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.