Taxing the Rich vs Reality

Tax the rich! I hear that on MSNBC, read it online, and hear it on radio. The problem is, most of the "rich" are wealthy, which means you'd have to consider income not wealth when talking about "income taxes." You cannot tax what someone has in net worth, which might be property, money, stocks, et cetera. The wealth of Bill Gates, at $45 billion, is not income — the figure is his total wealth. You can't confiscate wealth. Even if you could, it wouldn't help the U.S. budget problem.

And, as my wife points out, Bill Gates and other billionaires paid income taxes on whatever they have already. You can't tax income twice.

I believe this is really about envy. We seem to want to punish success, and blame the successful for any financial problems our nation has. The simple truth is, our government suffers from out-of-control spending.

With a $3.5 trillion annual budget, all the wealth of Bill Gates ($45B) would fund 1.3% (4.7 days) of the U.S. government. That's it. Not even one week. The 400 richest Americans, all their wealth, would fund the system for 100 days. There are 403 billionaires in the U.S., with a total net worth of $1.28 trillion.

In other words, "the rich" aren't rich enough to fund much of what this country is wasting, from two wars to an absurd Dept. of Homeland Security. And once you took all their wealth, what would we do? The 403 billionaires have under $100B in annual income. That is a mere $50B in tax revenue at a 50% effective tax rate. Even taking all of that income would be futile. The government would burn through the money in a week. One week. (Plus, taxes aren't really assessed at a flat-rate, but are adjusted marginally. It's a complex system.)

Yes, companies are sitting on money, but that's a safety net. You want your bank sitting on money, for example. You want Apple and Google to have emergency cash reserves. I'm tired to people saying, "The rich can pay for..." No. There's not really enough money. We spend too much on dumb things.

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