Do the super rich have a 'duty' to pay higher taxes?

The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne says it's only fair that America's most affluent pay a larger share. The wealthy, and some commentators, disagree

Six in ten Americans think the rich should pay higher taxes, according to a recent poll.
(Image credit: Corbis)

"The American ruling class is failing us — and itself," says E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post. By devoting themselves to "utterly self-involved lobbying" against higher taxes, Dionne argues, the wealthy and powerful are ducking a truth that previous generations embraced: Sharing prosperity is a "civic duty" for the rich, and is even in their self-interest. But by one measure, the federal income tax rate for the super rich dropped from 26 percent in 1992 to 17 percent in 2007. Should they be ponying up more?

Yes, the rich should want to help the middle class: In a very real, historically grounded sense, "the health of the American economy depends on the health of the American middle class," says Doug Jones at Balloon Juice. But clearly, "the American ruling class does not believe this." They're unwilling to share a bit more of their wealth — even though it would guarantee the sort of broader prosperity needed to keep us all secure — and instead see the middle class as a bunch of "lazy, worthless rubes." With that short-sighted outlook, why wouldn't they wage "class war" on the middle class?

"The last thing they'll ever do is act in your interest"

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No, taxes are a drag on wealth: "Dionne obviously knows nothing of the business world," says Bob Owens at Confederate Yankee. With big enough ideas, companies can "create wealth out of thin air" — and this world of wealth is an open club, that "not just thrives upon, but demands new ideas and new talent." It's the Facebooks and the Googles that are the key to securing America's continued prosperity. Why tax them even more? "They drive our entire economy and way of life, when government doesn't get in the way."

"E.J. Dionne: Fugitive from reality"

Let the voters decide: The problem with the no-taxes and the tax-the-rich camps isn't just that they "live in different moral universes," says Paul Krugman in The New York Times. "They also live in different intellectual universes." So "let's not be civil" and just pretend there's "common ground" here. We need a "frank discussion" of these "differing visions." Let Americans choose their favorite at the ballot box. We don't need noblesse oblige, we have democracy.

"Let's not be civil"

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