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Ethics & Religion
Column #1,995
November 7, 2019
Time To Tax The Rich
By Mike McManus

It's time to raise taxes on the rich.

The tax cut pushed by President Trump and passed by Congress resulted in a horrific situation that by 2018 the 400 richest Americans paid a lower tax rate than any other income group, according to a new book, The Triumph of Injustice by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zuchman.

America's billionaires paid an average tax rate of 23% - way down from 70% paid by their counterparts in 1950. Meanwhile, the bottom 10% of wage earners paid an average of 26% - up from 16% paid in 1950. Yikes!

Columnist Nicholas Kristoff charged, "This is a legal corruption that President Trump magnified that predated him and will outlast him. This is America's cancer."

As Warren Buffet, a billionaire, honestly confessed, "There's class warfare, all right. But it's my block, the rich class, that's making out and we're winners!"

With what result? America's annual deficit is now about a trillion dollars!

Several Democratic Presidential candidates, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have suggested raising taxes on the rich - not to reduce the deficit but to pay for new spending programs, such as "Medicare for All."

I'd like to propose a strategy to cut the deficit and make the rich pay a fairer share. Start with Social Security - which had a $65 billion deficit in 2015. If its solvency is not restored, Social Security recipients would suffer a 21% cut in benefits in 2029.

A non-partisan group, Voice of the People, has proposed options to restore its solvency. It framed alternatives to a scientific sample of the population, with pro and con arguments agreed to by to Democratic and Republican congressional staffers.

What's encouraging is that three-quarters of a scientific sample of 8,500 people were able to agree on four major solutions that cover two-thirds of the Social Security deficit:

  1. Reduce benefits for the richest 26% of beneficiaries - was supported by 75% of people including 72% of Republicans.
  2. Raise the full retirement age from 67 to 68 was backed by 8 of 10 Americans.
  3. Raise the cap on taxable earnings from $117,000 to $235,000 over a decade - won with 88% support.
  4. Raise payroll taxes from 6.2% of income to 6.6%, was backed by 76% of Americans.

Admittedly, these are only the opinions of 8,500 people. But what if they were supported by a million people? Neither the Congress nor Administration could ignore the results.

An American Town Meeting To Fix Social Security

I proposed a strategy to Voice of the People to harness the power of the mass media to inform the public on how to fix the Social Security deficit. We would give individual citizens a way to learn about the tradeoffs and to "ballot" on the choices to fix the Social Security deficit.

Specifically, I will, as a member of the press, go to America's news media to ask for the cooperation of TV networks, TIME, and the Associated Press, who can reach every newspaper in the country.- to collaborate in creating An American Town Meeting to Fix Social Security. What's encouraging is Voice of the People has accepted my proposal, first made in 2017.

What might it look like?

  1. TIME could publish a cover story on a Saturday this winter on the pros and cons of Social Security choices.
  2. CBS or NBC would air a 90-minute Special on Sunday night on the same Social Security choices.
  3. AP would publish a package of stories on the choices that weekend that any newspaper could publish and localize content with interviews of local people.
  4. PBS and CNN would air shows that week with their own documentary on the options followed by a live citizen debate.
  5. Citizens could "ballot" on the choices via Facebook, Twitter, etc.

I ran a project like this in Metro New York some years ago that included WCBS-TV, WNBC-TV. WABC-TV and 14 smaller stations from New Haven to Trenton, broadcasting five one-hour TV shows on such issues as Housing, Poverty and the Environment.

And I organized 20,000 people to participate in small Town Meeting groups. We also published a paperback book that sold 100,000 copies. Some 122,000 ballots were mailed in. One result: there was a consensus that low income workers should be subsidized. Members of Congress introduced a bill that became the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Why not cut the federal deficit with more affluent people picking up a larger share of Social Security costs?

Give the American people a voice on saving Social Security!


Copyright (c) 2019 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.


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