“Tax breaks for the wealthy!”
It sounds so scandalous to hear those five words strung together in that order- or at least it’s supposed to sound that way. And the slogan belongs on the “greatest hits” list of the current crop of feelings-based phrases from Washington politicians.
As President Obama and members of Congress struggle to convince us that they are trustworthy on economic and fiscal policy, thoughtful Americans should be paying close attention. Despite our dire need for real economic solutions, Washington is stuck in “emotions mode” as the rhetoric of the politicians is simply intended to make us feel good about them, and badly about their opponents.
If we’re going to get past the politics and arrive at solutions, we the people will first need to reject the feelings-based rhetoric and begin demanding facts. This means that we need to become more well-versed in facts ourselves, and begin challenging the politicians with facts (not just shouting and “emoting” at them). One of the most challenging ways to respond to the comments of a politician is to simply ask them, “What do you mean by that?”
Think about it. When President Obama or Senator Harry Reid or Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi fuss about “tax breaks for the wealthy,” it engenders feelings of envy and anger towards people who possess more wealth than us (isn’t that the vague way in which they define “rich” – someone who has more than me?) and it suggests that the rich are getting away with something naughty.
But when politicians say “tax breaks for the wealthy,” what if we were to ask, “How are you defining “break?’ Somebody is allegedly getting a “break,” but from what are they getting a break?
The fact is that the U.S. Congress and former President Bush all voted to reduce federal income tax rates back in 2001. The law is the law, and the law that stipulates our current taxation rates has been in place for slightly over a decade. Perhaps it make sense to say that rich people are getting a “break” from the taxation rates of the 1990’s, but this is also true of middle and lower income earners as well.
And not only have we all been given a “break” from the 90’s taxation rates – the law has been repeatedly reinstated by the President and the Congress over the past decade, and most recently got approved by President Obama and the democratically controlled House and Senate a year ago.
Spouting off about alleged “breaks” for the rich may satiate some people’s feelings of jealousy or resentment, but it doesn’t grow the economy. We should all be questioning our members of Congress with the facts about our “break from the 90’s,”when they default to their “hate the rich” feelings-based rhetoric.
And here’s another one from the greatest hits list of Washington politicians: the rich need to pay their “fair share” in taxes. President Obama and members of his party love to use this line. They never really define what a “fair share” is, but once again this language isn’t supposed to stipulate any succinct policy. It’s intended to make us feel as though wealthy people are getting away with something wayward.
The fact is that the top 10% of income earners in America pay roughly 70% of all income taxes. Worse yet, the bottom 40% of income earners are getting close to paying nearly none of the income taxes in our country – which means that we’re getting dangerously close to a scenario where a majority of Americans simply live as beneficiaries of the minority’s largesse.
This type of arrangement is, in a word, “unsustainable.” And it is unconscionable that President Obama and the Congress would not only allow this to happen, but would actually help usher-in this new level of dependency and economic destructiveness.
If our government is to ever return to fiscal sanity, we must first reject the self-serving, emotionally-driven rhetoric of politicians, and demand that they produce substantive solutions.