Written April 26, 2012     

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Forty-seven percent of American workers pay no federal income tax. Should they be taxed?

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© 2016 Bob Lonsberry


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Frederick Douglass made a good point during the Civil War.

A former slave, he said that if black men were to enjoy all the fruits of citizenship, they must bear all the burdens of citizenship. His sons wanted to fight in the Union cause, to protect the Constitution and to free Southern slaves, but for a long time they weren't allowed to.

And he didn't think that was right.

It wasn't.

But he was, and the principle he espoused is still true today: To enjoy all the fruits of citizenship, one must bear all the burdens of citizenship. If you don't help sustain the society, you are not truly a member of the society. If you're just along for the ride, you're not really on the team.

And that applies to taxes as much as anything else.

Which is a sad truth, because in America today that philosophy is completely ignored. In America today, the lion's share of the taxes are paid by the tiniest percentage of the people. And, ironically, that tiny percentage of the people are the ones most vilified by politicians and resented by their fellow citizens.

I'm talking about the rich.

Only, rich isn't that rich anymore.

According to new Internal Revenue Service data reported by the Associated Press, the top 5 percent of wage earners paid more than 55 percent of all income taxes collected in America. In contrast, the bottom half of wage earners -- comprising 50 percent of all the workers in the country -- paid just 4 percent of what the government took in.

And the disparity is getting worse.

Ten years earlier, the top 5 percent paid 44 percent of the nation's tax and the bottom 50 percent paid 6 percent. And 10 years from now, even after President Bush's so-called "tax cuts for the rich," people making more than $100,000 a year will pay 55 percent of the tax while the contribution of the bottom 50 percent will remain essentially the same.

Translation: The harder you work, the more you get screwed.

And they call this the "free enterprise system."

But back to the rich people. They're not really that rich anymore. According to the IRS, you are in the top 5 percent in income if you or your household makes about $121,000 a year. Now, that's pretty good money. But that's not buy-a-mansion-in-Beverly-Hills rich. In fact, if two people in a household work, and they've been on their jobs for a long time, and have built up to the neighborhood of $60,000 a year each, then that household just became "wealthy."

Or if somebody thought to invest 12 years of her life in becoming a medical doctor, or an architect, or a lawyer, or a very good plumber, she would end up being sucked dry by the tax man. The more you earn, the more you get tapped. The more industrious you are, the more you are penalized. It's a confiscatory taxing of the American dream.

And heaven help you if you make real money. If you become some big executive or something, because if you make more than $295,000 -- putting you in the top 1 percent of taxpayers -- you will, with those like you, pay more than a third of all the nation's income tax. You will earn 19 percent of the money, and pay 35 percent of the tax.

And that's not right.

It's not fair.

And it means that a very small number of people are paying the tab for a very large number of people. And the ones getting the free or almost-free ride have been trained to have a huge chip on their shoulders. There is a massive redistribution of wealth going on -- enough to make Karl Marx dance with delight -- and nobody seems to care.

An injustice is being perpetrated and we all feel as if it's completely normal and correct.

When it's not.

Because Frederick Douglass was right.

To enjoy the fruits of citizenship, you must bear the responsibilities of citizenship. Including paying your fair share of taxes.

How do we fix it? In a perfect world, with a flat-rate tax, in which everyone pays the same percentage of their income. No deductions, no exceptions, no exemptions. If you earn a dollar, you pay so much of it. Even the people on welfare.

Make everyone an equal citizen.

Because today they're not. Today it's a system of workers and moochers, and the moochers far outnumber the workers.

But there will not be a change. Because the people, through their politicians, have essentially voted to take away the rich people's money. It is theft by legislation.

And it shows no signs of changing.

- by Bob Lonsberry © 2012

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