Originally Posted by sexualintellectual
The difference is that Warren Buffet didn't luck into his fortune...
Everyone who has a fortune, "lucks into," it in one way or another. Inheritance, circumstances of birth, being in the right place at the right time, stumbling on what turns out to be a good idea, etc. etc. In retrospect, it looks like they were really smart, hard working, and so on, but in reality, at the time that people who "earn" their fortunes begin to do so, it's always a matter of luck. For every one who has the luck, there are a thousand, or a million, people who work just as hard, have just as good ideas (evaluated at the time), and are just as smart, who don't get lucky and make a fortune.
It's human nature to assume that the successful, "had what it takes," but lots of people have what it takes and simply don't have the same luck. In reality, it's just the laws of probability at work: some will gamble and win big, others will lose. There are plenty of Steve Jobs and warren Buffetts in the world, but only one of them had the good fortune to benefit from circumstances to become the Steve Jobs and Warren Buffett we know today. The rest, by chance, made the wrong bet, weren't in a position to make the bet, were derailed by circumstances beyond their control, struck down by disease, hit by trucks.
So, yes, they worked hard for the money, but one of the reasons they were successful, one of the primary circumstances of fortune contributing to their success and wealth, is that they live in a society that allows them to be successful and amass wealth. A society that is built and maintained in very large part by the less successful, without whom the wealthy would have had no chance of wealth.
A certain amount of money has to be spent, and be spent by the government, to build such a society. To build the infrastructure that makes it possible, to create the circumstances that make it possible. Today, it seems, most Americans seem to have forgotten that, and seem to think that it doesn't take any investment to create and build a society. Our infrastructure is crumbling around us, the income and standard of living of the middle class declines year over year, millions are starving and homeless in the richest country of the world, while the wealthy, benefiting from 30 years of disproportionate and irrational tax cuts, amass greater and greater wealth, and, motivated by the most base selfishness, use that wealth to undermine the very foundations of our democracy.
Frankly, I am not impressed by billionaires who give money to charity, or billionaires who create their own charities, so they can control what happens with their money. In my mind, this is the ultimate act of egomania, selfishness and spite, intended to keep the money from being used by the society these people arose from in that society's best interests and to allow the wealthy to continue to control their wealth from their graves.
In tax policy, there is no such thing as fair, so it's entirely misguided to ask if this is fair or that is fair, or what is the fairest tax or policy. What is "fair" depends entirely on how you define 'fair'. What matters is what will produce the greatest benefit for the members of a society, and, in a democracy, that means the greatest benefit for the greatest number.
It's interesting to note that that period that "conservatives" often like to portray as, "the golden years of America," the 1950s, the Eisenhower years, had the highest tax rates on the wealthy of any period in American history. It's also interesting to note that a high percentage of this country's infrastructure was built, or planned for, in that period, or in the period leading up to it under FDR. Today, after 30 years of insane tax cuts for the rich, we invest almost nothing in infrastructure, nothing in the future, and there has been absolutely zero benefit from those tax cuts to the vast majority of Americans. The period since the election of Ronald Reagan has consisted of the most massive redistribution of wealth this nation has ever seen: wealth taken from the poor and the middle class and handed to the rich.
Are you poor or middle class? Do you think you pay too much in taxes? Well, as a share of the tax revenue of this country you do. But the answer does not lie in attacking government and taxes, the answer lies in taking back control of this country from the right, from the interests of wealth, not handing it to them. (And that's exactly what the right in this country represents, the interests of wealth, nothing more.) The answer lies in reversing the tax cuts handed to the wealthy over the last 30 years so that they begin to again contribute what is necessary to maintain and strengthen this country, rather than enriching themselves at your children's expense.
In a democracy, tax policies need to be highly progressive, not regressive. So, forget flat taxes, VATs, and all the other voodoo that the right proclaims as "fair". There is no fair: any policy, or no policy, is unfair to someone; there is only what will work, and those regressive plans will not work to maintain a healthy democracy. Quite simply, the wealthy need to pay a significant portion of their income as taxes because it is necessary that they do so to maintain our society, and because they can afford to. Estate taxes are necessary to prevent the accumulation of vast amounts of hereditary wealth, which itself undermines a democracy. And taxes must be used to redistribute wealth from the rich to those in need because the alternative is the disenfranchisement of crushing poverty which will continue to grow like a cancer on our democracy.