Why Can’t We Just Tax the Rich Some More and Fix All Our Problems?

Margaret Thatcher said, “The problem with Socialism is you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

I had a conversation with a teenager recently who parroted the typical bumper sticker thinking of our culture: “Why don’t those rich people pay more taxes?”   I asked him how much they are currently paying?  He admitted that he didn’t know.  I asked him what percentage of the national tax revenue would meet the definition of “their fair share?”  He didn’t know exactly.  I then gave him some facts to consider:

  • 86% of all income taxes are paid by the top 25% of income earners.
  • The top 50% of income earners pay 97% of all income taxes.
  • The top 1% of income earners pay 39% of all taxes.

This young man was shocked. He had never heard these facts.  As I looked into his eyes, he looked…almost…like he was…THINKING for the first time. He was engaging his brain and chewing over the chasm between his assumptions and reality.  I encouraged him to look it up.  I suggested he research the facts to confirm them.  Then I asked him to think some more.


If those facts are true (and they are), does it look like the “rich” are paying their fair share?  If not, how much would be enough?  Did you know that when the income tax was first proposed by politicians, they promised the national income tax would NEVER be more than 1% tax on ONLY the top 1% of income earners?   We are a long way from that promise.

Then I asked him,  what happens when the producers of an economy get taxed more?  What are the consequences of that decision?  Hmm, well, unless they have a magic money tree in the backyard, the new money they pay in taxes is no longer going somewhere else.   Where might that money come from?   Well,  when a producer pays more in income tax, they have less money to hire people. Who gets hurt by that decision? The poor and middle class workers. When a producer needs to pay more in taxes, where else might they come up with the money?  By increasing prices on their products.  Who gets hurt by that? The consumers who buy their stuff, usually the poor and middle class.  What happens if they increase the price, but no one buys them anymore? The producer lowers the price and cuts costs somewhere else in the organization by laying off people.  Who gets hurt by that decision? The poor and middle class.


The rich versus poor mantra that sweeps through the American political scene is so, well, predictable and old hat. It’s like listening to someone sing 99 bottles of beer on the wall. The verses are so redundant. As a pastor, I care about all the members of my church. I care about my poor friends, middle class friends, and rich friends.  When I work with friends trying to find a job, I am hoping there is a company who is hiring so they can make an income.   If we punish the people who are hiring or divert their money away from hiring into nameless bureaucratic waste, why are we surprised when unemployment remains high?

I want low taxes for everyone, so that the poor and middle class can find work.  It’s not about rewarding the rich. It’s about fairness, property rights, and opportunity for all. All through the Old and New Testament, God reveals Himself as one who does not show partiality. He doesn’t treat people differently based on outer appearance, wealth, status, or background.  God treats all people without partiality.  The dialog at the typical water cooler (if there is such a thing anymore) is sadly almost pure partiality today.


Romans 2:11.  For there is no partiality with God.

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posted July 23, 2011 at 9:53 am

” To whom much is given, much is required.”
I get sick of the rich saying they are unfairly treated. They think that the poor should pay the same percentage of tax as they. Let us see, one proposal is a 15% falt tax. Out of $10K that leaves $8,500 and out of 1M the leaves $850K. Yup, even. Which can afford it more? You forget the “fair” is not always meaning exactly the same. If I have four children and force them all to take piano lessons and tennis lessons, one may excell at piano the thre hate it, while one or tow may love tennis but the others hate it. I treated them exactly the same, but was I fair to them?
If these rich are truky Christian, they would not feel so put upon, but freely give, with open hands, not hoard it and fight, tooth and nail to keep it for themselves alone, as did the Pharisees!

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j. schake

posted July 23, 2011 at 8:53 pm

Both wealthy and poor in this country give freely to charities, churches, strangers and relatives all the time. What’s being discussed here is not giving freely but being forced at gunpoint to give to the government.

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posted July 24, 2011 at 10:33 am

The rich use more infrastructure than do the poor. Corporations use more than the individual rich. And yet both want more tax breaks and to pay less? Really?

Warren Buffet showed that Corporate execs usually pay less tax than their secretaries and they are being treat unfairly?

Yes rich and poor give to charities, etc., but if you look at giving by percentage of income, you will find that, by and large, the poor and lower middle earners, give at a higher rate than the wealthy.

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posted July 24, 2011 at 11:18 am

•86% of all income taxes are paid by the top 25% of income earners.
•The top 50% of income earners pay 97% of all income taxes.
•The top 1% of income earners pay 39% of all taxes

These “earners” do not use their personal wealth to hire people, they use corportate wealth. Few go broke, because their companies go bankrupt, they keep their personal wealth, only the company is out of business.

This is supposed to be a religious forum. Where is the scriptural support for your political rantings? And this is a political, not religious rant.

I hestitate to say this, but you strike as something of a Pharisee like person, not in the legalistic sense but in the sense that they thought they must have God’s favor because they were wealthy and thus more deserving and if you had less, you deserved less.

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posted July 24, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Those numbers certainly appear to be unfair; until you start to put income percentages with them.

The top 1% of income earners may pay 39% of income taxes; but they make approximately 23% of all income earned; more than the entire bottom 50% (which is only about 14%).

The top 50% pay 97% of the taxes — and earn approximately 86% of all income.

When you start to look at the numbers in this way, things become much more balanced than they appear without consideration of the percentage of total income they take home.

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Andrew B

posted July 25, 2011 at 11:39 am

I really appreciated this article as it expressed an opinion I don’t whole-heartedly agree with, but was thankfully not inflammatory, offensive or based on fiction. Both sides of the “liberal/conservative” debate are pretty ridiculous these days, but I wasn’t cringing/rolling my eyes by the second paragraph (not even the comments!). That is saying a lot. I’d like to reply to the actual points made now though:
I agree the income tax is a farce and not at all what it was supposed to be originally. However, to push trickle down economics theory is “bad business”. The current problems are not a result of tax-and spend. They’re a result of trickle-out economics. When these companies have more money they save it for themselves and their investors. They also use it to hire more lobbyists and lawyers to make sure the laws and tax code skew in their favor. How can we be talking about “the poor” draining our economy, when the money is not going into it in the first place. Its going to sweat-shops in China and off-shore bank accounts. Close the tax loop-holes and make the laws more fair and we will be able to lower taxes for all in time. But when we are spending the money we take in to bail out speculators on Wall Street, and then they say taxes are a crime, I think a little anger towards “the rich” is justified. And since this is a religious site, please show me one religion or classic civilization that didn’t have (at least) the social safety net that we do. Thanks for listening. Great article and possibly my favorite website.

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Sandy Sandmeyer

posted July 25, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Thank you for this post!

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