President Obama is right. It is time for “fairness.” It is time to ask some Americans to do more, contribute more, sacrifice more. But like most things Mr. Obama does, he has singled out the wrong group. The rich and business owners already pay far too much in taxes. They already sacrifice too much. They already share their wealth too much. The top 1 percent of income earners (almost all of whom are small-business owners) already pay 40 percent of the personal income taxes in America, more than the bottom 95 percent combined.
The top 20 percent of income earners pay almost 100 percent of the income taxes in this country. That means 80 percent of the population pays almost no income taxes and a full 50 percent pay zero income tax.
Mr. Obama said, “Warren Buffett’s secretary shouldn’t pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett.” The problem with that statement is that it’s a lie. Let’s get the facts straight. The typical household with more than $1 million in income will pay an average of 29.1 percent in federal taxes this year. The typical household making between $50,000 and $75,000 will pay 15 percent in taxes. Lower-income households (below $50,000) will pay an average of 12.5 percent in federal taxes (most in the form of Social Security taxes). In dollar terms, that means the typical millionaire will pay $290,000 in taxes and the typical middle-class family earning $50,000 will pay $7,500. But most importantly, almost all of that $7,500 is Social Security taxes, which theoretically they will get back after they retire.
Why doesn’t Mr. Obama quote the actual numbers and ask Americans if this sounds fair? One American pays $290,000 in taxes. The other pays $7,500. Mr. Obama calls this “unfair.” As you can see, he’s right. It’s definitely unfair - unfair to the 20 percent of the citizens who pay virtually 100 percent of the cost of government benefits, which are enjoyed for free by the other 80 percent of the population.
Mr. Obama purposely leaves out the fact that the rich and business owners earn their money, many by risking their life savings to start a business. In almost every case, they’ve worked long hours that most people could not tolerate. These small-business owners whose risk and sacrifice create the 9-to-5 jobs for their employees, also pay half the payroll taxes, health insurance and worker compensation costs for their employees. They also pay virtually 100 percent of the taxes in this country to support more than 21 million government employees, one-fifth of whom make more than $100,000 a year for a 9-to-5 job.
If Mr. Obama were honest, he would say, “From now on, everyone who risks their life savings and gives up the security of a five-days-a-week, 9-to-5 job, early retirement and guaranteed pension to start a business must be punished and have their earnings confiscated and redistributed to my voters.”
How would Americans feel about that statement? Sadly, many of the 50 percent who have their hands out but don’t pay taxes would applaud. Remember that famous quote from an Obama supporter: “I just want some of that Obama money.”
It isn’t just small-business owners being discriminated against. Most doctors, lawyers, accountants and other highly paid professionals also sacrifice, many investing countless dollars and hours in their education. After their years of sacrifice and investment, what right does Mr. Obama and his liberal/progressive/socialist cabal have to demonize them for paying only 29 percent in federal taxes so he can buy even more votes from the 50 percent of entitlement takers and nontaxpayers who never sacrificed or invested?
Why won’t Mr. Obama have an open and honest discussion with America about this? The answer is that the progressive left (i.e., socialists) hate facts. The facts tell the true story. The rich already are paying more than their fair share, sacrificing more, risking more, working longer hours and shouldering almost 100 percent of America’s income tax burden. Now is not the time to target, demonize and punish them. Now is the time to reward them. It’s time to stop class warfare and tell the truth.
The cold, hard truth is that the rest of America - the poor, the lower-middle class, the unions and the government employees have to pull more of the load. The reality is that Mr. Obama’s voters get a free ride as a bribe to vote, support and contribute to the president. Yes, we need more “fairness.” The problem is that Obama voters - those doing the most protesting and complaining - are the ones who need a refresher course in the definition of “fair.” They want something for nothing. It’s not just that they want it, they expect and demand it. It’s no surprise when pollsters ask Obama voters whether others should pay higher taxes, they emphatically answer “yes.” Why not? It costs them nothing, and they get 100 percent of the benefits.
So, Mr. Obama is right. Let’s make the tax system fairer. Let’s ask Mr. Obama’s voters to sacrifice, contribute and bear at least a little more of the load.
One last thought: If Warren Buffett and his jet-set billionaire crowd don’t like the 15 percent capital gains rate, instead of lying about the facts and hurting the small-business owners who create almost all the jobs, they can simply reclassify all their capital gains as regular income and pay the full 35 percent tax rate. If they still think that’s too low, the superrich liberals of the world can voluntarily pay 100 percent of their income as a gift to the poor. No one is stopping them. Let’s see them put their money where their mouths are. Unfortunately, that’s not Mr. Buffett’s agenda. His agenda is keeping taxes so high on the rest of us that we can never compete with him. He’s already got his $45 billion.
Wayne Allyn Root is a former Libertarian vice-presidential nominee and author of “The Conscience of a Libertarian: Empowering the Citizen Revolution With God, Guns, Gold, Gambling & Tax Cuts” (Wiley, 2009). He writes at RootforAmerica.com.