Why Aren’t The Wealthy Called Freeloaders?

A reader sent me an article about a group of 38 charity and religious leaders fasting to bring God into politics. More specifically to “seek God’s help in fighting proposed budget cuts they believe are ‘immoral.’” (source)

Now, I don’t believe in fasting. I think that we should treat our bodies as well as possible and that includes eating regularly. I also don’t believe that God calls us to hurt ourselves.

But a line in the original piece sent to me caught my eye:

. . . deficit reduction isn’t as important as keeping people from starving: ‘We shouldn’t be reducing our meager efforts for poor people in order to reduce the deficit. They didn’t get us into this, and starving them isn’t going to get us out of it. (source)

While I very much believe in spending money wisely and in balancing our budget, I believe that those with the most should be targeted. I think that when a person owns a car that is the equivalent of more than twice what the average person makes, that person should be taxed and taxed hard.

Why? Because CEOs and investment bankers do not work harder than the janitors that clean their offices. I’m not saying that we should all be paid the same because I don’t believe that is fair or helpful. I am fine with some families having more than other families. But I am not okay with government regulations and budgets that purposely give corporations and those that run them even more money while taking away service from those who need help.

It’s the tax breaks for wealthy families and the General Electrics’, who don’t pay taxes at all (source), which are redistributing the wealth in this country. Wealth has become more concentrated. When the top 400 wealthiest people (.0000035%) have more money than the bottom 50-60% of our country (source), it is not the public services to our veterans, our disabled, our youngest and our oldest citizens that is causing our financial problems. It is a culture, government and tax code that are set up to reward those who do not contribute and often don’t care.

Why aren’t the wealthy called freeloaders? Their contribution to our country is nowhere near their contribution to themselves. They live off the backs of the workers and our government in their gated communities and feeling good about themselves because they donated $500 to charity when that is .0001% of their wealth. It’s another winter coat not hanging in the closet to them. It’s three pairs of shoes.

Two years ago, my husband and I got up to donating 3-4% of our income to charity. It was tough and uncomfortable, and we weren’t even at our goal of 10%. But the worst part of it? When we submitted our taxes to the company, who works with many much wealthier clients than us, I inquired whether I should itemize the receipts for our charitable donations. Our tax accountant responded: Oh, it probably wont affect your refund that much.

Later that week, she emailed a summary of our taxes and wrote: I never see anyone give as much as to charity as you.

How sad. Because we are nowhere near the wealthiest client at that firm and yet she was shocked at how much we gave — barely 4% of our net salary.

In fact, poll after poll shows that the wealthy Americans, are the stingiest.

I saw similar numbers in 2001 as well so it’s not related to our economic woes. In fact, people earning less then $25,000 gave .1% more in 2007 while those over $75,000 gave .3% less. (source)

Wealthy people keep their money. And buy big houses. Maybe two or three. And poor people have their subsidized homes torn down for apartments catering to yuppies. The wealthy do not give away their money. They are NOT helping the poor. Not enough at least.

I don’t think that it’s asking a lot for a wealthy person to give more money back to the government. I don’t feel bad for the family whose fourth car has to be a Toyota instead of a Mercedes. I just don’t care. I’d rather see a different family feed their children. And taxes are the only way to get these people to contribute.

We have government agencies because people are greedy and charities can’t do it all with what they are given.

We expect the poor to take care of themselves or disappear. We expect the same for the unhealthy, the veterans and the elderly. They aren’t convenient. They have nothing we want. I pray that every person who suggests that we cut government agencies and who doesn’t donate at least 4-10% of their income to the charity never has unexpected illness or death. That they never grow old. Or make a mistake. I pray that they never lose their way or their job or their savings.

We need to stop attacking the government agencies, who are attempting to fill gap left by underfunded charities, and look at ourselves. Or are we too busy coveting everything the wealthy have and can do?

Is that what it means to be successful in this country. More stuff? We don’t want to take away that beach house. We want our own.

Sadly, it is exactly what Scott and I did last year. We held on to every penny save a few hundred dollars and two massive clothing donations. All I felt at tax time was how much more I wanted.  Because I love big vacations. And play sets in the backyard. But not giving as much as we should meant that I kept seeing what we didn’t have, instead of remembering that we have so much.

We will be going back to our goal of giving away more.  We will have to make changes and grow again in our faith. As material wealth comes along, I want to remember that it is as much luck as brains and giving back is the best way to be grateful for our fortunate life.

