Home > Uncategorized > The Cult of Thrift and the Need for Higher Taxes for Billionaires

The Cult of Thrift and the Need for Higher Taxes for Billionaires

September 22, 2018

Wednesday’s NYTimes featured an op ed article by Lisa Pryor describing a “Cult of Thrift” she joined.  Describing a host of articles, podcasts, and books devoted to the need for less consumerism, less debt, and more simplification of one’s life, Ms. Pryor makes a good case for the benefits of anti-materialism. New the end of the article, she acknowledges that this is relatively painless for people like herself who are relatively affluent and do not need to be concerned about having their basic needs met. And then she offers this thought for those with even more wealth:

If we want to tackle inequality, those in higher income brackets must understand that they have the power to live within their means, that they have more than enough, not only to support themselves but to give more to others in the form of taxation or philanthropy.

I wrote a comment in response to this paragraph, noting that I support the idea that “…those in higher income brackets must understand that they have the power to live within their means, that they have more than enough” but oppose the idea that they should be entitled to …give more to others in the form of philanthropyIf we rely on philanthropy to solve our social problems, we will wait a long time to get our roads, our schools, our social services, our health care crisis, and our income inequality addressed.

My recommendation would be to develop a tax code that explicitly defines “ENOUGH” and levies high taxes in excess of that figure. Is a salary of, say, $500,000 per year ENOUGH? Is passing along an inheritance of, say, $1,000,000 ENOUGH? Are profits of, say, 4% per year ENOUGH?

High tax rates for those who have “enough” are not unprecedented. Under Eisenhower the top tax rate was 91% and our economy was healthy. If we could agree on what constitutes ENOUGH and levied higher tax rates above that figure, we might find that there is ENOUGH money to rebuild our infrastructure, provide affordable health care to everyone, and upgrade our schools and public services.

If we rely on philanthropists, we will have more museums, more college buildings, and more privatization designed to fatten the wallets of shareholders.

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  1. Byron Knutsen
    September 22, 2018 at 6:04 pm

    I just wonder who thinks they can play God better than others to define “Enough”? With this kind of thinking, we will soon be having panels to decide when a sick person has lived long “enough”. What can we expect now? We are at a place in our society that we only support those who think like ourselves – look at all the marches and counter marches, what is taught in public.We seem to be afraid to support that which is different. Thus, giving is way down. So it is interesting that now not the solution is that we will force people to be good – lets teach and show instead.

    • September 26, 2018 at 9:43 am

      We have decided that $7.50 is enough to live on and at one time we decided that earnings over a certain threshold should be taxed at 91%… and by “we” I mean the officials we elected to office. Because Congress is incapable of achieving a compromise on tough issues we are leaving the decisions to “the market” or to philanthropists… and we’ve already seen that if the health insurance market is unregulated it will not insure anyone with pre-existing medical conditions. I can support any politician who levels with folks and tells them that they have to choose between higher taxes or fewer services. At this point I don’t believe either party is leveling with us…

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