Progressive Taxation?

Generational Poverty

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“When progressive taxation slows economic growth, it makes inequalities of wealth more durable by retarding the accumaulation of new fortunes.”                                       –George Will

The U.S. economic recovery of the last several years has favored the wealthy.  Savers, low-income wage earners, the retired living on fixed incomes have been the losers and continue to be.  Economic inequality is widening.

More and more political conversation is about the gulf between the haves and the have nots.  “Progressives”  favor increasing income tax, now in its 103rd year,  dramatically.  Arguments for increasing income tax, especially on the highest earners, are invariably for less inequality of social outcomes.  This inequality arises from unjust outcomes.  Wealth allocation is occurring less  on merit and self-reliance than on political influence.

“Inequality is inevitable,” according to conservative George Will, “because individuals have different vocational desires and different aptitudes for adding value to the economy.”  Because individuals have different social sensibilities, opinions will differ about what degrees of inequality are tolerable.

“Everybody agrees society should prevent extreme privation.  But who is to decide, and how are they to decide, the ideal spread between the top and the bottom of income distribution?”  Will asks.  The argument for progressive taxation must demonstrate that such does not do more harm by slowing economic growth than faster economic growth would do good by its distributive effects, Will asserts.

It is an American axiom that, within the widest limits, men are free to maximize their satisfactions according to their own hierarchy of preferences.  Those with this understanding of a free society often favor a “flat” or proportionate income tax:  If taxpayer A earns 20 times more than taxpayer B, Taxpayer A pays 20 times more dollars.  Our progressive system of taxation has been justified by the belief that at any moment in America’s endless evolution, what is equitable can be known and the tax system can be fine-tuned to achieve it.  Which is how we’ve achieved our patchwork, overly complicated and seemingly never-ending tax code.  Government has enriched those sophisticated at at manipulating the system.

Each individual’s achievement is derivative of society, which is entitled to socialize–conscript–whatever portion of each individual’s acquisition that society calculates is its rightful share.  Because collective choices (provision of education, infrastructure and other public goods) facilitate individuals’ strivings, the collectivity, represented by government, can take as much of created wealth as it decides it made possible.  “Government will generously estimate its contributions and entitlements,” Will observes.

Horizonte, Salt Lake City School District’s alternative high school and adult education center, is committed to equipping its graduates with the opportunities to lift themselves and their families from generational poverty through education–a high school diploma and privately funded applied tech and college scholarships.

 

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