Give rich some gratitude, not grief

Despite the two-year deal reached at the end of last year, we probably haven’t heard the last of the tax cut debate. Before we know it, it’ll be campaign season again and our leaders will be out on the trail, telling us why we need to make the cuts permanent or why we need to raise the rates on the top one or two percent of the population.

It’s a discussion worth having. We should talk about what tax policy works best for our nation. A complete overhaul would be great, maybe even a consumption-based tax like the Fair Tax.

But changes that dramatic are unlikely. They’re also polarizing, which means they’re even harder to debate openly than the Bush-era tax cuts we had to deal with just a few months ago. Yet the current system isn’t working for a list of reasons that are too numerous to name here.

The other side of this equation is the national debt, which everyone agrees is too high, and most people agree we should do something about. The left will tell you we need to raise taxes on the rich, and the right will tell you we need to cut spending.

Crazy as it may be, both sides are absolutely right. The spending cut side of this discussion is getting most of the coverage these days, and many smart conservative leaders are making a sound case for why we can’t keep spending at the current rate.

Again, the reasons we need to cut spending and reform entitlement programs are too numerous to name, but you don’t have to look much further than the $14 trillion the federal government owes.

But for those people who are serious about reining in the deficit and paying down the national debt, spending cuts can only take you so far.

The government needs to generate more revenue. Even after we close loopholes and reform the tax code to iron out the creases, we’re still going to come up short. So we turn our attention to the rich – the only ones who save us.

Scott Adams, known for his comic strip “Dilbert,” wrote an interesting essay for the Wall Street Journal last week that offered an outside-the-box approach that would persuade the rich to take the hit for the common good.

Adams suggests we allow the top 2 percent (or whatever part of the population is affected) to reap certain benefits for their selflessness. Those benefits include the ability to cut in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles, a monthly thank you note from a poor person, additional votes on Election Day, and several others.

Most of you are probably thinking those benefits are ridiculous and the rich are doing just fine. And you’re right. But there is a very important lesson here.

If you’re going to ask the rich to pay higher taxes, do not call them names while you’re doing so. Don’t demonize them. They are paying their fair share, and they’re paying your fair share as well, even before we ask them to take on another tax hike.

It’s time to stop making the rich the bad guys. You’re never going to get anywhere in this debate or in life if you’re calling your opponents bad names. They won’t do what you want if you’re not going to be grateful they did.

So you might ask, how do we get them to go along with a tax hike if not by the perks Adams outlines? Patriotism.

Call upon their sense of duty. Tell them, “Your country needs you.” We need more money, because we need better schools and better roads. We need fewer people on the streets and more green space in our town square.

The only way that’s going to happen is if the rich give a little more, and everyone else offers them a little gratitude. It’s in their best interest to have an educated populace and a safe drive home, and this is the only way it’s going to work.

We can cut spending until there’s nothing left except the IRS and the National Parks Service, but that isn’t going to get us all the way back to solvency. We’re going to need more revenue, and unfortunately for those of us who are supply-siders, the only place to get that revenue is from the rich.

So instead of making them the villain in a Dickens novel, make them Daddy Warbucks. Call upon their sense of duty and stop calling them names.

If you want to raise taxes on the rich, a group who already pays most of the bill, you need to use the carrot and not the stick.


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