On the NaBloPoMo website just now, I caught a comment by someone who commented on the 45 rich people, calling themselves the “Patriotic Millionaires”, who recently petitioned the President to please tax them more by at least letting the Bush era tax cuts to lapse. This person asked a question I hear all the time that makes absolutely no sense in practice but works well when people want to sneer at the idea of people being rich enough to actually WANT to spend more money… and those people cynical enough to think all rich people want is to make more money, damn the costs to the society they live in. The question is this:
“[…] if you wanted to pay more in taxes why not just do it?”
I hear that question all the time, and it’s a stupid question. I’ll show you why in a moment, but in the meantime, the answer is: because the government would actually be obligated to pay it back, or at least apply it to next year’s taxes. It’s not like you can tell a government entity “here, take this extra money, no questions asked”. There are rules and regulations on how money handed over to the government via taxes (or most any other way, really) can be used. Taxes *have* to be paid following whatever laws currently exist.
Asking that question is exactly the same as asking “If people want to pay LESS in taxes, why not just pay less?” It’s a false argument that falls apart when looked at from the flip side.
It also ignores the difference between corporate and individual taxes. Their businesses exploit loopholes. Personally, their investments follow the rules, which (they are arguing) are too lenient given what they manage to rake in. It’s a delicate balance the rest of us who can’t afford to pay a penny more can’t even imagine, let alone understand. That’s like expecting us to understand what a light-year really means: the numbers are big, and they swim in this big ocean that separates the rich, very rich, and uber rich from everyone else.
I wouldn’t mind having that problem. I’d probably be up there with the Patriotic Millionaires.