When advocating for high taxes on the wealthy – because high taxes on the rich causes them to actually do what they always promise lower taxes might someday encourage them to do – one often receives a predictable response: “Why should I have to give up more of the money I earned?” I can speak to that. First, if you aren’t currently a member of the one percent, you can relax. Nobody’s talking about you. (In fact, if the one percent would pay their fair share, your taxes could go down…) If you ARE a member of the one percent, you can relax, too. YOU…didn’t “earn” it. You KEPT it, sure. But you didn’t earn it.
THAT accomplishment belongs to that maligned group of people known collectively as “the workers.” You know…those who do the actual work that produces the revenues you’ve chosen to keep. But fortuitously finding yourself in a position where you get to choose who gets what isn’t the same as “earning.” So, now the workers should be asking you, why should I give up the money I earned? The answer is the same, “Because I started the business.”
Oh, because YOU started the business? Two things: One, what if you didn’t? What if someone else started the business and you just happened to end up running the show? Think of the Walton clan. Two, even if you did actually start the business, YOU didn’t produce all of that beautiful revenue alone – so why should you, alone, benefit so mightily from the results? “Oh, because I took the chance.”
Yeah, you did. Of course, so did the workers. They took the chance, too. In fact, because the workers don’t have a say in the direction of the company and because you chose to pay yourself an inordinate salary while leaving the workers to turn to the state to make ends meet, the workers face a bigger risk than you. The stakes are higher for the employee than the employer. At least you have something to fall back on should the whole thing come crashing down…
As it happens, there’s actually a very solid way to determine how much MORE the person who starts the business should get to keep than the workers. It’s a question: How much could a person earn in that business with no employees? Whatever that magic number is, THAT’S the number! Not surprisingly, the number changes from business to business. Here’s an example. I referenced the Walton offspring earlier. My understanding is that Sam Walton sired five children. So…one to drive the truck. One does the paperwork. One works the register. Two stock the shelves. See? They could run a store. One store. One small store. So…WHY, exactly, do they get to pocket hundreds of millions of dollars in profits while their employees – those who do the work the generates the revenues – have to turn to food stamps?
Of course, people could still get rich. Warren Buffet still would have done quite well for himself. But if HE had to dot the i’s and cross the t’s on the the SEC filings and tax forms, he could not have done as well for himself as he has. The tedious parts of his business would have slowed him down. No matter how you slice it, it’s a group effort.
I’ll tell you this: it’s not right that workers in this country are treated as pariahs and parasites. It’s not honest, it’s not fair, and it’s not sustainable. I know, it’s the current paradigm but I suspect it’s not going to end well…