When "I Can" Becomes "You Must"

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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