The rich, tax fairness and Europe

May 15, 2012

Thomas M. Neale, who writes that the rich pay more than their fair share of taxes ("The wealthy pay more than their fair share," May 14), needs to read his own letter. The data he presents explains why the rich, who make up a much smaller part of the U.S. population, pay more taxes then the rest of us.

In a universe of two, where one person makes a million dollars and the other makes $10,000 a year, the higher income person would pay 100 percent of the individual income taxes due under our system. Yet, despite paying all of the taxes in this two-person universe, that person would be much better off by far. The point is Mr. Neale's numbers don't make his point — that the rich are over-taxed (pay more than their fair share of taxes) — unless paying no taxes at all is the "fairness" he seeks.

Actually, the validity of his numbers rest solely on the fact that the wealthy, by far, have more of the country's wealth than the majority of Americans. And despite paying more taxes because of their great wealth, they are better off than the majority. The quote Mr. Neale references from Winston Churchill in truth recognizes that even capitalism is not perfect and needs to be tempered. Progressive taxes are one way to do so and achieve fairer outcomes for all of "us."

Finally, Mr. Neale's use of Europe as a worst case scenario of where we do not want America to go is accurate — if he's referring to the high unemployment and low income levels some European countries are suffering from. But he is arguing their systems are worse than ours. At this point in time, that borders on the pot calling the kettle black. And by the way, Germany has had a long-term positive trade balance, despite having little or no fossil fuel resources of its own and having a social welfare system many in this country would call socialist.

Joseph Costa, Baltimore

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