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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

In the last three decades, conservative leaders in this nation have done something remarkable. They have convinced Americans that equality is bad, specifically economic equality. Anything remotely resembling a progressive tax system is labeled as socialist and radical.

From the introduction of the income tax to the 1980s, the tax code has been progressive.

In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan used his political capital to reorganize the income tax so the richest of Americans would be taxed less than they had been previously, and the poor and middle class would be taxed more.

Conveniently enough, as he imposed these tax burdens on the middle class, crime increased and overall health decreased.

While Sen. John McCain is out there accusing Obama and the Democrats of redistributing the wealth, he hides the reality that the wealth in this nation has been increasingly redistributed over the last eight years. The real problem is that wealth is being stolen from the middle class and given to the rich and the super rich or, as Dubya calls his base, "the haves and the have-mores."

The richest people in America have made the majority of their fortunes in the stock market, either through buying and selling stock or through company stock options given to them as bonuses. Long-term capital gains for investments are taxed at 15 percent for everyone but those in the two lowest income tax brackets, who receive a 5 percent tax.

This means that two of Forbes Magazine's richest men in the world for 2008, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, pay a lower percentage in taxes than your parents, who I'm willing to bet are not billionaires.

Redistributing the wealth (spreading money around equally) as liberals are accused of doing would be fantastic for most Americans.

The value of the entire United States sits at about $55 trillion in terms of credit. Of the more than 300 million people in this nation, 3 million control more than 34 percent of that wealth. For most of us, redistribution would mean a pretty sizeable check coming in the mail.

Ultimately, though, that's not what liberals want to do.

Doctors, lawyers and CEOs should make more money than the rest of America. They work harder, went to school longer and are more important than the majority of Americans. But should teachers struggle to pay bills?

Does the Walton family really need billions of dollars a person? They haven't done anything to deserve that money except be born to the founder of Wal-Mart, and if I remember correctly, the Constitution says something about an established nobility class.

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A progressive tax system is as old as capitalism itself. Laissez-faire superhero Adam Smith was the first to propose a progressive tax system in "The Wealth of Nations." He knew a thing or two about economics.

Another guy with a clue about money, Warren Buffett, is advising Obama on his economic policies. If only Joe the Plumber were smart enough to figure that out.

Wes Hunt is a history senior. His column appears on Tuesdays.

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