Between a milking, cleaning excess snow off a barn roof, and the Super Bowl, my friend and I had an interesting conversation on the perspective of wealthier Americans. For background, my friend runs his 500 plus acre family diary farm primarily by himself. Where he makes a lower Middle Class living undermined by fluctuating commodity prices and weak leverage over the sale of his milk, his wife comes from an upper Middle Class family while she is a human resource manager for a large corporation. Both are lifelong Republicans. Given the fact the wealthiest Americans pay the vast majority of dollars in taxes, he questioned whether or not they should have a greater say in policy, because they are outnumbered by those who might vote them higher taxes to pay for socialist giveaways that benefit the poorer majority.
When an elitist class, such as the wealthy, rules, it is called an aristocracy; whereas, the power in a democracy is vested in the general population, i.e. the People. While wealthier Americans do directly provide more monetary contributions to government, members of the military, social activists, public officials, firemen, farmers, police, etc., add just as much, if not more, value to our society. Aside from the wealthy over emphasizing their importance, we were founded as a democratic republic, not an aristocracy. Everyone from top corporate executives to the drunkard welfare recipient, therefore, deserves to have their interests equally considered while their votes must have equal value. The wealthy may have louder voices due to the privileges their wealth affords them, but government should not weigh their interests heavier.
That said, wealthier Americans do play a major role in our economy, which allows our society to function, while they too are entitled to the protections of our society. I think we can all agree those who legitimately earn or receive financial assets have rights to those assets. Sidestepping any argument that a greater burden of taxes falls on the Middle Class in terms of percentage and lifestyle, democracy is not free and the rich must pay their share, but they should not be over taxed. Assuming they are willing and do pay their fair share, my friend argued wealthier Americans want to help the poor, yet they do not simply want their money thrown away. They also believe the poorer someone is, the more help they can get; this is true to some extent at certain cutoff points. Accordingly, the rich use their influence to protect their interests.
Instead of balance, this influence has, however, lead to an agenda where cutting taxes and ending effective social programs is the central goal of short-sighted economic policies that hurt everyone. The cumulative effects of following this course for decades is massive government debt, which will be displaced onto younger Americans one way or another, fewer opportunities in the US, and weak economic sovereignty. Considering untargeted, poorly negotiated “free trade” deals, which favor the interests of corporations and investors, the US government failed to recognize the “taxes” it would be displacing onto American workers, Middle Class businesses, which cannot necessity outsource labor or sell aboard, and the US treasury. The reason is that the interests of only the most influential were considered; whereas, the labor intensive manufacturing sector was simply thrown away.
All taxpayers have legitimate grievances when government misdirects, abuses, or inefficiently spends their money. These improprieties are, however, the result of either a systematic failure in government or the faults of public officials. The easy response is for influential taxpayers to manipulate economic policy, so they can make more money, and the tax code, which allows them to keep more of their money. This has helped generate a nearly insurmountable level of government debt, which younger Americans will face through higher taxes as well as cuts to social programs that help them succeed, and displace greater financial burdens onto the Middle Class. The responsible and practical solution is to directly address the issues at hand through better governance instead of undermining government and leaving fewer opportunities for Americans. This is an agenda all Americans, especially the affluent, need to embrace.