tax the rich

Before it closed December 5 I finally got around to submitting an idea to the contest for the best idea to improve the life of working Americans. The idea was simple: Tax the Rich.

Hardly original, yet clearly an idea that would vastly benefit your average working American – but so out of vogue after a decade or two of what used to be called “voodoo economics” and “read my lips: no new taxes” politics that when I searched the 10,000 previous entries I could find nothing like it.

Instead, the closest match I could find was something about eliminating taxes on the rich to stimulate the economy and so make jobs for working people – confirmation, as if any were needed, that voodoo economics has now become the reigning ideology in America, if not the world.

The details of my idea were equally straightforward: take 99% of all income that would put someone among the top 0.1% of incomes – a group that pulls in 10% of all income earned in America these days – and 90% of income that would put you among the top 1%. After that’s done you can start taxing the rest of us.

Did I really expect to win with this entry? Of course not – though as with entering any lottery, you always have hope. Especially since the top prize was $100,000 – and my chances 1 in 10,000, all other things being equal. At least I might be one of the 21 finalists chosen by a committee of eminent Americans (the usual suspects – ex-politicians, corporate and non-profit board members, establishment academics, etc.) – my chances were better than 1 in 500 of that. And judging by the few I looked at, the quality of the other entries was generally poor.

But I did hope to make people think, and maybe get an honorable mention out of it to help repropagate the idea. And failing that, I could always blog about it here.

Just before the deadline arrived, I logged back on once or twice to submit a few other unusual ideas – Eliminate the Need for Unions, Found a “99% of Americans” Movement, Award Jobs by Lot, Hire Kids Right Out of High School, and Test All Promising Drugs. Someone else had already submitted another pet idea before I got around to it – Nationalize Health Care – so I just submitted a glowing review of it. And I forgot to submit another pet idea I’ve long meditated – Treat Corporations Even More Like Individuals – which would have involved giving them a finite life span similar to ours, and making them liable to such criminal penalities as being put in prison (i.e., out of operation for a term), or even death for the most egregious malefactors.

Did I intend any of these ideas seriously? Well, yes, I must admit – but I also intended them in the utopian vein I learned from Thomas More, when I wrote a chapter of my Yale Ph.D. chapter on his The Best State of a Commonwealth, and the New Found Island of Utopia; I’ll have to post a link here sometime so anyone who’s interested can see what this means precisely to me. For now, I’ll just have to say – I also intended them to shock people a little, into an awareness of how unjust and indefensible current economic arrangements actually are. Kind of like saying – Wake Up! Don’t you realize you’re getting screwed?

And unlike More’s situation under an absolute king like Henry VIII – we live in a democracy, and could easily do something about it, if only we could shake off the fog of all that received wisdom the apoligists for the rich have fed us over the years – and the slave mentality we’ve internalized, licking our wounds. Why don’t we?

Beats me.

Posted Sunday, January 15th, 2006 under Uncategorized.


  1. This is a great idea. It would solve one of our societies greatest problems – women in the work place.

    I make just below the 90% income bracket. My wife has not worked the last few years due to our young children. Now she wants to work out of the home but I do not want her to. IF the government was going to take 95% plus of her income (including state and social security) she would not be able to afford to work.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Yes, that’s the beauty of the idea: no one in your bracket would feel like they need to take another job just to make incrementally more than everyone else – and so drive up the cost of everything, including housing, erasing the gains they think they’re making – and making everyone else a little poorer in the process.

    On the other hand, maybe your wife would enjoy working now – and would like a job even if all the extra money went to the government for public services.

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