Cabinet is too.
These leftists passionately argue that soaking the rich is good public policy…and they are "the rich." So why don't these leftists put their money where they mouths are? Why doesn't President Obama challenge them to pay more for the cost of the federal government voluntarily? Obama might be able to establish a "Tax Me More Fund" by executive order, like Huckabee did, but would it not make more sense to seek a bipartisan consensus? Why not ask Congress to formalize the "Tax Me More" for the rich in the tax code?
This could be done very simply. Change the tax forms so that every taxpayer with a gross income of more than $250,000 would have to check one of two boxes: "(A) I pay enough in federal income taxes," or "(B) I ought to pay more in federal income taxes and I am paying an additional sum in the amount of $___________." Then make the taxpayer and his response to that single question public record.
Those leftists, who felt that their tax burden was high enough, but that other rich folks should pay more, would have to publicly state that. John French Kerry's net worth increased by $20 million during our nation's economic crisis, while other Americans saw their life savings melt into nothing. Does Kerry feel that "the rich" pay too little? Then, by all means, let him pay more! Let him lead by example! Let him chip in an extra $10 million or so to the United States Treasury, and then he can try to figure out how to survive with a net worth of a measly $170 million.
The left shirks most public obligations. As all political pundits know, the overwhelming majority of the brave men and women who place their lives in harms way for our sake are conservatives. (Recall how Gore tried to keep the votes of this natural constituency of conservatives thrown out in Florida, while he tried to allow the votes of his natural constituency, felons, counted?) No one is asking leftists to risk their lives or their limbs for their ideal of America. It is enough if they voluntarily pay, as "the rich," what they believe the other rich should pay.
Would it work? Would leftist millionaires and billionaires leap with joy at the prospect of helping America more by helping that part of our nation which they cherish most, the federal government? Virginia enacted "Tax Me More" in 2002. How much have Virginians, knowing that they really paid too little in state taxes, contributed since then? A whopping $12,887.04, and in the Democrat tide year of 2006, guilty hearted leftists in Virginia gave a breathtaking $19.36 to state treasury. The Virginia Department of Revenue actually lists on its website those Virginians who felt that they needed to pay more to the Commonwealth and who acted on that sentiment. How many "General Fund Donors" are listed? Five donors.
The truth is clear: everyone, including super-rich leftists who could not spend all their wealth if they tried to, sees the federal government as a giant septic tank that needs no more "contributions." Many leftists are as cheeky about this as the Clintons (who, recall, tried to deduct the donation of their underwear as a charitable deduction.) How to make this blazingly clear to ordinary Americans? Republicans should seek a "Tax Me More" provision into any bill to maintain the Bush tax cuts, and then listen to the left whine.
Bruce Walker is the author of a new book Poor Lenin's Almanac: Perverse Leftists Proverbs for Modern Life.