If God wants to change some hearts this week in Washington and around the country, I’m all for it. I’ll still be eating, but I’ll also be praying. Because every religion calls us to take care of the poor and downtrodden. Every moral compass points that way. But perhaps our character can best be seen in our bank accounts.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

63 thoughts to “Why Aren’t The Wealthy Called Freeloaders?”

  1. Here’s the thing: the poor help more because they know how hard it is and how much they’d like to be helped. It’s why blue collar guys will help their buddies fix their cars – they respect saving money and helping those in need – while white collar guys bitch that their friends didn’t just pay someone to do the work for them. The poor know what it’s like to need and want to help those who do.

  2. What’s it going to be? Tax the rich or forced redistribution through charity? I’ve been “poor” all my life and paid taxes once when my soon to be exwife refused to cooperate on our taxes. The rich already pay the most taxes. I’ve never seen a poor person hire anyone.
    The “budget crisis” is a governmental problem. The government is spending too much. The Left is now using scare tactics to whip up opposition to budget cuts that must be made. The poor will not starve (more) the old will not die (more). Yet.

    It’s interesting to note that the rampant spending of the national socialists made them popular in Germany. When their fiscal “budget crisis” happened it made total sense to make up the short fall by redistributing the wealth of the evil Jews (please substitute “rich” for “Jew” for today’s “crisis”).

    Why not empower everyone to succeed in life on their own? Each to their own talents.
    Should I publish my mailing address to send the checks to?
    Just saying.

    1. “Empower everyone to succeed in life on their own? Each to their own talents.”

      I think this is an absolutely wonderful thought but it’s just not practical. Problem is not everyone gets the opportunity to discover their own talents. And I’m gonna hit more on education here than taxing the wealthy. But it goes hand in hand with the budget crisis because I’m watching education be cut dramatically rather than taxing mult-million/billion dollar companies to reduce the deficit. How can we possibly expect our future generations to succeed in life on their own if we aren’t even taking appropriate measures to ensure everyone is getting a proper education? Fact is, there are students going to schools where sewage leaks into the hallways in areas of SC. If we can’t give them a safe environment to learn in, how do we expect them to value education, careers, and the future. They feel safer at home in their projects watching television put out by those billion dollar conglomerates or out on the streets.

      1. You’re right. Things are so messed up we all should stay at home and wait for the Government Check. Oh…and cheese. The government has the best cheese.

    2. why does socialism suddenly equate to the Holocaust? no one is saying kill all the rich and redistribute the wealth. and if we think the Holocaust was about class war, that was one tiny symptom of a very sick, antisemitic, xenophobic people.

  3. Again…even our values are twin-like.

    I see this every day. I work in an at-risk school district. While we get healthy contributions here and there in our community from big names/companies, it’s the daily giving of the poor that keeps certain programs going.

    We give too. More than we really can afford, but it’s so important.

  4. I really like the point you are trying to make here, and believe that everyone should be charitable, especially those with the means to be. However, when looking at your chart the first thing i saw was not that the higher income bracket gave a smaller percentage, but instead that they gave a greater amount of money. Now, like I said, I am in support of what you are saying but maybe a different formatting for the information would have a greater impact. Either way, just food for thought, good post though.

    1. If I’m not mistaken, the money amounts are the average salary and the salary cap for each category- not the amount of money given to charity.

      1. Maybe I am misunderstanding, but I see it as the Average Income and the Giving as a percentage of income both broken apart by the separate income groups. Again maybe I don’t understand, but also as I said in my original post, I find it confusing and that is what I saw when looking it, not that is what it technically shows.

        1. I didn’t create the chart. It’s from the article source below. The $ amounts are salaries and the percentages are how much each salary block gives. Yes, overall 2.1% of $100,000 is more money, but those families also have much more discretionary and disposable money than the families with $10,000. The percentage may be even more meaningful in a chart with how much the families have after food & shelter.

  5. Amen, sister…AMEN!

    Right now in our Bible study group we are reading “Radical” by David Platt. It’s been truly eye-opening for me. In America we seem to think that the American Dream is what we’re called to…especially Conservatives. The whole pull yourself up by your boot straps to become wealthy = success mentality. When, in fact, it’s just not biblical. Jesus calls us (the Church) to meet the physical and spiritual need to “the least of these”. He calls His disciples to give up worldly possessions, to be globally minded, and to risk possibly even their lives for Jesus and the furthering of His Kingdom. It’s truly radical thinking that breaks through the lines of political parties. It just proves to me that Conservative Christians have it all wrong when it comes to helping the poor, the hungry, the jobless, the uninsured in this country!

