The Super-Rich Deserve Higher Taxes.

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Ezra Klein bemoans the slow creep of "moral language" into our debate over tax cuts:

The effort to separate support for popular middle-class tax cuts from unpopular upper-class tax cuts has let a sort of moral language creep into the conversation. As if rich people "deserve" higher taxes because they're somehow bad, rather than because their share of the national income has gone up and their tax rates have gone down. [...]

The argument for taxing people who make more than $250,000 isn't that they're bad people, and it isn't that they won't notice the tax increase. It's that we've got a very large budget imbalance, and we're going to need to do a lot of things to correct it.

This might be true for some groups of upper-middle-class/rich professionals. Doctors and lawyers have seen their share of national income increase over the last decade, but on the whole, they aren't bad people, and are mostly passive recipients of the upward redistribution of wealth. But of the wealth that has accumulated in the hands of the rich, the majority hasn't gone to doctors, or lawyers, or anyone else on the lower distribution of the curve; it's gone to the super-rich, the people whose wealth and income dwarf the overwhelming majority of everyone in the United States.

Simply put, this top 0.1 percent of earners has seen its share of the national income increase by nearly fourfold over the last several decades, with most of it coming by way of financial markets. And from subprime lending to shady credit-card schemes, the financial-services industry was an aggressively active participant in the upward redistribution of wealth; as many have described, a culture of greed and irresponsibility flourished on Wall Street and allowed bankers and traders to heap mountains of debt onto consumers, reap enormous gains, and eventually collapse the global economy.

Granted, not every banker is a glorified loan shark, and not every trader is disastrously over-entitled, but on the whole, how are these people not morally culpable for their role in destroying millions of livelihoods? After more than a decade of extracting wealth from the economy, why shouldn't we use the language of morality to describe the obligation they have to the rest of us? I have no problem with using technocratic language to explain a policy of higher taxes on the rich, but that doesn't preclude us from using moral language to place those higher taxes in a broader context. For my part, the super rich really should see those higher taxes as the price they pay for playing games with our country's prosperity. They have earned our scorn; we should oblige them.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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