Taxing the rich to save the middle class

Image by Jennifer Kwan

Benjamin Franklin once said: “The only things certain in life are death and taxes.” Well for Gérard Depardieu, France took things a little too far. The French actor, displeased with the emergency 75 per cent tax on millionaires, was fortunate enough to receive a Russian passport from Russian President Vladimir Putin and left the country. He was, however, quick to say that it wasn’t because of the high taxes.

This new trend of taxing the super wealthy is now a global phenomenon; rising popularity in the idea among the people has driven politicians to look at this as perhaps a vital option after the financial hardships the world has faced in the last few years. Most probably still remember the infamous Occupy movement, an international protest against social and economic inequality.

It’s this global trend that lead to what France has called “fiscal justice”, and other nations are joining in as well. Many countries, including Spain, Greece, Britain and the United States have also made moves to increase taxes for the wealthiest people in their country.

The wealthy have a responsibility to their country to help clear their nation’s deficit; they became wealthy because of the opportunities they received from their government.

Take Warren Buffett; American business magnate, investor, and philanthropist. Buffett, one of the wealthiest men in the world, talks about the advantages he has as a wealthy businessman that the middle class don’t have. In his opinions piece for the New York Times, he wrote about how he paid less income tax relative to anyone in his office. Even this billionaire is willing to admit that there is something wrong with the lack of taxes he’s paying compared to others. Countries who allow the rich to avoid paying high taxes to this extent are now finding it necessary to start charging them. Sadly, unlike Buffett, other very wealthy people are not willing to part with their money so easily, despite the fact it could give the government the boost it needs to start cutting the deficit.

Last year, former president Bill Clinton went onto CBS News’ Face the Nation, supporting President Obama’s increase of taxes on the rich in America. Clinton said that there were three steps in order to reduce a deficit, and that they must be done in this order; economic growth, increase in revenue and spending cuts.

The first step, economic growth, has been taken care of in the United States through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This act is expected to pump $831 billion into the economy from 2009 through 2019 in order to get it going again, and has already shown its benefits in the American economy. That means the next step the United States has to take is increase revenue, and that has been a cause of debate with the American government. While Democrats were pushing to increase taxation on the rich while keeping taxes low on the middle and lower class, Republicans were against any increase, especially for the top earners. Realistically, it can’t be expected that the middle class be burdened with the bill of the deficit without another recession. However, the rich, who have been gaining more and more in the uneven distribution of American wealth, can take the extra burden.

One important thing to note is that the rich paying more taxes can help reduce the austerity programs that affect the whole country. If the government were to cut these benefits in order to try and regain balance, the new hardships that would affect people across the country would hurt rather than help. The rich benefited from this system, and now is the time for them to give back and help their country.

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