Big Ideas to Fix The Economy: Tax the Rich

Thursday, August 18, 2011

This week we’ve been asking listeners to suggest big ideas on how to fix the economy. We’ve discussed raising inflation, boosting housing prices, and capping total compensation for CEOs at $5 million. Today we're talking about another idea: taxing the rich. The Bush Tax Cuts essentially mean that if you make money with money, you pay less in taxes. And if you make money from a job, you pay more. Economists and tax analysts agree that the cuts disproportionately benefit the richest Americans. And some wealthy Americans — including Warren Buffett — are calling for the rich to be taxed at a higher rate.

We're speaking with Charlie Fink about this idea. Fink made millions of dollars at AOL in the '90s, and he's one of more than 100 "financially successful" signatories on the Patriotic Millionaires project, which is asking the government to let the Bush era tax cuts expire. Megan McArdle, senior editor at The Atlantic, also joins us. McArdle agrees that taxing the rich would benefit the economy, but warns that it won't be as simple as some might think.


Charlie Fink and Megan McArdle

Produced by:

Posey Gruener

Comments [7]


Isn't a liberal millionaire who wants to pay more to the government and insists on higher taxes like a hawkish conservative who wants to join the military but insists on a draft first? What stops them from a writing check or enlisting on their own?

Aug. 18 2011 03:10 PM
Concerned American from Pittsburgh, PA

I was hired as a contractor (temp) for a company located in rural area above Pittsburgh, they made gear box units for trains. They had a union. I worked hard and fast and was too productive. The union voted me out 3 months later from being too productive. A number of workers compained, I was going to work myself out of a job. The goal of any american is to simply work hard and keep a job. I lost mine due to the union, because I worked too fast! ABOLISH UNIONS AND PUT AMERICA BACK TO WORK. The minimum wage was meant to protect. Unions create a "lazy" attitude among workers, especially if the company owners are required to pay a certain wage. This is counter productive for America, PERIOD.

Aug. 18 2011 10:46 AM

We have to pay for these $3T wars in Afghanistan & Iraq just like the $3T WWII (in today's money). The top marginal income tax then was 91% on money above $3M (in today's money) lowered to 74% under LBJ after closing loopholes. Corporations = people, so tax capital gains at least 35% not just 15%. New brackets: over $1B income/profit = 91%, over $500M = 74%, over $100M = 50%, over $20M = 39%, over $1M = 35%. Raise the hourly minimum wage $1/year from 2007's $7.25 to $10 (the 1968 level in today's money) to $15 (Ralph Nader's estimate based on productivity). Combine these tactics for a strategy of full employment of forty-hour-workweeks with four weeks/year paid vacation, with single-payer healthcare like China and free education like pre-Reagan California. This would encourage charitable giving and re-investment like the old cartoons about capitalism. At least one elementary school textbook presumes only Communism and democratic capitalism exist, not democratic socialism or corporatism/fascism. The debt ceiling would be moot if the Bush tax cuts ended in 2010 and not renewed through 2012 to save 2M jobless benefits.

Aug. 18 2011 09:11 AM
Jane McNeely from Boston MA

Fix the Economy

Bring back the jobs that have fled overseas. I rarely hear anyone address this taboo issue, afraid of the repercussions of losing the big business votes. We need jobs to stimulate the economy, yet more and more companies outsource a great deal of their income-generating jobs. Instead of attacking the military (they give their LIVES to protect us) or the elderly (SS, Medicare and Medicare) who have already spend their lives supporting the country financially, have congress look into ways to stop the departure of jobsand bring the ones gone back home. Offer incentives. Those companies that bring back or reopen the factories or jobs they have sent overseas could be given tax breaks of sorts, best deal for the next two years, decreasing in value the longer they delay over the next ten years. Pay could be minimum wage to start, with measured increases for ten years with good benefits, not allowing unions to interfere or negotiate with the companies during this period. Increase the difficulty and the expenses for companies that still consider outsourcing as a cheaper alternative. Towns, cities and states could also help “Made in America” become an economic benefit. It may cost politicians big business votes, but it should reap in votes from average Americans seeing jobs and industries coming home where they belong. Votes from the re-employed and from areas revitalized will go to the persons that actually help them recover and survive.

Aug. 18 2011 09:04 AM

How about simply writing a large check to the Treasury Department which has managed a $14 trillion dollar debt and issued a farcical budget that was rejected in the US Senate 97-0 this year? Will they spend it wisely once their boss returns from Martha's Vineyard?
How about allowing people the freedom to redistribute money on their own without government interference?

Aug. 18 2011 08:35 AM
Liz Whelan from NYC

I think Obama should initiate an “America the Beautiful” program using federal, state and private money to support public and private programs to restore the natural beauty of the country. It would emphasize renewal of natural habitats, clean up of water, air and land, carbon reduction and growth of sustainable urban to rural agriculture. The goal would be to make America the greenest country in the world.

Aug. 18 2011 08:15 AM
Carl Peter Klapper from Edison, NJ

For the umpteenth time: income is not wealth. A tax on income is not a tax on wealth. Indeed, a tax on "high incomes" form a barrier of exit out of poverty and a barrier of entry into wealth.

If you want to tax the wealthy, you should tax the wealthy. Tax those holding stocks, bonds, mortgages -- as a lender -- and land valued in excess of $10 million. Tax the amount over $10 million, plus tax the amount over $100 million and so on until you tax the amount over $10 billion.

This true millionaire and billionaire tax is based on an old proposal by Huey Long.. Please pass it on to your listeners.

Aug. 18 2011 02:31 AM

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