My Stupid Tax Idea

Who doesn’t love Outback Steakhouse? Well, I don’t, but I have to tip my hat to the marketing genius who thought it wise to pilfer and denigrate Australian culture and fry a whole darn onion in the name of greatly fattening an entire nation.

Let’s say the next time you and a loved one are ingesting upwards of 4,000 calories each in said delightful chain restaurant, the waitress charges you extra for your meal because you make more money than anyone else in the restaurant. Without knowing you or how expensive your underwear might be, I humbly submit that you’d be pretty ticked off.

Maybe higher taxes on fried whole damn onions is the answer.

We’re on the cusp of the expiration of George Bush’s tax cuts, and the Left and Right are engaging in preliminary verbal and written calisthenics, warming up for what figures to be the most exhausting pseudo-political debate among egomaniacal blowhards (including myself) since Bill Clinton slipped what’s-her-name the Presidential cigar.

Our progressive income tax system is discriminatory by nature and design, and that works out OK for most Americans, and therefore for most American politicians. Right-leaning or free-market wonks are quick to point out that this system spells doom for our economy, because rich people save, invest, and spend more money. When they keep less, big dents are made in economic activity, and more of their money ends up in the hands of incompetent bureaucrats and public pensioners who considered a 30-hour workweek inhumane until they retired at 45.

The Left proffers that rich people need to pay more than their fair share just because they can. The logic isn’t entirely broken, until you start to assemble a list of prominent Democrats who haven’t been so diligent in paying taxes themselves. Cue the Glenn Beck highlight reel, but don’t watch it. He’s an idiot.

We in the middle see the wisdom and good intentions on both sides. We work hard for our money, and we like to keep most of it, but we’re usually good about redistributing our income as we see fit, charitably or otherwise. We know a VAT (value-added tax, oui oui) is fair since it taxes consumption on everyone at the same rate. We also know additional taxes on consumption could cripple our fragile economy, and hamstring big-dreamer politicians to boot.

Upon reading a smattering of commentary on the tax issue, I wondered aloud who thought it made sense to set the estate tax at 55% in the first place. Actually, it was probably the same disgruntled, drunken ex-marketing genius who fell from Outback corporate glory and ended up in the government. He realized that the rich person’s surviving family didn’t work for that money, and the dead guy couldn’t fight to keep it, so the government could easily pad its polyester pockets. It’s like stealing money from a dead guy!

A flat tax is inherently fair, but I have don’t have the energy or patience to defend myself against a virtual lambasting denouncing me as a Forbesian fop. I think it’s hard to argue with the logic: I make $100 with a 5% tax, I pay $5 in tax. You make $50, you pay $2.50. I make more money, I pay more in taxes. We can keep the complicated tax system and offer labyrinthine deductions and credits to help those in need. Abolishing that would be truly un-American.

What I suggest here amongst these hallowed pixels is something far more radical: A truly regressive income tax. Let’s flip the tax brackets. Keep the poorest of our poor at a 0% rate, but let’s charge those middle-class citizens making less money a higher tax rate to encourage them to attain higher levels of education and income, whence they’ll be rewarded with lower income tax rates. We’ll have a nation of super-ambitious mega-geniuses within a generation, and we’ll be the envy of the world once more. We’ll all work for Goldman Sachs and we’ll all be rich, rich I tells ya.

Am I serious? Of course not. Just some food for thought.

Speaking of food, I’m going to go pound a couple of Bloomin’ Onions while I can still afford them.

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4 thoughts on “My Stupid Tax Idea

  1. And to think that John Madden has single-handedly consumed hundreds, if not thousands of Bloomin’ Onions over the years. The porcelain facility in the Madden Cruiser probably has an orange tint to it.

  2. Good piece.

    Your idea of taxing middle class Americans more to motivate them only works if there’s no such thing as inheritance (or if we push the “death tax” rate up to 100%) and if everybody starts from level playing field. If everybody started at the exact same place with the exact same parents and education, your concept would work. Otherwise you still have the “problem” of privilege where motivation isn’t the only thing separating the haves from the have nots. I’ve also never met somebody in the middle class who doesn’t try to get rich because he’s worried the rich are overtaxed.

    I’m not a believer in Trickle Down Economics but if I were crazy rich it’s exactly the kind of economic theory I would create to keep more of my own wealth. In fact, I hope one day to make a lot of money and then become a loud and passionate defender of it. Until then, I’m forced to live in the real world where the rich getting richer doesn’t actually help the poor.

    1. Billiam,

      I truly believe there is nothing more American than an un-level playing field. Those who grew up without can often be more motivated, grounded, and humble on the path to attaining vast riches. I hope to be one of those guys, and I will call upon the ghost of Horatio Alger to pen my tale for posterity.

      The more money I get, the more stuff I buy. I also save and invest more, which helps people at e*Trade and Ally Bank, even the guys and girls in the mailroom. Get out of the way, that shit is trickling down!

      Let’s not forget the infinite subjectivity of “rich”. It’s an individual’s decision to decide how much is enough, and sufficient wealth is a moving target.

  3. I just noticed your reply and I should clarify my criticism of Trickle Down Economics. It’s not that the money doesn’t technically trickle down, it does. It’s that that’s not the best way to make the overall pie higher. And it just kind of pisses me off when the WSJ Editorial Board, conservative pundits and others claim that tax breaks for the wealthiest are the BEST way to help the poor. Those tax breaks are good and I support them but don’t pretend that’s better than just giving a poor person a job on a construction site. It’s that nuance I’m against because it’s just so douchy.

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