Why We Need to Tax the Rich

July 24, 2019

by Matthew Rothschild, Executive Director

(These are the remarks Matt prepared for the talk he gave at a “Tax the Rich” rally on the Capitol Square in Madison on July 24.)

Thanks friends. It’s nice to be with you. And congratulations to everyone on the “Tax the Rich Bus Tour.”

You’re doing really important work -- work that is right in tune with basic American values of fairness, equality of opportunity, and democracy.

Let’s remember: The preamble to our Constitution says we should “provide for … the general welfare.”

If we didn’t have taxes, we wouldn’t be able to provide for the general welfare: We wouldn’t have Social Security or Medicare or public schools, interstate highways, or the Internet, or public parks, or public libraries, or the police, or the military, for that matter.

So the question isn’t whether to have taxes or not. The question is, what’s the best way, what’s the fairest way, to tax.

And the best way, the fairest way, isn’t to give tax breaks to the rich, which is what Trump did.

The best way, the fairest way, is to tax the rich more.

And here’s why: They won’t feel the pinch like the rest of us will.

The three richest people in America – Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, and Bill Gates -- all have about $80 billion each, give or take $10 billion. As Bernie says, that’s more than 160 million Americans combined.

Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett and Bill Gates and the others in the billionaire and multimillionaire class won’t feel a thing if their income taxes went up or if they had to pay Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax, which would be 2 percent on households with more than $50 million.

So if you’ve got $100 million, then you’d only have $98 million left.

Actually, I think you’d be all right.

The American people get this. Two-thirds of Americans are in favor of this wealth tax, and that includes 55 percent of Republicans, according to a New York Times poll that came out earlier this week.

There are two other reasons to tax the rich.

The first is that the great disparity in wealth and income collides with our Americanideal of equal opportunity for all.

We don’t have equal opportunity for all in America. Look, the offspring of the Walton Family that owns Wal-Mart, or Warren Buffett’s kids or Jeff Bezos’s kids or Bill Gates’s kids don’t begin life at the same starting line as you or I do. It’s a joke to even think about it.

The scandal that broke a few months ago over college admissions, where rich Hollywood actresses were paying off college coaches to get their precious kids into elite schools, gave the lie to equality of opportunity if ever I saw it. And they got caught, which is God’s way of saying you’ve got too much money.

So we need to tax the rich to at least come a bit closer to equality of opportunity.

And here’s the final reason we got to tax the rich: to safeguard our democracy. Because right now, the super-rich and the corporations they own are devouring our democracy! Through their donations, through their dark money, through their lobbying, they have much more power than the rest of us in deciding who gets elected, and what laws are passed, and what policies are pursued.

That’s not how democracy is supposed to work! In a democracy, we’re all supposed to have an equal say.

As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis warned us eight decades ago, “We must make our choice. We may have democracy. Or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few. But we can’t have both.”

So my friends, let’s make the right choice. Let’s choose democracy!