The details of President Obama’s State of the Union address are beginning to swim into focus, and if the early leaks are correct, it seems the president is back on his faithful crusade against rich Americans. Obama wants to use his address on Tuesday to lay out some new tax proposals, most of which are aimed at the wealthiest Americans.
Among the president’s proposals will be another increase in the capital gains tax, this one meant to affect couples making more than $500,000 a year. According to reports, Obama wants to put the tax rate back at 28 percent, increasing it from its current 23.8 percent. He also wants to close the so-called trust fund loophole, requiring estates to pay capital gains taxes on securities when they are passed down to heirs. But it’s okay, because his officials insist that this will only affect the richest 1 percent of Americans.
Obama has plenty of other bad ideas and weak defenses planned for his address, but let’s just focus on his ongoing war against the rich. It’s certainly not surprising; for a man who has denied his association with socialism for six years, he’s proven himself a firm believer in the “spread-the-wealth philosophy.” If he hadn’t been sitting in the Oval Office when the Occupy Wall Street movement revved its engines, he would have undoubtedly been out there himself, what with his background in community organization.
And why not? It’s a potent message, after all. Politically, it’s one of the safest messages you can preach. Even Republicans, when looking for the populist vote, will take shots at the “upper class” while glorifying the middle. It plays well. When you’re struggling to make ends meet, working paycheck to paycheck, who is more easily demonized than someone who seems to have it all?
But it is, unfortunately, this kind of us vs. them mentality that has led to the income inequality we see today. Instead of rushing to tax the rich out of existence, we should be studying them. Did you know that people making six figures spend, on average, less than 1/5 of their time engaging in passive leisure? On the other hand, Americans making less than $20,000 a year devote more than 1/3 of their lives to watching TV, playing video games, and engaging in other forms of passive leisure.
Oh, so the rich simply work harder and that’s the end of it? Yeah, right. Well, no, it’s not that simple. Is it ever? But the fact is that there are reams of biographies, documentaries, and interviews exploring the wealthy and how they got there. In those stories, you’ll find any number of routes to success. Sure, some had wealth handed to them. Some simply lucked out. But over and over again, you’ll find stories of people who dreamed big, worked hard, persisted in the face of failure, and rose to the top.
If more Americans were encouraged to learn these lessons, we might not be so quick to demonize the 1 percent. Maybe…just maybe…they are there for a reason.