We’ve had to endure overtures from Warren Buffett and Matt Damon about how they and other wealthy people should be paying a higher tax rate, a problem they could solve by simply visiting Pay.gov, a handy website where individuals can send more money to the federal government if they so desire. But now Stephen King, a brilliant writer, has joined the calls in a post at The Daily Beast:
I’ve known rich people, and why not, since I’m one of them? The majority would rather douse their dicks with lighter fluid, strike a match, and dance around singing “Disco Inferno” 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 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.
This has to happen if America is to remain strong and true to its ideals. It’s a practical necessity and a moral imperative. Last year during the Occupy movement, the conservatives who oppose tax equality saw the first real ripples of discontent. 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.
The whole piece reads reads like a rant mostly against conservatives, Mitt Romney, and Republicans; though he manages to give a backhanded nod to the Koch brothers for their charitable contributions. He throws out some love for Occupy Wall Street and the labor movement. Typical.
It’s great that King donates money to charity and to public entities, so I’m not trying to play that down. It’s certainly something we need more, but the point that is lost on King is that charity shouldn’t be coerced. King may be willing to give money to those he deems worthy, but he doesn’t have a right to use force, through the police power of government, to make others give.
Over at Reason, Nick Gillespie takes some of the notions put forward by King and knocks them down with, you know, facts showing that higher-income earners are already paying their “fair share”:
As for whether the rich are paying their fair share in taxes, well, that’s a value judgement, isn’t it? The rich are not paying 50 percent of every dollar but you don’t need to be Jon Lovitz to realize that the rich (however defined) pay far more in taxes than the non-rich in terms of absolute dollars. King is incensed at the idea that Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary and seems to be making an argument for a flat tax when he writes, “we all should have to pay our fair share” and that the middle class shouldn’t have to shoulder a “disproportionate amount of the tax burden.” Here’s a chart by Dan Berger, the head of something called Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength, which lobbies for higher rates of taxes on the wealthy.
At U.S. News & World Report (whose continued existence shows that the recession has yet to really hit rock bottom), Berger notes that the top 1 percent is roughly equivalent to pulling $1 million a year; he posts this chart as evidence that the rich get away with paying less than their fair share (read his not terribly convincing argument here).
For King, the chart above should lay to rest that the rich are paying less than the non-rich - assuming he agrees that the top 20 percent in terms of income is doing pretty well. He might want it to be more - he wants it to be 50 percent, of course - but he can’t seriously argue that the rich are skating away from ponying up around 31 percent of their income on average. Or that 31 percent of $1 million is a larger sum than, say, 25 percent of $50,000.
King isn’t expressing a view based on anything more than his emotions, largely based out of his hatred for the right, which is so apparent in reading his piece. That’s fine. He’s entitled to his opinion, but not his own facts.