When “I Can” Becomes “You Must”

posted at 5:45 pm on November 27, 2010 by Jimmie Bise, Jr

Breitbart’s news site has an interesting article about how nearly 2000 very rich people are lobbying the Democrats to raise taxes on “the rich”, defined as those people who make over $250,000 a year. Laying aside the issue of whether a small business owner who reports that income on an individual tax return (and there are quite a few of those folks) is “rich, I’d like to issue a challenge to the wealthy letter-signers who feel it’s okay to force other people to live under their moral code.

According to the article, there are 1,911 rich progressives in two separate groups who want the tax increases to happen. Now, the Obama administration reckons that if we don’t raise taxes, it will “cost” the national treasury about $680 billion dollars over the next decade, or $68 billion a year. So I did a little quick math and found that if each of those 1,911 rich progressives would pony up $35,583,464.20 each year for the next ten years, then hundreds of thousands of small business owners and, yes, even evil wealthy layabouts will get to keep their money and use it as they see fit.

You might ask me, “Jimmie, why should just 1,911 people bear the burden of the rich in this country, who just keep getting richer?” Well, I’ll tell you. See, the issue here is not “shared sacrifice” or whether “the rich” pay “their fair share”, as determined by someone else. We already know that the wealthiest among us pay far more than their fair share of taxes every year. If you are making more than $250,000 a year, you’re already carrying more of the freight than you should, if we’re talking about “fairness”.

The real issue is the difference between “I can” and “You must”. Let me pull a couple or three quotes from the story to illustrate my point.

“I think the country’s in trouble,” [Guy] Saperstein [the organizer of one of the letter-writing efforts] told AFP. “In hard times, the top strata who have done fabulously well need to sacrifice a bit, and it’s not much of a sacrifice… We have among the lowest tax rates of any industrialized democracy.” [...]

Philippe Villers, a French-born US businessman who founded Computervision in the 1960s and now heads Grain Pro, says he signed the letter even though it would mean higher taxes for himself.

“I don’t think (extending the tax cuts for the wealthy) are fair or in the interest of building a strong economy,” he said. [...]

“I’ve had a good run over the last few years. There’s no question that others now deserve to share in that prosperity,” said…Jeffrey Hayes, president of Stratalys Research & Consulting.

Similar comments have come from Warren Buffett, the investment guru who ranks among the world’s richest individuals.

“I think that people at the high end — people like myself — should be paying a lot more in taxes. We have it better than we’ve ever had it,” Buffett said in an ABC News interview.

Now, these statements may or may not be true, but what is clear is that each of them feel that they are doing quite well financially and should pay higher taxes. If you sat down with each of them and showed them how much it would take to offset the desired tax increase, I have no doubt they certainly could write that check every year. Ben and Jerry’s, whose founders are among the most vocal proponents of the tax increase, grossed between $200 million and $500 million last year. I’m sure that they could take a chunk of that money and put it toward their stated goal of pushing “new models of economic justice” quite easily. Buffet himself has pledged to give away 99 percent of his wealth to philanthropic causes. What’s another few million among the billions he has?

But they won’t and I’ll tell you why. They have “I can” confused with “You must”. This confusion is at the very heart of the progressive mindset. Folks like Saperstein and Buffet believe that because they can easily weather a big tax increase, everyone else has to, or it wouldn’t be “fair”. But what is fairness if it is coerced? How is it fair to force someone else to contribute to the “moral good” only in the way you believe such a contribution should happen? They are not asking the President to tax them more as much as they are asking him to tax everyone more, otherwise their letter would have gone to the IRS instead and had several large checks attached to it.

Ultimately, these millionaires illustrate more about the central conceit of progressivism than they do fairness of “social justice”. They can pay more in taxes, but they won’t until they make everyone around them pay more, too. But that’s not fair, friends, and we all know it.


Jimmie runs The Sundries Shack and has his own very entertaining podcast called “The Delivery”. He is also an amateur musician, an aspiring composer, an unrepentant geek and an avid fan of Twitter. This article is cross-posted there.


