A Modest (Tax) Proposal

I think I agree with Rep. Boehner that our wealthiest citizens should not be excluded from receiving a tax break. The GOP claims those citizens can make things better for the rest of us, if only the government doesn’t tax them personally. That has an obvious corollary, that those 2% of citizens have a lot to do with the state of what the other 98% are getting in their paycheck.

But I would offer a different system for calculating the tax break for our wealthiest citizens.

Those earning over $250,000 should be able to apply for, and receive, the tax cut amount that the median income of the rest of the workforce in the USA receives that year. This would eliminate any concerns that the tax cut would impose too much debt over the next ten years, as continuing the Bush tax cuts would. It is a fair amount, one that half of the rest of the country would be thrilled to get.

An effective tax structure would be one that, in control system terms, produced positive feedback for the wealthiest citizens helping to make things better for the rest of us, and negative feedback when they insist on making things worse. Right now, they have a cultural structure in the private sector that gives positive feedback for making things worse. Recently, some of our wealthiest citizens got huge salaries and bonuses for gouging wage concessions out of other citizens, outsourcing other citizens’ jobs, and generating more “productivity” by laying off part of the work force and making the rest of the workforce maintain the same output (a strategy only slightly reworked from Moses’ Pharoah commanding that brick production go on as before, but without providing straw).

There’s nothing I know of in the tax code now that would associate how well the rest of the country is doing with the 2% that the GOP claims vociferously are in charge of the employment and compensation situation in the country. Having lots of underpaid, overworked citizens apparently has no effect on anything that 2% wants.

However, if the amount of the tax burden is, even in part, tied to the median income of the rest of the working public, there would be some influence — no matter how tiny — toward making it pay for that top 2% to care that the median wage of the rest of the citizenry should go up over time.

Unfortunately, I think that the effect would be swamped by the massive compensation packages the “job creators” get for making those jobs less pleasant, less available, and less worthwhile for their fellow citizens. But tying tax burden for the wealthiest citizens to how well their fellow citizens are doing would seem to me to be a small first step in the direction we need to go. If they improve things for everybody, then great — their tax burden goes down. If they make things worse, their tax burden goes up. Maybe the tax burden should be tied to change in the median wage per year to assess whether the tax amount goes down — or up. More may need to be done to put that amount on a par with what the cultural (private sector) financial feedback systems tell our wealthiest citizens, but adopting the concept would make a start.

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Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.