Since Ocasio-Cortez first mentioned the 70 percent tax rate on CNN, a number of mansplaining journalists have written harrumphing pieces explaining that the "real" problem is tax loopholes or capital-gains tax rates set too low. This approach fails to understand the nature and purpose of Ocasio-Cortez's political rhetoric.
Any tax plan that raised marginal rates that high would almost certainly have other provisions to close loopholes or tax investments more fairly. But before we can get to that point, there must be more political momentum to change the tax system. By focusing on marginal tax rates — which are easier to explain to the general public than most other taxation strategies — Ocasio-Cortez can help build a moral and social argument against economic inequality. Blunt statements, like saying that it's immoral that billionaires exist at all, can help people reimagine a world where resources are distributed more equitably and ordinary people who work hard and drive economic growth can see their effort reflected in their paychecks.
Because the truth of the matter is that she's right: We shouldn't have billionaires. Any system that has a handful of ultra-wealthy individuals, by definition, is not rewarding hard work and social contributions fairly, or anywhere close to it. We don't need to embrace full-on socialism communism, and Ocasio-Cortez is swift to say that. But the floor needs to come up and the ceiling needs to come down.
Most people know that's true, whatever their official "politics" may be, and it's becoming increasingly difficult to deny it. Amanda Marcotte is a politics writer for Salon.
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The Rich Are Scum - Acid Logic ezine
GOP vote suppression targets students Gabriella Novello. Show Comments. Trending Articles. After all, they say, the process by which those rich people attained their wealth is totally consensual. Why, look at Mark Zuckerberg. Nobody has to use Facebook.
He is rich because people like the product he came up with. Clearly, his wealth is the product of his own labor, and nobody should deprive him of it. People on the right often defend wealth along these lines. But there is a separate question that this defense ignores: regardless of whether you have earned it, to what degree are you morally permitted to retain it?
The question of getting and the question of keeping are distinct. As a parallel: if I come into possession of an EpiPen, and I encounter a child experiencing a severe allergic reaction, the question of whether I am obligated to inject the child is distinguishable from the question of whether I obtained the pen legitimately. I therefore think there is a sort of deflection that goes on with defenses of wealth.
If we find it appalling that there are so many rich people in a time of need, we are asked to consider questions of acquisition rather than questions of retention. The retention question, after all, is much harder for a wealthy person to answer.
There may be nothing unseemly about the process by which a basketball player earns his millions we can debate this. People on the right obviously believe that having piles of wealth is fine. And socialists this is the interesting case tend to believe that questions about the morality of having wealth are relatively unimportant, because they are far more interested in how the state divides up wealth than in what individuals choose to do with it.
In fact, there is a certain leftist argument that giving away wealth in the form of charity is actually bad , because it allows capitalism to look superficially generous without actually altering the balance of power in the society. But I think it is a mistake to avoid inquiring into the moral justifications for wealth. This is because I think individual decisions do matter, because if I am an extremely wealthy man I could be helping a lot of people who I am choosing not to help. And for those people, at least, it makes a difference when a billionaire decides to retain their wealth rather than rid themselves of it.
Of course, when you start talking about whether it is moral to be rich, you end up heading down some difficult logical paths. If I am obligated to use my wealth to help people, am I not obligated to keep doing so until I am myself a pauper? Surely this obligation attaches to anyone who consumes luxuries they do not need, or who has some savings that they are not spending on malaria treatment for children.
But the central point I want to make here is that the moral duty becomes greater the more wealth you have.
You could buy up a bunch of abandoned Baltimore rowhouses, do them up, and give them to families. You could help make sure no child ever had to go without lunch. It might be 5o thousand. Call it , though. Per person. With an additional 50 allowed per child.
Blame the Rich
And you can keep it. But everyone who earns anything beyond it is obligated to give the excess away in its entirety. Of course, wealthy people do give away money, but so often in piecemeal and self-interested and foolish ways.
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