I have to admit, I'm confused. What I'm hearing is that we have to get the rich guys to pay their fair share.
Personally, I think the rich guys should carry their fair share of the tax burden. After all, they're the ones with money and can afford to pay. Also, they didn't get rich by themselves; they got rich with help from family and friends, from their school system, their employees, their government -- sometimes literally with lucrative government contracts. It's time for them to give back a little.
But that leaves me with two problems. First, who are the rich guys?
They're the ones on Wall Street, certainly, who played fast and loose with the nation's finances then got bailed out by the government because they were "too big to fail." Most of them are not crooks; they are not Nazis. But they were irresponsible. And these people for the most part not only got away with their financial terrorism, but were rewarded for it, receiving bigger bonuses than ever. On the other hand, they're also paying back a lot of those government loans and if the stock market is any indication, they're helping to right the financial ship. Still ... it's hard to have much sympathy for them.
What about the people who supported extending the Bush tax cuts to the rich? The doctors and dentists, the lawyers and engineers, the corporate managers and business entrepreneurs. These are the majority of people who make over $250K a year and will benefit from the tax breaks. Are these people rich? Should we hate them because they're doing well in this economy? (Also, they're not just guys; fully 50 percent of med school graduates are now female.)
What about government workers in Wisconsin and Ohio and elsewhere?
According to one blog -- more than one blog -- they are dedicated but unappreciated firemen and teachers and family service workers. They devote their lives to their community and through collective bargaining have finally won a decent wage, but who now face draconian and punitive cuts to their salaries and benefits and lifestyles.
But according to other blogs, these "public servants" enjoy benefits that employees in the private sector would envy. And they show no sympathy for poor suffering taxpayers who have larger and larger amounts sliced out of their paychecks to pay their salaries.
I happen to live with a "public servant." I know she cares about her job and can often be found at home doing extra work that will benefit the taxpayers who pay her salary. And they don't pay her a very big salary, either. I also know several teachers. They work hard. They have a lot of demands on their time. But let's face it, they do enjoy a lot of vacation -- three or four times what a private employee gets -- and I know at least a couple who own weekend houses at the beach, so they must be paid pretty well, too.
I saw one complaint from a fellow, now 68, who worked for his state government for 21 years. He never made much money. Now he's retired on $36K a year. This fellow doesn't seem rich to me. On the other hand, he retired at age 47 and has now been collecting retirement benefits for as long as he worked, and he's still going strong. I wouldn't call him rich; but I wouldn't say he's suffering that much, either. Would you?
Here's my second problem. Even if we do get the rich people to pay higher taxes, it does absolutely nothing to address the real problem in this economy -- the unemployment and underemployment in our workforce. The fairest tax system in the world won't produce one job. And we need somewhere around 10 million new jobs -- hopefully reasonably dignified jobs with decent pay and some prospects for advancement -- to bring down the unemployment rate from its current 16 percent (counting those who've given up looking) to a more reasonable 5 percent, and offer some hope to our young people and secure the future of our country.
Who's got some ideas for that one?