America’s poor rich people

I don’t think rich people are evil. I think most rich people are hard-working individuals who have been fortunate enough in life to not have to worry about where their next meal will come from.

Conservatives — if we are throwing around titles — like to believe that they should pay the same percentage in taxes as Poor Richard. The oversized government is raping their bank accounts and stripping their checkbooks. Let us all whine along with them.

“Why is it that we only expect different prices for services when it comes to the services government provides?” my distinguished colleague Adam Fowler asked here in The Oracle yesterday. Surely, I would be outraged if my local supermarket charged me 99 cents for a can of Coke, and the Prada purse-carrying woman behind me $32. But does fighting for equality outweigh fairness when it comes to taxes?

It is easy to throw around what is equal and what is not. Do rich people pay more actual dollars in taxes? Sure they do. But I find it fair that some individual’s tax payments are more than another’s household income.

Do poor people pay less in actual dollars in taxes? Obviously. If Poor Richard wants to buy groceries for his children, the sales tax regressively hurts him more than it would Richie Rich.

Now think way back to when you took that Basic Economics class and ask yourself what you learned, or were supposed to.

There are three main types of taxes: Regressive, proportional and progressive. Those regressive taxes (social insurances taxes, property taxes, sales taxes) ultimately end up placing a heavier burden on poor people. A tax in which people pay an identical rate regardless of income earned is known as a proportional or flat tax. Finally, a progressive tax takes a higher percentage of Richie Rich’s income than Poor Richard’s.

So what do you think is fair? Should our tax system “at least be the same rate for everyone” like Fowler suggested?

After learning that “the same rate” is similar to a proportional tax, one would have to ask who would be hurt more if a tax system like this was implemented. Sticking with our fictional characters, let’s say Richie Rich makes $125,000 a year and Poor Richard makes $25,000. If everyone paid the same rate, let’s say 10 percent of their income, would that be fair? Richie Rich would be paying a whopping $10,000 more per year then Poor Richard.

But imagine how much Poor Richard values $2,500. To anyone, except maybe Richie and Bill Gates, $12,500 is a lot of money. But will Richie Rich notice that loss as much as Poor Richard? Probably not.

I am an optimist though. When it comes to my government, I like to believe that it is truly there to look out for all the Poor Richards of the world. They are there to protect our rights and to ensure that each and every one of us can fulfill our dreams.

Do I believe that this is always the case though? No.

Do I think reforms need to be made that help those on the lower end of the income spectrum? Absolutely.

But starving the poor by making them pay an equal percentage in taxes compared to those very few individuals whose responsibility it is to take on that burden is not the way to go.

We complain when we get our paychecks and point out the exuberant amount of money our government is taking from us. Poor Richard may make barely enough to support his family. What’s truly disheartening about this fictional character is understanding that if you look around, there are Poor Richards everywhere.

Charlie Eder is a sophomore majoring in mass communications and political science.