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Comment pages: 1 2

you’ll hear a different tune from ALL those that want to pull up the ladder of success to keep the rest of us out

Do you realize that since Bush lowered taxes on the most wealthy, middle class incomes have actually decreased? Today, there’s never been a bigger divide between the wealthy and the rest of society. This country is starting to look like Europe or Latin America- massive wealth at the top while the rest of the country struggles to pay bills.

If that’s the kind of country you want to live in, then don’t worry, we’re headed in that direction.

bayam on November 28, 2010 at 9:14 PM

Are you trying to infer that capitalism, at its apex, can lead to self-importance and guilt, so capitalism as an economic system is flawed?

Have you read any bios of Warren Buffet or familiarized yourself with the speeches or writings of Charlie Munger? These are men of exceptional intelligence and authentic character… you’d be an idiot to see either man an anything other than a role model for success in business and life.

I’m always puzzled by claims that the success of men like Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs, and Eric Schmidt represents some kind of zero-sum game driven by a maniacal need to prevent others from winning. It’s the kind of talk you’d expect to hear from socialists. Especially given Buffet’s history as a white knight and protector of the little guy on Wall Street. You need to respect his success and unique insights rather than engage in ad hominem attacks simply because you don’t agree with some of his points of view.

bayam on November 28, 2010 at 9:14 PM

If that’s the kind of country you want to live in, then don’t worry, we’re headed in that direction.

bayam on November 28, 2010 at 9:14 PM


Keep voting democrat!

Inanemergencydial on November 28, 2010 at 9:35 PM

Do you realize that since Bush lowered taxes on the most wealthy, middle class incomes have actually decreased? Today, there’s never been a bigger divide between the wealthy and the rest of society. This country is starting to look like Europe or Latin America- massive wealth at the top while the rest of the country struggles to pay bills.

If that’s the kind of country you want to live in, then don’t worry, we’re headed in that direction.

bayam on November 28, 2010 at 9:14 PM

Forgive me for being dense, but what good will come out of raising taxes and address this situation?

itsspideyman on November 28, 2010 at 11:49 PM

… This country is starting to look like Europe or Latin America- massive wealth at the top while the rest of the country struggles to pay bills…

bayam on November 28, 2010 at 9:14 PM

First, you need to answer this, “How did these wealthy get to be wealthy, did they work for it or did they steal it from someone else?”

If you, like the rest of wealth-envy crowd, believe they stole it from someone else, explain how they did it and from whom did they STEAL it.

Second, if they worked hard and had innovative products and services that other people want to pay for, then STFU and get your lazy ass off the couch and get to work!

belad on November 29, 2010 at 7:43 AM

…These are men of exceptional intelligence and authentic character… you’d be an idiot to see either man an anything other than a role model for success in business and life.

I’m always puzzled by claims that the success of men like Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs, and Eric Schmidt represents some kind of zero-sum game driven by a maniacal need to prevent others from winning. It’s the kind of talk you’d expect to hear from socialists. Especially given Buffet’s history as a white knight and protector of the little guy on Wall Street. You need to respect his success and unique insights rather than engage in ad hominem attacks simply because you don’t agree with some of his points of view.

bayam on November 28, 2010 at 9:14 PM

Hey, you forgot Bill Gates, the wonder boy who had the novel idea to usurp someone elses’ work and call it his.

You need to determine from what direction Warren Buffett is coming from. He doesn’t want to be taxed more, if he did he wouldn’t have an army of tax accountants and lawyers making sure he is paying the minimum amount of taxes possible. There is now law restricting anyone from sending the IRS a check for additional payments to reduce the debt. What Buffett, et. al., are engaged in is nothing more than pulling up the ladder of success to make it much more difficult for anyone else to get to where they are. His words ring hollow because he hasn’t decided to reduce his net worth to that magical number of $250,000. He, like the rest of the elites, consider himself above the “little people” and wants to ration wealth.

belad on November 29, 2010 at 7:54 AM

Oh, I think this is about keeping the competition down. It’s so much easier than keeping your status by being a strong competitor.

LarryD on November 29, 2010 at 10:42 AM

Comment pages: 1 2