Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The patriotic eight

So Salon.com did a survey of the Forbes 400, the richest people in the country, billionaires all.  They asked them if they would willingly pay more taxes to help the country get out of its economic slump and on the way to prosperity.  Most of the 400 declined to respond to the survey.  Three unhesitatingly said no, they would not pay more taxes. Among these three was Charles Koch of the infamous Koch Brothers - no surprise there. One respondent gave an ambivalent "maybe" reply. And eight of the 400 stated that they would be willing to pay more taxes to help the country.  These eight were Todd Wagner, Leon Cooperman, Mark Cuban, James Simons, George Soros, Herbert Simon, John Arnold, and, of course, Warren Buffett.  We'll call them the "Patriotic Eight" for paying taxes is, in fact, a patriotic duty, no less than picking up a weapon and going to war when your country needs defending.

As that champion of the middle class, Elizabeth Warren, has pointed out, no one gets rich by himself.  Certainly, no one becomes a billionaire by himself.  Each of the Forbes 400 has taken advantage of the infrastructure paid for by the taxes of their fellow Americans - the roads, railroads, airport systems, not to mention the military defending their interests around the world and the civilian police force maintaining order so that they can do business, and, of course, an educational system that trains people to be productive employees, and on and on.  All parties fulfilling their obligations under the social contract that keeps our society running contribute to Charles Koch and George Soros being able to make wagon loads of money every day that they breathe.  Does it not seem fair that such people should themselves fulfill their obligations under the social contract to keep our society solvent and able to provide the services that we expect of government?  Should such people not pay a comparable share of their income in taxes as a laborer, a store clerk, a teacher, or a policeman pays?  Charles Koch says "no."  George Soros and seven of his peers say "yes."

Fair taxation is one of the underpinnings of a civil, equitable society.  It is at least encouraging that a few billionaires believe that and love their country enough to be willing to act on it.  

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