  6. Every year we get letters telling us protest your taxes (property taxes). I won’t. We’re lucky to have the funds to own. And those taxes go to our schools and other city services.

    The same with my federal taxes. I don’t write off my donations (no where near 4-10%), not because it wouldn’t effect the bottom line, but because my gifts are just that. Gifts. And my taxes are needed too. (now, if I did get to 10%, I might reconsider!)

    1. I’m sorry Kate, but do you not see the hypocrisy of what you just wrote? It’s ok to not take a tax deduction when you donate 1%, but if you give 10 times more, your deduction suddenly becomes more valuable to YOU? How arbitrary!

    2. I am with you. I don’t write off my donations, and I don’t mind paying my taxes. There were plenty of years where we were so poor we received thousands of dollars back in return. We are so fortunate now to be able to pay in to the system that supported us when we needed it.

  7. I wonder if it is also because poor people have stronger religious beliefs/faith than the rich and give more money to the church? Just a thought.

    Also, what KLZ said.

    And well said, my friend!

      1. in this economy? we all know poor doesn’t necessarily mean uneducated. most of my friends are over-educated for their jobs or are unemployed PhDs. 🙂

        1. of course not, but if you plucked 1 couple out of the millions who makes under $16,000 per year, I’d be willing to bet you’ve a far greater chance of getting someone who didn’t go to college as opposed to someone who did.

          1. I just think it’s a little condescending to assume that is all. I was raised by a college graduate who was underpaid and we were dirt poor. degrees aren’t worth what they used to be. I’m educated and I don’t regret my education for a minute, but I’ll be in debt from it until I die. I’m getting off point, but I just think it’s better to keep an open mind. you never know what circumstances befall people. I guess I think in the little picture vs the big is all, and generalizations don’t sit well with me.

            1. it was only a guess of mine that it could have been due to education. seemed to me that if you’re not educated, you may not know how money is used to support programs. at the same time, it very well could be something else.

              …and if you could see my W2’s, you would understand I know first-hand about degrees not always paying well. Minus my mortgage, I have no debt, but I could make more money without my degree. I’m overqualified for most jobs I’ve applied for in the past 5 years. Degrees still equal more money on the whole though.

    1. I don’t know about that. I’ve been dirt poor all my life and I always try to give to charities and worthwhile causes. I’m not religious so I don’t give my money to a church, but I do give to liberal charities like HRC, Invisible Children, Amnesty, etc. just a thought.

  8. I couldn’t agree more. My husband and I have never been in a position to donate to charity, but we do when we can. It may only be $25 here, or $50 there, or a $100 trip to Toys R Us for Toys for Tots. But we do it. Because when it comes right down to it, knowing that there’s a child opening their only Christmas present because of us is WAY better than anything we could think to give each other.

    Since my husband got sick last year, and most of our usual “savings” cash flow is dedicated to paying astronomical medical bills, our donation funds are little to none. Now we need to find the time to volunteer. Give blood. Build houses. Something. It’s so important.

    Thanks for this post. You’ve inspired me to stop thinking about it, and instead, act on it.

  9. Speak it sister! I love it. Freaking Reaganomics and trickle down bullshit did not get our country ANYWHERE. That guy’s presidency was a huge disaster that we’ll pay for for a long time. I think it was HBO that did an awesome documentary on how much damage the Reagan years did to our country. And don’t even get me started on dubya, fucking fuck. I totally agree with you. My husband and I are taxed pretty hard but I think it’s only fair because we make more – and we’re not anywhere near the top wealthiest percentage. We do donate but unfortunately not enough. Good on you to call people out.
    I am fortunate because I live in a liberal city. I work for very wealthy people but they are also liberal and they aren’t all about this “less government” crap which is really “less taxes for me and fuck everyone else”. What kills me is that there is a less advantaged county to the east of us where I grew up (where my mom still lives) and most of those people are Republicans because they want more money in their pockets – less taxes. But people just don’t freaking get it! More money in your pockets to pay for your wacky expensive health insurance! Ah! More money in your pockets to pay for private school because we’ve ruined all the public schools in California. Wake up people!
    /end rant

  10. well said. i don’t mind paying taxes because I know that we have to pay for what we get (“we” being society as a whole). but i’d mind paying taxes a lot less if i felt that the upper economic strata were paying their fair shares as well. kudos to you for giving so much. i hope many readers will strive to follow you in this. i know i will.

