On the 1%
Sometime over break, a friend posted this clip about the Occupy movement: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y28yFxLydzU. I saw it and I commented; I wrote about widespread ignorance present on both sides, that the 1% representative had a poor argument but knew how to argue whereas the protesters had a potentially better argument but seemed oblivious to it. Soon enough though, this post escalated into a small political debate which eventually concluded with a resolution tied only loosely back to the starting point. What seemed to be the overarching take-away however, was that some people pay attention to the individuals in a movement instead of focusing upon the theme.
As I saw it and as I continue to see it, even if the movement only poorly represents what I am saying, is that the matter needing of discussion is one of social inequality. Whether the belief that taxing the rich would reduce jobs is a belief proliferated by mass media or by another means, it is an issue worth discussion. In early December, a billionaire named Nick Hanauer wrote an editorial discussing this fallacy. He opens by noting that taxes on the rich are historically low and that raising capital gains and income taxes for the rich would only make the rich marginally less rich. The bigger point Hanauer reaches is that the consumer is the driving force of any market, therefore unless you alter the consumer, the rich have less influence than is typically attributed.
In the YouTube clip, the idea of “paying a fair share” is brought up, but for either side to argue for it or against it seems misguided. The argument that should be made is one that notes that as income increases, the percentage of one’s income necessary for survival diminishes. If in a hypothetical world it took $10,000 to survive, then a man who earns $20,000 needs 50% of his income to support himself whereas a man who earns $20,000,000 needs only 0.05%. By no means am I advocating that incomes should be taxed at 100% in a top-tier bracket, but instead that the upper brackets can be raised without “hurting” the rich. And so long as additional revenue equates to more money brought home, the incentive to be productive is still present.
The biggest question of all becomes one of balance. At one point does the want of an individual or a collective outweigh the need of another individual or collective? At what points does the fight for survival outweigh, equal, or become trivial in a comparison against the desire of luxury?