In 2008, while I was out canvassing registered voters for the Obama campaign, I’d occasionally run into a conservative Republican who disagreed with the suggestion that asking billionaires to pay taxes at a 50% rate was not immoral. “Nobody should have to pay that much in taxes. It just wasn’t fair.”And, at first blush, 50% does seem excessive. Until you look at what the numbers really mean, that is.
So, I’d let these folks (usually lower middle-class, and sinking fast), hold tight to their indignation, allowing it to fester and grow, until their outrage over the utter plight of the poor possessor of a billion or more dollars (Bill Gates, you may remember, was once worth an estimated $40 billion) had reached the point where a little pustule-popping was in order.
That’s when I’d ask them, in all innocence, if they thought that a million dollars was a lot of money. Once they agreed that it was, I’d up the ante a bit: “What about $10 million? Do you think you could live comfortably on that amount?” I could almost see them adding up the prices of private jets, European chalets, barrels of rare single-malts. Then, before they’d had a chance to answer, I’d hit them, in succession, with $25 million? $50 million? Even $100 million? Could even a person with very expensive tastes manage to live on a measly $100 million dollars? Continue reading