  11. Unlike the bulk of the readers to comment here, I’m going to try to disagree with you here and include facts to back up my statements.

    But first I’m going to applaud you for giving so much. My wife and I give to a handful of organizations/causes, but not as much as we’d like to. Anyone looking for a good charity should investigate the options at Charity Navigator. 🙂

    From your chart above, here are the amounts of taxes paid by each group in real dollars:
    $10,531 group pays 4.3% which equals $452
    $27,674 group pays 2.5% which equals $691
    $46,213 group pays 2.7% which equals $1,247
    $73,460 group pays 2.0% which equals $1,469
    $158,888 group pays 2.1% which equals $3,336
    In other words, the top 2 groups give 66% of all giving.

    So if they can spend more and give more, what’s the problem with that? Every time we get extra income in our house, we give more, save more, and spend more. I.e if I make an extra $1,000 and give an extra $10, it may only be 1%, but it’s enough to feed a family for a meal.

    Next let’s look at tax rates,
    The lowest marginal tax rate is 10% for a couple making up to $16,750.
    The highest marginal tax rate is 35% for a couple making more than $373,651.

    Standard deductions and exemptions make the effective tax rate $0 for the poorest of workers in this country.
    For the other group, the $373,651 couple, they pay roughly $100,000 in taxes [src=http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/rp-09-50.pdf]

    Plus if you are in the bottom 2 tax brackets you pay no long-term capital gains taxes, but everyone else pays 15%.

    In closing, I urge anyone to show me a list of problems that have been solved by throwing money at them. Because I can show them a much longer list of problems that have only gotten worse from doing just that–and that list ends with the current inflation of Zimbabwe’s currency.

    Related to that, but a conversation that isn’t for this time and place, is the fact that the problem we’re having in the US currently is a spending problem. No one wants to make cuts in the programs that take up the most money–and of course the waste and inefficiencies throughout.

    1. I’m curious about a list of problems that have been solved by cutting funding. For instance, is there a history of positive outcomes from cutting funding to public education?

      I think my biggest issue with our current budget situation is not the tax rates – although, if I have one more person tell me we need to go back to the 50’s, I swear I’m going to slap them with a reminder of a time when the wealthiest paid 70%+ – but rather with corporate tax cuts.

      I would love someone to explain to me why a multi billion dollar company does not have to pay taxes AND they actually get paid tax benefits by the government.

      I have friends who tell me it’s because those companies are providing jobs and if we tax them we might take jobs away from Americans.

      But I guess it’s okay to take jobs away from teachers and other government employees.

      1. I’ll give you a specific example that I see VERY frequently: kids that are given money growing up without having to earn it. The problem ends up being they don’t value money. The solution is parents eventually tire of this or die. The money runs out, the kid has to get a job and either 1) ends up in debt their whole life, or 2) matures.

        As for the corporate taxes, there are 2 things here: A) I thought this post was more about wealthy people, not companies so I didn’t touch on it, but B) even the article Alex links specifically says – Either way, you’ll pay. As an employee or as a customer.

        Regarding education: When I was a high school science teacher, lack of funding wasn’t the primary issue. Issue #1, lack of parental involvement. Issue #2, wasteful spending–particulary in the area of non-teachers. There are too many support positions and that money goes to their salaries instead of proper materials.

        Also, you specifically say cutting funding (from public education). Not giving money is >not< the same as giving money, and then taking it away. Could I live a happy life on half my family income, sure–but man have I gotten used to the full amount.

        1. I understand your analogy and agree with it as it pertains to raising my children.

          I just disagree with it as it pertains to our nation’s poor, elderly and ill.

          When we tell our children, “If you want those $100 jeans, you’ll have to earn the money yourself” we’re not saying that we will not cloth them. And if we tell them, “If you want that iPhone, you need to save your babysitting money and buy it” we’re not saying that we won’t provide them with shelter or food. We’re saying that they need to earn the “extras”.

