This year has been full of firsts for me. It’s my first year away from home, my first job, my first roommate. It was the first time I had to buy my own textbooks and the first (and second and third) time I ever skipped a class. It was also the first time I watched the government take chunks of my paycheck every week and had absolutely no say in the matter. I am only grateful for my status as a poor college student, because if I happened to make over $400,000 a year, man, would I be screwed. This government asks too much of our wealthiest citizens. We need to reform this broken tax system.
For some numerical perspective, let’s take a look at the income tax system in America. The basic (non-U.S.) system would use flat tax rates to assess taxes. Bill Gates and I would pay the same percentage of our incomes, despite the vast difference in overall earnings. Conversely, the U.S. system is a progressive tax, meaning that I paid a smaller percentage (10 percent) of my income in taxes this year, compared to someone such as Bill Gates, who paid about 40 percent.
See how unfair this system is? Obviously Bill Gates possesses some skill set that I do not. Otherwise the market wouldn’t reward him with such a high salary. It seems like our government is punishing people for being smart, driven and financially successful by forcing them to pay large percentages of their income to fund Medicare, Social Security and a host of other bureaucratic programs. How can the government possibly expect successful, healthy people to assist the homeless, elderly and sick? Capitalism does not reward philanthropy.
A CNBC article from Tuesday noted that the top 10 percent of earners will account for 55 percent of federal tax revenue for 2013 taxes. Surprisingly, a study published April 10 on CNBC’s website found that some of them won’t mind paying those higher rates. Forty percent of those making more than $30 million a year said they should actually be paying more money in taxes than they are currently.
What on earth could they be thinking? If they pay more in taxes, they won’t be able to build that solid-gold swimming pool. Darling Blair’s Sweet Sixteen party might only be a two-week cruise around the Caribbean. How will they afford the mortgage on the second Hampton house when they’re paying massive tax bills?
Where would all this extra federal income be going anyway? It’s not like we need an overhaul in our educational system. There aren’t dozens of public elementary and high schools closing around the country because the districts cannot afford teachers and textbooks.
If there were a poverty crisis in this country, then the government would be justified in asking for this kind of cash. If 22 percent of American children live in poverty, I think the government could put this money to good use, ensuring these kids have a chance to break the poverty cycle.
Thank goodness a college education is completely affordable. I am so grateful that our capitalist system has continued to keep tuition rates low so everyone has the opportunity to pursue higher education. What if college kids and their parents were paying something crazy like $43,970 for two semesters of education, with consistent increases every year? Think of the thousands of dollars in loans they’d have to pay back for the rest of their lives. If that was an issue, then maybe asking for more money from the wealthy might be understandable. Giving college students more grants so they graduate with less debt seems like a pretty good idea.
While I’m talking about all the things I’m grateful for, I’d like to say thanks to capitalism for providing my loved ones and me affordable healthcare. Gosh, can you imagine what it would be like to not be able to go to a doctor or afford insurance premiums? If I get injured anytime soon, I’m so grateful I can rush right over to the emergency room and get medical attention. I suppose that if 50 million Americans were uninsured, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to funnel some taxpayer money into affordable healthcare without complaint.
I am so grateful to live in a country that rewards the wealthy, but we need to stop putting such a burden on them. They have worked hard to earn the hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars in their investment portfolios. Who are we to take that away from them? It’s time to realize that our government should be doing less, not more. It should not be providing handouts and health insurance right now. We’re not in a crisis of income inequality. What do you think the government is here for? Helping people?
Sara Ryan is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences studying political science and math. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.