An Easter Conversation

Hillbuzz[*1] asked for suggestions about how to discuss politics at the table, this Easter holiday. Here’s my suggestion:

You: “Wow, everything seems like such a mess. What are we going to do to fix things?”

Other Person: “I dunno. Make the rich pay their fair share.”

You: “Well, yeah, you’re right, everybody should pull their own weight. But that brings up the next question–what’s fair? According to information released by the IRS (and compiled by the Tax Foundation),[*2] the top 1% of American taxpayers earn 20% of the money but pay nearly 40% of the taxes. The top 5% earn 35% of all earned income, but pay 58% of all income taxes. The top 50% of all earners earn 87% of the income, and pay 97% of the taxes, which means the bottom 50% earns 13% of the income but only pay 3% of the taxes.

“The three biggest government programs other than national defense–Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, mostly benefit the poorer people, because the richer people don’t usually need them. So, poor people pay the least and get the most, and rich people pay the most and get the least. So, you know, we get back to the question–what’s fair?”

Other Person: “Well, all that’s well and good, but the rich are getting richer!”

You: “Actually, no, they’re not, according to the latest statistics from the Treasury Bureau,[*3] they took a hit just like everybody else in the country–since 1996, the median household income of the very top earners went down, not up. But even it it were true that the rich were getting richer, is that really a bad thing? It’s not like Monopoly–the rich getting richer doesn’t mean that everybody else is getting poorer. It’s not a zero-sum game. What do you suppose the rich do with their money? They want to earn more money, usually, which for almost all rich people means that they invest it in for-profit companies–companies that make things, companies that give people jobs, companies that will make more money for the rich people. When you take money away from rich people, you make it harder for them to invest and harder for them to give people jobs. That doesn’t sound very compassionate to me, and I know you’re a pretty nice person, so you wouldn’t want to make it harder to make jobs, would you?”

Other Person: *sputters, probably goes negative/emotional on you* -or, if somewhat rational, comes back with- “Well, then, what do YOU think we should do?”

You: Well, it would be nice if we could start giving incentives to people to invest in companies, to go to work, to really improve themselves, rather than paying off political cronies and politically-correct companies, and bailing out failing companies–let them fail!–and start working on getting our government programs working on preparing people to find something they’re good at and getting them doing that, earning their own way, being productive. There will always be those who we’ll have to help, but we need to be realistic about it. People have to pull their own weight–rich people and everybody else.”

(From here on out, you’re on your own)