Raise taxes on the rich!

A majority of people living in developed countries want their government to tax the rich more to help the poor, according to an OECD survey of 21 countries. “Too many people feel they cannot count fully on their government when they need help,” said Ángel Gurría, secretary general of the OECD, which polled 22,000 people. The UK was not included in the study, but almost 80% of people in Portugal and Greece wanted the rich taxed more, as did half of US respondents. Almost half of Americans in the survey said they would pay 2% more income tax to receive better healthcare, and one-third would be prepared to pay a 2% levy in return for better state education. (The Guardian, 12 March 2019).

Every day there are stories about heads of companies who pay themselves multi millions a year, while their low level employees have barely enough to live on.  This is unsustainable, and if the recipients of these massive salaries do not have the wisdom and human decency to acknowledge the huge disparities in wealth they will deserve no sympathy when the system upends, which I believe it must.

Under Eisenhower, in 1951, 90% was the top marginal rate of tax on high incomes.  (under a Republican administration, as well, although not many people paid it).  Even in 1980 it was still 70% In other words the rich had plenty to live on, but a big hunk of the top (or excessive, depending on your viewpoint) bit of top taxed income went to governments to support decent housing, health and education.  There was no mass famine or desperate suicides among the super-rich; at least, they were not  reported.

Over the years the rich have been able to reverse these high tax rates, pouring money at lobbyists and right-wing think tanks, to great effect.  The marginal rate is  now 37%.  The United States has morphed into an nationalist oligarchy, although most voters haven’t noticed it and still support politicians who constantly act against their best economic interests, responding only to their financial masters.

This, on top of climate change and the rise of illiberal China, will all end badly for the short- sighted and greedy.  I believe Epicurus would agree, were he with us.




  1. Hi Robert,

    Here I have to, respectfully, disagree with you.

    Epicurus encouraged respect for other’s property and said true friendship is derived from our confidence and not on material insistence and demands on others.

    I’m afraid that, ultimately, the problem may prove to be not with tax rates but, more disturbingly, with how the taxes are spent or – to put it more precisely – wasted.

    Given that, even in my brief existence, I’ve witnessed successive Liberal governments – at both the provincial and federal levels – spend the public purse wastefully, it sort of made me, like one can imagine it would’ve made Epicurus, disillusioned with politics and the authority of the state. I mean, when the auditor general concludes his investigation to report that the governments e-health program was an utter – billion dollar -waste of taxpayer money, or when the government wastes hundreds of thousands of dollars on a giant rubber duck, it has the effect of leaving you to scratch your head in confusion and rub your eyes in disbelief.

    As Epicurus taught us: “Envy No One”. The rich are human, too. I don’t take pleasure in demonizing or dehumanizing people as a consequence of the large discrepancies between our personal bank accounts. It would be very easy and all-too convenient for me – being one of our society’s poorest individuals – to support taxing the rich for my own self-serving interest. More fair it is, however, to procure their support by proving my worth and on merit by demonstrating need. Philanthropy exists amongst the rich and has often been an important, however under appreciated, factor for producing great work and advances in society. Take the famous Medici family as historical examples or Bill Gates for today – to name just a few.

    I think lowering taxes on the rich is an alternative solution, one that should be considered, too. I don’t believe the rich have bad or nefarious intentions – or are at their core different from any of us.

    If we put our feet in their shoes, why would you want to give more to governments who may not deserve or be competent to know what to do with your hard-earned money? Often, these politicians have little appreciation for how difficult it was to earn and may not even respect it since they take it for granted, expecting to generate similar or larger annual tax revenues.

    By raising taxes, I think the perception, at least how I’d perceive it if I was in the richest shoes, is that it’s a sort of insult to their intelligence. Especially, when scandals later reveal the corruption of politicians.

    This is why I feel taxes should be conserved, grown and used only to pay for the, necessities like important social programs, societal institutions with important mandates, maintenance of our crumbling infrastructure, and not to forget domestic/international security.

    If you suggested increasing fines for irresponsible or harmful corporate activities then I think you’d make a more compelling case which I could get behind more readily.

    links of interest:


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