Saturday, April 03, 2004

Punishing success and hard work – one man responds

In the January 2004 Atlantic magazine, writer Maya Macguineas wrote an article titled “Radical Tax Reform” that called for (wait for it) higher taxes on the rich. This prompted a letter to the editor from one Stewart Herman of New York City (typed from the May 2004 issue):

In “Radical Tax Reform” Maya MacGuineas states that the question of whether the current tax system is fair may be rephrased as “To what extent is one’s overall tax burden commensurate with one’s ability to meet it?” Why doesn’t she just add “and to each according to his need,” and complete the Marxist cliché? I see nothing fair about making taxes progressive. My working life has been shaped by two facts: I spent years without an income preparing myself for the professional career in which I now work; and I work much longer hours than most people. Do I deserve a higher income than the median? You bet. I make a lot of money for my employer, I give up time I’d much rather be spending with my wife and children, and I think I do something that’s socially useful. So why should my income be viewed as fair game by all of society’s free riders? In contrast to MacGuineas’s conception of fairness, I could make a case that the only fair tax system is a sharply regressive one. That’s because I get much less from my government than do people with lower incomes. No food stamps for me. No welfare. No Medicare. No Medicaid. No Section 8 housing vouchers. No drug treatment. Less police and fire protection, too, because my neighbors and I live pretty quiet lives. You get what you pay for, and you pay for what you get. How about that for a guiding principle? Not bloody likely, though. I guess I’ll just have to live with the satisfaction of knowing that as I sit in my office at ten o’clock at night, I’m making money for the people at home in front of the TV, having a beer and having the last laugh. It’s utterly unfair, and a bad way to run a society that supposedly prizes hard work and self-sacrifice.

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