Sunday, December 11, 2011

For the Gazillionth Time, Why the Rich Should Pay More Taxes

Today, I ran across someone online arguing that giving people unemployment checks makes them dependent on the government and that we shouldn't make the ultra-rich pay more in taxes, because it's wrong to target people based on income. This is pretty basic, but it's obvious that it needs to be spelled out for some folks.

My family lives in a private neighborhood with a fancy paved brick entrance. My daughter babysits and tutors a couple of kids. They live on our street, so she can walk to their house and bring them over here or stay at their house and carry out her job teaching them to read. Our city contracts out the garbage collection services that we pay the city to provide. The garbage collection company sends its workers down this street and their trucks break up our nice brick paved entrance to our nice private neighborhood. Both businesses (my daughter's and the garbage collection company) use this street. They don't use them to the same degree or with the same frequency or effect.

When the entrance gets so messed up that that it must be fixed, who should be held responsible for the damage? Should my daughter be held responsible for the damage? If her tennis shoes happened to kick a loose brick fragment, you might be able to make the argument that she's also responsible for the condition that it's in. However, would it be ethical to make her pay as much as the garbage company should pay for the repairs? I think that would be ridiculous. It's obvious that her feet aren't heavy enough to have the same effect as a huge garbage truck driving over the entrance.

Fortunately, the folks on this street can afford to repair the damage to our paved entrance without having to bother with making the city pay for the problem that their contracted business caused. However, what about the wear and tear that these heavy trucks put on public streets? When those streets need to be fixed, the city will have to pay for it. It will get the money to pay for it through taxes. Should the guy who has no car and has a one-man business that he runs out of his house be forced to pay as much in taxes as the guy who owns all of these garbage trucks that go rumbling through every street in our city? Making the garbage truck owner pay more in taxes isn't targeting him because of his income. He's being made to pay more, because he is using a lot more of the city's resources.

The owner of the corner store near my old apartment buys the ingredients for his po'boys from Sam's Wholesale Club (I've seen him in there doing it). He's going to use the streets to get his goods from his supplier and back to his store. He uses his car. It's, maybe, a 15 minute drive. However, Sam's uses trains and 18-wheeler trucks criss-crossing the country and the state to get their goods from the supplier to their multiple stores. Is it unfair to make Walmart/Sam's pay more in taxes than the guy who sells sandwiches? I don't think so. It's ridiculous to treat all Americans as if they use America's resources equally. Walmart/Sam's and the garbage collection company use put more wear and tear on the streets of my city, than the small-business owner with an at-home office or a single family-owned corner store.

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