I haven’t seen “Fifty Shades of Grey” yet, but I plan to. It apparently portrays one of my deepest fantasies.
I’ve always wanted to be a billionaire.
Sadly, I now realize jet ownership and European vacations are probably not in my future. Wrong age, wrong profession.
I’m not giving up, though. Like just about everyone, I want to earn more this year than last. Our capitalist economy is built on that approach.
We can’t all be billionaires, but if the rules are fairly enforced, we think we have a reasonable chance at material comfort.
That’s why class envy is a risky political strategy in the United States. Polls show most of us don’t begrudge Bill Gates’ wealth: He’s smarter than we are, worked harder, had a better idea. Most Americans understand some wealth inequality is not only acceptable but desirable.
Yet we also don’t expect our government to widen the gap between the rich and the less rich. So it’s depressing to learn yet again that state and local officeholders still seem committed to shifting the public tax burden away from wealth and transferring it to consumption.
The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy recently examined state and local tax policy and found Kansas has the ninth-most “unfair” tax system in the nation. A Kansan earning $47,700 a year — smack dab in the middle of all earners — pays 9.5 percent of his or her income in state and local taxes. A Kansan earning $1,191,700, on the other hand, pays an effective state and local tax rate of just 3.6 percent.
Missouri does a bit better. It ranks 30th on the institute’s unfairness scale, helped by a more progressive income tax.
Yet most of the tax talk in the two states this winter has involved raising regressive levies: alcohol, tobacco, gasoline. The push to eliminate the income tax in both states continues unabated.
Interestingly, regressive taxes at the state and local level are balanced to some degree by the progressive federal income tax. Taken as a whole, the nation’s tax system still dings the poor more than the rich, but it’s a close call.
Naturally, federal lawmakers have reintroduced a bill that would eliminate income taxes in favor of taxing sales. The appetite for taxing purchases instead of wealth is all-consuming.
Taxes should be low, balanced, and based on one’s ability to pay. Increasingly, that approach resembles a fantasy you won’t find at the cineplex.