The Public Overwhelmingly Wants It Why Is Taxing the Rich so Hard

1. The samples in Chapter 42 can help you with the rebuttal. Review the sample research paper, “The Public Overwhelmingly Wants It: Why Is Taxing the Rich so Hard?” paragraph 10 for a sample rebuttal. What do you notice about how the author acknowledges the opposing viewpoint? By using statistics, what kind of argumentative strategy is she applying? Is it effective?

2, When forming a company, the options are sole proprietor, partnership, and corporation. Most choose corporation. Why is the corporate form seen to be best? What rights do the stockholders have?

Furthermore, while we take for granted that the wealthy have more political power than the average citizen, we figure that the sheer numbers of middle class and low-income voters can outweigh the preferences of the rich in swaying public officials. Robert Reich, for example, has argued that the rich have the political power to block higher tax rates “only if we let them,” saying “here’s the issue around which Progressives, populists on the right and left, unionized workers, and all other working people who are just plain fed up ought to be able to unite” (par. 14). And indeed, that kind of coalition-building is the basis for much progressive politics. But as the wealth and power of the most privileged Americans increases, it’s becoming harder and harder for the rest of us to keep up even in the aggregate.

So instead we’re getting caught in a negative feedback cycle: as the rich get richer and more powerful, policies are increasingly aligned with their interests, which increases inequality still further. Meanwhile, the middle and working classes are left with shrinking incomes and correspondingly less and less power to demand investment in a more equitable economy—and a broader tax base. Unions used to be able to counter the power of the wealthy, but their decline has left the average worker with little recourse. Instead of presenting an organized alternative to the views endorsed by the rich, average Americans are left to voice their political preferences through the vague format of an opinion poll. It’s no wonder that, as political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson write, “America’s public officials have rewritten the rules of American politics and the American economy in ways that have benefitted the few at the expense of the many” (6).


So while it’s absolutely true that the rich pay far more in income taxes than the rest of us (Robyn and Prante, par. 3)—the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans pay 38 percent of income tax—that tiny fraction of the population also receives about 24 percent of income, accounts for about 34 percent of net worth, and holds 42.7 percent of financial wealth (net worth minus the value of one’s home) (Domhoff, par. 16). And those are statistics from before the crash—though there are only tentative estimates of current wealth distribution, many economists actually think it’s gotten more unequal.

Since average people’s wealth is largely tied up in their homes, the wealth of the median household has dropped an estimated 36 percent since the housing bubble popped, while the 766767wealth of the top 1 percent has fallen a comparatively small 11 percent (Wolff, 33). As Bartels concludes, “the economic order of the contemporary United States poses a clear and profound obstacle to realizing the democratic value of political equality” (32). In other words, as long as economic inequality is as extreme as it is now, political equality will remain an ideal rather than a reality. We need to make this case over and over again—right now we’re in danger of drawing exactly the wrong lessons from the economic nightmare of the past few years.

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