Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wealth vs work: our tax system

Take two taxpayers with incomes of $400,000 a year:

One is a neurosurgeon who, the first in her family to attend college, broke through the glass ceiling through hard work and now earns $400,000 per year, on which she pays a top marginal income tax rate of 35 percent.

The other is a wealthy heir who, instead of working, jaunts port-to-port on a yacht while collecting $400,000 a year in investment income from his multi-million-dollar inheritance, on which he pays a top marginal tax rate of only 15 percent.
Those two hypothetical cases illustrate one of the gross inequities of America’s “two-tiered” tax system. It rewards income from stocks, dividends, real estate and investment portfolios with a marginal tax rate of only15 percent, while income from work – wages and salaries – pays 35 percent.

A surprising group of wealthy taxpayers have stepped up to the plate to propose an end to this favoritism toward wealth over work. Responsible Wealth and United for a Fair Economy have launched a campaign to “Tax Wealth Like Work.”

Among the points made by the campaign:

-- “Eliminating the special break for capital gains and dividend income would raise enough to completely avoid the massive $61 billion in budget cuts being proposed by Republican members of Congress.”

-- “Alternatively, the revenue could be used as federal aid to states, eliminating a significant portion of the $112 billion in budget deficits faced by 44 states.[

-- “Taxing the earnings of just the top 13 hedge fund managers as ordinary income, instead of the special 15% rate as capital gains, would generate enough revenue to pay for 300,000 teachers.”

For details, see the Website

Although the issue of taxes is not treated in the encyclical by Pope John Paul II titled “On Human Work,” the document gives no support to a two-tier tax system. To the contrary. Certainly not in its chapter, “Priority of Labor.” (

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Allan Ornstein said...

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