          There’s a belief in our country that people getting handouts are getting a free ride and don’t appreciate the value. How judgemental of us! Are we saying if we give a woman food stamps that she won’t appreciate the value of feeding her children?

          And you’re right. Alex’s post was not about corporations. That’s just a bee buzzing in my bonnet right now.

          I agree that there needs to be more parental involvment in our schools. But how can there be when families rely on two or even three incomes to make ends meet? How can you expect someone to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and, at the same time, be involved in school?

          And, as a non-teacher employee of public education, I would like to think I provide valuable support to my supervisors, enabling them to focus on the kids while I focus on balancing our budgets, playing phone tag with parents, data entry, and a hundred other tasks that make our department run smoothly.

          1. With public education provided and medicare & medicaid our society isn’t saying people don’t get a basic level of effort either. But if they want to smoke with our money and then be treated for the resulting lung cancer with our money, I do take issue with that.

            I specifically don’t think people don’t appreciate the help. I think like in all things, there are some who abuse the system but most would rather earn their income. Of course, there’s the so called “welfare trap” which essentially means you get offered a job paying you the same amount you make in welfare and if you take it, (because of paying taxes on that money) you end up more poor!

            Regarding parents, I’m not suggesting parents spend more time with their kids. I’m suggesting they spend their time more wisely. The parent that spend 1 minute giving their child 50 cents to buy ice cream at the truck isn’t teaching them anything, yet while spending that same 1 minute searching for 50 cents if a parent has their child explain at least 1 combination of coins to get to 50 cents, he/she has helped teach their child a very useful skill.

            Finally, I have no reason to believe you don’t add value to your school system. I’m not suggesting only teachers work at school. I do believe there are more faculty members than there need to be. But, that too, is a conversation for another post.

            1. I’ve got to agree with you there! The “welfare trap” is frustrating beyond belief! I have a friend who, years ago as a single mom, qualified for childcare assistance. Then, when she was offerred a promotion, made too much to qualify, but not enough to pay for childcare on her own. She had to turn down the promotion and hope another – making more – showed up at some point.

              I think the quality time thing – the 50 cents as an educational tool – is a great idea, but we have to educate the parents first.

              But I think we’re getting off topic. Sorry, Alex! I just really love the civility of this discussion. Usually – by this point – I’ve been called a socialist. lol

          2. Just weighing in here on the jobs… My husband and I have 4 children. We live in a 1600 sq. ft. home, we drive 2 cars that are paid for, we have ONE income… well well well below $75,000 annually. I often hear the argument from a sibling of mine that they can’t make their ends meet… they have 2 full time jobs between them, they have two vehicles (one paid for), they have 2 children. There is a huge difference between our lifestyles. What is important to me and my family is not the same as what is important to them. We do not need cable. We do not need to eat out 5 nights out of the week. We save for family vacations and do not tend to use credit cards to pay for luxuries. If we can’t afford something we do without. This country is filled with people who have to have instant gratification. They say they can’t make their ends meet, but they sure as heck make sure their nails are perfectly manicured, their hair is colored and they have the latest smart phone and subsequent data plan. It all comes down to priorities. I think Mike is on to something here… America (gov’t and public alike) have problems with discretionary spending and a big old case of the gimmies. What America needs to realize is that it is OK to do without. It is OK not to have everything that your neighbors have. As long as you have your basic needs met, the rest is just gravy. We live very comfortably for people that make such a little amount of money. We have food, we have a home, we have clothing — and we don’t have cable or new cars or Jimmy Choos (Which I would REALLY REALLY REALLY love a pair) and we are OK! Many who are considered “poor” don’t consider themselves poor because their basic needs are met.

            sorry, chased a rabbit, but I just get all bustled up when I hear about people not being able to have what they need even though they have 2+ incomes… sometimes a reevaluation of where money is going is all that is needed… obviously that is not ALL people… but I would say many fit that category… this is coming from someone who bought a car, bought a house and put her husband through his last years of college all on $19,000 income (annual) — and did not have one student loan (and he had no scholarship) — SO, I guess for me, I just feel like everyone is pointing fingers at everyone else for their problems, no one is owning up and reevaluating and doing what needs to be done to change their situations. As my uncle told me shortly before I bought my first house, “If you want something badly enough, you find a way to make it happen.” — People need to start DOING and stop waiting and stop blaming.

