Tax-the-Wealthy Crowd Misjudges the American Psyche
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Supporters of allowing the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts to expire for those earning more than $250,000 per year appear to be banking on a class warfare political strategy. In addition to being just plain bad economic policy - high-income earners include small business owners and investors who create jobs - overtaxing and demonizing the wealthy is also bad political strategy, according to Nina Easton, senior editor-at-large at Fortune. She writes:
Predictions of impending class warfare miss the fundamental nature of the American psyche. There is a tendency within the chattering classes to overstate the American public's disdain for affluence -- and to understate people's passion for pursuing their own wealth.
Historically Americans haven't shown much appetite for class strife. As professors Benjamin Page and Lawrence Jacobs noted in their 2009 book Class War?: "While Americans are alert to inequality and support measures to reduce it ... they remain conservative by instinct ... Responsibility for an individual's economic position and life conditions rests chiefly with him- or herself."
Easton takes issue with people who twist research, including a recent Pew Research poll, to make the point that conflict is rising between rich and poor. She writes:
Indeed, the headline Pew produced for its research reads "For the Public, It's Not About Class Warfare, but Fairness." Pew's conclusion? While Americans are hearing more about class conflict, "there is no sense that the American people are on the verge of class conflict; they just want a better chance of achieving success themselves."
The United States has never had a class revolution, and, despite the best efforts of Occupy Wall Street, likely never will. Why? Because Americans inherently believe that our free enterprise system provides an equal opportunity - and the best opportunity - to achieve success, and punishing success, through unfair taxes on the wealthy or otherwise, weakens that system.