Paying taxes has a bad rap, but frankly I don't mind paying my "fair share." That gets to the heart of the matter.
Those on the right say they want low taxes, small government and limited regulation. They have suggested, all evidence to the contrary, that if those with the most (the billionaire class) pay less taxes, the benefit will "trickle down" to the rest of us. That is not now, and never has been, a true statement. The introduction of the concept has led to multiple tax reductions for the very wealthy and the middle class, and lower-income citizens are left holding the bag - and it is a big bag.
If we agree that we all benefit from the resources provided by government and so agree to paying taxes, it becomes less evident what is "fair" when we look at the tax code. I am pretty sure most of us have a sense of what is fair in day-to-day life. That is when we are treated equally and without some kind of bias. We would be skeptical of an umpire calling balls and strikes if we know he is the opposing coach's uncle. It is more difficult to make that determination with taxes, as they are so complicated.
Why does it take several thousand pages of laws and rules to collect taxes? I have no answer, but I do believe there is inequity in the code and a different "strike zone" for different income. Lobbyists for the wealthy have put their thumbs on the scale. As a result, since 1980, three Republican presidents - Reagan, Bush and Trump - have enacted tax cuts that were supposed to "trickle down" and benefit the economy through investment and job creation. That didn't happen.
What did happen, as reported at Inequality.org: "Between 1980 and 2018, tax law changes favoring the nation's rich left our billionaires paying 79 percent less in taxes, as measured as a share of their wealth. The country's top .01 percent, a group consisting of households with wealth in excess of $100 million, have seen their tax payments as a share of their wealth drop by almost as much, 73 percent." Since they don't go out and spend that money, it accumulates and is invested or saved resulting in more wealth, so the rich get even richer and the income inequality worsens.
We can't go back to 1980 for a "do-over," but we can do something now about the inequity. I've said before that I support a wealth tax, specifically the one proposed in the Senate by Elizabeth Warren. That proposal would include "a 2 percent tax on wealth above $50 million and a 3 percent tax above $1 billion." Other proposals are out there, too, some wanting to add a 10 percent tax on wealth over $5 billion. That might sound like a lot, but put into perspective, if a family has $5 billion, even after a 10 percent tax, they will still have "enough wealth to cover $100,000 per day of expenses for over a century" (Inequality.org).
Paying taxes gets us all a lot of good things, from roads and bridges to Social Security and Medicare. All citizens who willingly pay do so out of a sense of benefit as well as obligation. The foundation of that willingness is a belief we are all doing our part. When that gets out of balance, the social fabric can come unraveled. Let's make sure that doesn't happen and implement a wealth tax.
Robert Lee is a retired social worker with interests in history and politics. He lives in Tahlequah.