            Sorry Alex, I am so off topic! Great post, even if I disagree on some levels! Well thought out, well written and well sourced!

        1. Interesting article. Not sure the Kansas Liberty is as “fair and factual” as it claims, but then again, I think the phrase “non partisan newspaper” is an oxymoron. 🙂

          My question was not about throwing money but rather, what has been helped by CUTTING funding.

          1. I find it funny that you find fault with the newspaper that published the findings, but not the findings themselves. I was pointing out that throwing money at problems is NOT the answer! There is definite waste, redundancies and fraud in our system, we need to weed it out before advocating more spending.

            1. Nah. I said I found the article “interesting”. I didn’t say I didn’t find fault in it. I also don’t believe that test scores adequately reflect the level of education students are receiving, but that’s a whole other post. I just don’t want to get into a debate. And to be honest, I don’t really feel like doing a massive research project on the state of Kansas education. lol

              In addition, I agree with you to a certain extent. I do think we need to look at waste and redundancies in our system. I’m just typing from California where massive numbers of teachers are being laid off and my future Kindergartener is looking at entering into the largest student to teacher classroom in years.

  12. This was an excellent look at this problem, and I agree with your every point! I too have run the pendulum from giving a lot to giving very little, and always end up feeling the worst when I give the least. There’s something edifying about sharing what we have with others, in good times and bad – it strengthens the spirit.

    I try to teach that to my son, but it’s challenging…

  13. “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24 God gets it. He totally gets it! No wonder the wealthiest are the most stingy. I agree with fasting (you can fast from technology, tv, certain time suckers, not just food – the point is to use that time to reflect and connect to God so it doesn’t really matter what you fast from – I do think food is ok too), but fasting to get what you want (which is what they’re doing it sounds like) and for something that is not really in correlation to Biblical principles…I’d say is dangerous. “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well;keep warm and well fed.’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:14-17 Again, I have no problem with letting your faith guide your political views (they do mine) but I really hope people examine the Biblical principals before they rally behind their faith to support their issue.

    1. Another Amen due here! Have you read Radical by David Platt? If not, you should. It sounds like you already get a lot of what he says but it sounds like you’d enjoy it!

      1. I have not read that one! Thanks for the rec. I have read Blue Like Jazz and loved that one by Donal Miller. Really helped me put into words what my thoughts were on topics like this. I will look for yours.

  14. Well said. And that chart about the poor giving more than the wealthy is really enlightening. You’ve made me think more about how much I should be contributing. Thank you.

  15. Your post brought to mind an adage (proverb?) that I have heard a couple of time that goes something like “To whom much is given, much is expected.” Now, obviously this lends itself to many meanings but I expect “given” means good fortune (both figurative and literal) whether by virtue or birth, hard work or luck. Some take this to mean that such “blessed” folks ought to be paying more in taxes to their local, state and federal governments with the implicit assumption that such entities will spend those funds wisely/in the pursuit of curing social ills. I think we all know that we cannot count on the various governments to do so, but such is the tradeoff in our republican democracy.
    I prefer to take the adage to mean such “blessed” people have a moral responsibility to make contributions to such people or organizations as they deem warrant the fruits of their good fortune, as you are your husband (awesomely) do. I prefer to take this route because government is a notoriously inefficient means of fulfilling such wishes. Either because of waste or administration or simply differing priorities from the taxpayer.
    My main issues with the “soak the rich” (my words, not yours) line of thought are:
    1) who says where to draw the line on deciding who is rich and how much they should be soaked? A family in RVA making 500k might be considered rich, but that same family making the same income in San Francisco might be considered middle class and those dollars don’t go as far.
    2) As happens with spending to cure social ills (see medicare, medicaid, etc.), the cost of such programs will increase a lot faster than the revenues collected from the upper class taxpayers who are subsidizing these programs. Eventually, that source of funds will run out and then the bar for the “rich” will have to be lowered in order to keep financing these programs.
    Now as much as I hate to penalize folks for success, I do think that there is room for an upper level marginal tax rate, maybe 45% for that income over $2mm. But the fact remains that something like 45% of the populace pays zero income tax and a good proportion of those actually make money from the government. So we have something like 55%, barely half, of the populace financing the federal government (and the upper quintile taking on a sizable chunk of that) and subsidizing the existing programs that are in operation (not including, of course, the borrowing). This is already a massive transfer of wealth. Do we want to encourage an increasing dependence on government to provide for citizens’ well-being? Especially given the real worry, with the way things are going, that the rug may be pulled out from underneath those folks that come to depend on governmental services? There has to be better way to solve such problems.
    Clearly I don’t think that a person’s wealth, acquired by whatever means, exists for the purpose of the state to tax it. Can more moral-suasion be done to encourage people to be more generous? Absolutely and perhaps we can find better ways to incentivize (or help people to realize, as such actions should be their own reward) people to be more charitable, but using government to try and meet such ends is probably not the best way to accomplish these things.

