Currie & Casper
Viewpoint: Should the Taxes be Raised for the Rich
by David Currie
Recently Jeb Bush, a nearly certain candidate for President of the United States, suggested that the age to receive full social security benefits should be raised to 68 and gradually raised to 70, citing Social Security simply does not have the money to continue as originally designed. Most Republicans sing this same song. They also believe social security benefits should be reduced.
Kenneth Griffen is CEO of the Citadel, a hedge fund among other things. He is going through a divorce and it has come out that his monthly income is $100 million dollars a month. Kenneth Griffen and I paid the exact same amount into the social security program in 2014, and I can assure you I did not make $100 million dollars a month last year.
I did make more than $117,000 last year from my various business interests and a person’s income is taxed for social security only up to $117,000 a year. So Mitt Romney, Kenneth Griffen, Jeb Bush and I all paid the exact same thing in social security and Medicare taxes. I simply do not think this is fair.
I am interested in tax fairness more than anything else. Before we cut benefits for hard working people who desperately need social security to survive in old age (a brilliant idea by Franklin Roosevelt), why don’t we at least explore letting people like Kenneth Griffen pay social security taxes on say the first $100 million of income in a year. That’s only a month for him.
Most hedge fund managers like Griffen or investors like Romney only pay 20% in income taxes because of tax policies that treat their income more favorably than that of a school teacher or home builder. Why not tax capital gains and “carried interest” (google to read about it) at normal tax rates the rest of us pay? Because people have the money to make large campaign contributions and hire high dollar lobbyists.
Recently our Congressman Mike Conaway sent out his weekly letter bragging about the House of Representatives voting to abolish the inheritance tax (death tax as he calls it). He talked about what a tremendous thing this was for hard working farmers and ranchers (like me) specifically. What he failed to mention is that no one pays an inheritance tax unless their net worth is at least $10 million dollars. I seriously doubt anyone reading this is part of a family that would have to pay the “death tax.” The inheritance was designed to prevent a great concentration of wealth in the hands of a few individual families and should at least be continued as it currently is structured.
If you have read much of Thomas Jefferson you know he believed that a wide distribution of wealth and income was essential to a healthy democracy. In my mind, the continued concentration of wealth in the hands of the 1% is a serious threat to American democracy.
The main reason I am a Democrat is economic philosophy. The history of the last 100 years makes crystal clear that Republican “trickle down" economics simply is bad public policy. Tax cuts for the rich do not produce jobs, never have, and never will. See the current situation in the state of Kansas for the latest example. Taxes were cut with the promise of increased jobs. In reality the jobs have never materialized and some Kansas schools had to close early because they had no money.
Going back to Franklin Roosevelt, every single Democratic president has had at least one term during which jobs increased over 2% during his term topped by Roosevelt at 5% during the war and Jimmy Carter at 3.06%. Only Nixon and Reagan topped 2% during a term. Bill Clinton created more jobs in 8 years than Reagan, Bush the first and Bush the second did in 20 years. I believe a great deal of this success in job creation is the tax policies of Democratic administrations.
This is a subject I am passionate about and I could write much more but I’m already too long, but I will just conclude that we need a more fair tax policy (and a flat tax is not fair at all) that closes loopholes for the wealthy, makes the wealthy pay their fair share in social security taxes and capital gains taxes as just a start.
David R. Currie is the new Tom Green Democratic Chair. David is a native of Paint Rock in Concho County where family came in 1879, and continues to ranch there as well as in the Christoval area where he and his wife Loretta live. Married for over 30 years, they have a blended family of 5 children and 10 grandchildren.
He is a graduate of Howard Payne University and also has masters and doctors degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminiary in Fort Worth where he did his doctoral work on agricultural policy and the Bible and received his degree in Christian Ethics.
He is a former pastor, staff member of the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission which focuses on ethical issues and religious liberty and retired Executive Director of Texas Baptist Committed. He was also sheep and goat specialist with the Texas Department of Agriculture in the 80's when Jim Hightower was Ag. Commissioner.
David is the author of two books, On the Way and Songs in the Desert as well as hundreds of articles that can be found at www.txbc.org.
