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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Stephen King on taxing the rich

Cut a check and shut up, they said.

If you want to pay more, pay more, they said.

Tired of hearing about it, they said.

The rich are tired of hearing about Warren Buffett-style recommendations that the rich should pay more -- and mega-selling novelist Stephen King has an answer for them.  You can read his expletive-rich thoughts in the Daily Beast.

Here, in essence, is his argument:

Tough (he says), because I’m not tired of talking about it. I’ve known rich people, and why not, since I’m one of them? The majority would rather do unmentionable things  than pay one more cent in taxes to Uncle Sugar. It’s true that some rich folks put at least some of their tax savings into charitable contributions.

My wife and I give away roughly $4 million a year to libraries, local fire departments that need updated lifesaving equipment (Jaws of Life tools are always a popular request), schools, and a scattering of organizations that underwrite the arts. Warren Buffett does the same; so does Bill Gates; so does Steven Spielberg; so do the Koch brothers; so did the late Steve Jobs. All fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough.

What charitable 1 percenters can’t do is assume responsibility—America’s national responsibilities: the care of its sick and its poor, the education of its young, the repair of its failing infrastructure, the repayment of its staggering war debts. Charity from the rich can’t fix global warming or lower the price of gasoline by one single red penny. That kind of salvation does not come from Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Ballmer saying, “OK, I’ll write a $2 million bonus check to the IRS.”

Much of the problem, he says, is that people -- and politicians and the media in particular -- simply idolize the rich. Therefore, the idea of taxing them proportionately to their fortunes is anathema.

Don’t ask me why (he says) -- I don’t get it either, since most rich people are boring ... I’ve gotten the same reaction myself, even though I’m only “baby rich” compared with some of these guys, who float serenely over the lives of the struggling middle class like blimps made of thousand-dollar bills.

Then he aims his arguments at the politicians:

What some of us want—those who understand that rich folks want to keep their damn money—is for you to acknowledge that you couldn’t have made it in America without America. That you were fortunate enough to be born in a country where upward mobility is possible (a subject upon which Barack Obama can speak with the authority of experience), but where the channels making such upward mobility possible are being increasingly clogged. That it’s not fair to ask the middle class to assume a disproportionate amount of the tax burden.

If the mega-rich continue to ignore the patriotic need for them to assume their fair share of the tax burden, King predicts major social unrest, on the scale of what we are seeing in Europe:

Last year during the Occupy movement, the conservatives who oppose tax equality saw the first real ripples of discontent (he says). Their response was either Marie Antoinette (“Let them eat cake”) or Ebenezer Scrooge (“Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?”). Short-sighted, gentlemen. Very short-sighted. If this situation isn’t fairly addressed, last year’s protests will just be the beginning. Scrooge changed his tune after the ghosts visited him. Marie Antoinette, on the other hand, lost her head.

Think about it.

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