    Here is your soapbox back. Thanks for letting me borrow it.

    1. We are considered “rich” by the government’s standards. Wealthy people are wealthy because they spend their money wisely or at least we do. We don’t want to give to the charity called, “the government.” We feel we already give enough to them and they do a piss poor job of spending what they do get from us. Why is that we (my husband and I) have worked so hard and went to college to make something of ourselves and the government wants to continue to take more to distribute it the “poor”? How is that fair? Poor people are poor because they won’t get off the government tit. Yes, I said it. What happened to personal responsibility, etc? Why would anyone who is being taken care of on someone’s else dollar want to have the gumption to do anything for themselves? The government is just crippling them.

      For example, we just got our tax bill… we owe $94,000 for 2010 and then we pay quarterly taxes. Our quarterly taxes for 2011 are $38,000. That’s right we will pay $38,000 four times this year to the federal and state government.

      Now, having said all this we give to other charities that are not the charity of the government. Do you we do for the write offs? No. Do we do it because we have the money and enjoy giving to charity? Yes.

      1. Other than your mass generalization of the poor — Loved this post! Not all who are poor are so because they are on the gov’t tit. Some actually choose to live a more modest lifestyle, not because they can’t do better, but because they can do without. I see nothing wrong with that, especially if they are not accepting gov’t funds just because they meet the qualifications. We were once told we should do WIC — and I thought, WHY? Yes, I know that at that time we qualified, but we were doing perfectly well to pay for our children’s needs and our own. But, many DO take from the system because it is offered to them, not because they need it. Ie: reduced and free lunch… we get the application EVERY year… do we ever fill it out and turn it in? NO. That would be greed. Just because something is offered, doesn’t mean people need to take it… that frustrates me so much how people just willingly accept handouts just because they are there for the taking, rather than because they actually need it. People enjoy milking the system, but not ALL people do this.

  16. When I’m not hustling photobooths I work with the most vulnerable and unprotected sector of our population: Our extremely low income seniors. These people live well below what anyone would consider poverty and so this topic is one I feel very passionate about. Just the idea that some of the benefits they receive, how very little they are, could be cut in any capacity makes me ill. Thanks for touching on the culture of this greed and the acceptance.

  17. AMEN AMEN AMEN AMEN. You said it well: “We need to stop attacking government agencies who are attempting to fill the gap left by underfunded charities….”
    Love, Marge

  18. The 158k number is funny as an average. People in that actual range are not rich at all they are business owners who pay people who are in the lower range. Averages are silly I would like to see it broken down more into say one million and 30 million range. It would be more telling. Although I agree with a lot of your sentiment.

  19. Yes! And I want to add one thing. Many wealthy people DO give a LOT to charities of their choice, and I applaud that. However, I wonder how many people choose to give to orphanages, young mothers, and fuzzy kittens- as opposed to studying rehabilitation for sex offenders, heroin addicts, and other criminals/ill people. How in the world would the unappealing/”yucky” causes ever get addressed if not through mandatory taxes (and then grants, etc.)? This dilemma is exactly why we cannot shrink government down to nothing and just hope all societal ills get solved through the generosity of the wealthy (well, this, and a crap ton of other reasons). If we want to actually live in and benefit from society, then we need to contribute- and the wealthy should contribute the most. And yes, I say this as a member of a dr./lawyer couple who stands to pay a lot of taxes in my lifetime.

    And, to those of you who may question whether or not we are “wealthy” now, no, we are not. However, as we are building our careers, we have been giving in kind. So, before any of you criticizes my perspective, please note that this year my giving was just over 20%. I am nowhere near a perfect human being (would be happy to be called “tries to be good sometimes”), I am attempting to practice what I preach (although I wouldn’t actually preach, but hey, my views on religion can be saved for another comment)!

    Thanks, Alex!

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