He is currently the president of Cornerstone Builders and Angelo Granite Worx, and managing partner of Stonewall Ranches development company. He has served three terms as president of the San Angelo Home Builders Association, served on the Better Business Bureau board, as a board member of Howard Payne University, The Interfaith Alliance, The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and is current Vice-chair of the San Angelo Adult Literacy Council. He and Loretta are members of Southland Baptist Church.
by Ken Casper
Should we raise taxes on the rich? Should we abolish the death tax? You’re asking the wrong person. These questions should be addressed to George Soros, Warren Buffet, Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry and the Clintons. But since they’re not available, my answers are “No” to the first question and “Yes” to the second. I imagine they’re the exact opposite of David Currie’s, but I’ll let him explain his reasoning. Here’s mine.
At present the top 10% of tax payers pay 90% of the income taxes collected. Fifty percent of the population pays no income tax at all. So let me ask a few questions? If we raise taxes on the top 10%, where do we stop? Is the goal to have them pay 92% of income tax revenue? 95%? How about 100%? After all, say my liberal friends, they can afford it. Then 90% of the population, rather than only 50%, can skate without paying any income taxes at all.
Let me probe a little deeper. What is the purpose of high tax rates? Is it to increase revenue? Or is it to punish the rich? Or could it be a little of both?
If it’s to increase revenue, raising the tax rate will be counterproductive. History has shown that tax revenues go up when tax rates are down. That was true under Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. It’s also been true under Barak Obama!
It’s a proven fact that high tax rates inhibit domestic investment, drive American capital overseas, to tax shelters and to low-risk investments. Why should entrepreneurs take chances on new enterprises when they will be taxed to death if they succeed?
The drive to keep raising the tax rate on the rich seems to reflect a pervasive Marxist attitude that there is something inherently evil about being rich. So let me ask still another question. If you had a choice between being rich and being poor, which would you choose? If you say being poor, then prove it. Give away all your money, your house, your car(s), your smart phone(s). No? I didn’t think so.
Here’s another erroneous attitude: if you’re rich, you must have cheated someone, stolen from them, victimized the vulnerable. This is patently untrue and is based on the fallacious belief that wealth is a zero-sum game, that you get rich at the expense of someone else. In fact there is no limit to wealth. New wealth is being created all the time. Money is only the medium of exchange.
History shows us that wealth produces wider wealth. More than a hundred years ago Henry Ford hit upon the idea of using an assembly line to produce cars quickly and cheaply. He paid his workers double the prevailing wage and, as efficiency rose, consistently lowered the price of the product they built. In the process, he became very wealthy—and he deserved to be. He also employed tens of thousands of workers and revolutionized transportation, not just in this country, but throughout the world.
We need to reward innovation, risk-taking and capital investments, not punish it with high taxes. We need to break the cycle of dependence. Instead of finding new ways to raise more revenue for government programs, we should be looking for ways to make people more self-sufficient and less dependent on the government. Tyranny comes from only one source: government. Dependence on government in the form of subsidies and entitlements gives it dictatorial powers.
As to the death tax, it should be done away with altogether. Taxes were paid when the assets were acquired. They shouldn’t be taxed again. We have a word for confiscation of personal property under threat of violence without compensation. It’s called robbery. When the government does it, it’s called tyranny.
Ken Casper was born and raised in New York City a long time ago. After graduating from college, he entered the Air Force and was assigned to Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo for training. He served overseas tours of duty in Japan, Vietnam and Germany, as well as stateside assignments. He retired from the Air Force Reserve in 1993 and from Civil Service at Goodfellow in 1997. In 1998 he published his first novel, A Man Called Jesse. Twenty-four books followed, including Upstairs at Miss Hattie’s. During those years he became good friends with Dr. Pres Darby. In 2011, shortly before Pres’s death from ALS, they published a joint novel, Mankillers, a Civil War thriller. Since then, Ken has published three Jason Crow mysteries set in West Texas.
A staunch conservative, Ken was the second president of the San Angelo TEA Party, 2010-2011. He has remained active in local politics ever since.