VIDEO: Malcolm Gladwell - the rich are paying less and less

Posted on: 11 October 2011 by Gareth Hargreaves

Tipping Point author, Malcolm Gladwell, considers attitudes to taxation among high earners in the US. Or rather, why they are so against it now when taxes have never been lower?

How much tax did America pay in the 'Good Old Days'? If you were rich, it turns out to have been a great deal - any earnings above $2 million was taxed at 91%. How things have changed, with the Tea Party and many Republicans not only demanding even more tax cuts, on top of the already peppercorn amounts millionaires are now charged, but demanding that the poor and middle income earners pay even more tax.

As Malcolm Gladwell points out in this video, tax returns were much higher back when America wasn't a debtor nation (the two, just perhaps, may have been inextricably linked), but the public weren't driven to the levels of hysteria that a mild tax rise would induce today, even amongst people who have no chance of earning the sort of money that would be taxed, on the basis that one might – somehow – be rich too, despite that club being referred to as the 1% for good reason.

This irrational tightfistedness is wreaking havoc on America today – the reason why the debt ceiling has to be raised is in order to keep an under-taxed nation running. It is also part of a greater context of growing national impoverishment. Since 1980, the average hourly wage has only risen by 8%, while productivity has increased by 80%. As in, the average American worker has been squeezed for all he or she is worth.

The percentage of wealth owned by the 1% top earners, meanwhile, increased from 10% to 23.5%. This stagnation has been covered up somewhat by the rise of two income households and suicidal levels of national and personal debt, but these have added all they can add. A reckoning awaits the ailing Superpower. Or the rich could just pay a little bit more tax.

And as Malcolm Gladwell also drily observes, that's an argument the wealthy simply won't countenance, even as the country that let them prosper faces ruin.

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