Making the Rich Poorer Doesn’t Enrich the Middle Class

July 26, 2012 06:06

Making the rich poorer does nothing for the middle class — it may even hurt — except assuage some jealousy for the next guy’s material success.-


By Caroline Baum at


Would you rather have more money, or keep your current income and see the rich become less wealthy?


It’s not a trick question. Any member of the middle class would rather have more money. Income inequality may be a problem for society at large, but it isn’t a concern for those struggling to make ends meet.


Polling by the Pew Research Center shows that people aren’t interested in taking money from the wealthy. They just want a chance to get rich themselves.

So why does President Barack Obama conflate his stated goal of helping the middle class with the need to impose higher taxes on the rich? Maybe he thinks he can “spread the wealth around,” as he told Joe the Plumber during the 2008 presidential campaign?


The rich already pay the lion’s share of taxes in the U.S. In 2009, the last year for which complete Internal Revenue Service data are available, the top 20 percent of earners received 50 percent of pretax income and paid almost 70 percent of federal taxes, according to a study by the Congressional Budget Office. (In the CBO study, federal taxes include individual, corporate, payroll and excise taxes.) Income may be skewed, but the tax burden is even more heavily weighted toward the rich.


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