Paying Back

PAYING BACK….In the Warren Buffet op-ed I mentioned below, he also says this about the fact that both he and his receptionist pay about the same tax rate even though he’s a zillion times richer than her:

She’s not complaining: Both of us know we were lucky to be born in America. But I was luckier in that I came wired at birth with a talent for capital allocation — a valuable ability to have had in this country during the past half-century. Credit America for most of this value, not me. If the receptionist and I had both been born in, say, Bangladesh, the story would have been far different. There, the market value of our respective talents would not have varied greatly.

This is such an important point, because wealthy conservatives are forever crying that it’s our money, dammit, and we earned it via hard work. Why should we have to pay a higher tax rate than anyone else?

Yes, rich people are often rich because of their innate talents and hard work. But as Buffett points out, they are also rich because the culture they live in helped them along. If Bill Gates had grown up in Pakistan, he might be worth a few million dollars, but growing up in Seattle he ended up worth $50 billion. So of that $50 billion, how much is due to his innate talent and hard work and how much is due to the fact that he grew up in America?

The answer is obvious. America was responsible for a big chunk of Bill Gates’ fortune, which is why it makes sense that he should be asked to pay more to keep the country going. But instead the ultra-rich fight tooth and nail these days to pay as little as they possibly can. Why are they so begrudging about paying back a country that has given them so much?

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