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David M. Abromowitz

David M. Abromowitz

Posted March 1, 2009 | 10:57 PM (EST)

Conservatives, Stop Trashing Hard Working Americans


It's getting a little tiresome constantly hearing the voices of conservative America insulting hard working Americans. Cut it out - the rich are willing to work just as hard as anyone.

To listen to Rush Limbaugh, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and their fellow travelers, we should believe that high earning Americans will go on strike if tax rates merely revert to 2000 levels.

Do they really think that Type A deal doers will do fewer deals because they would have to kick back a little more to the public treasury? Will bond trader s striving for $10 million bonuses toss it all aside because they might pay an extra few hundred thousand in taxes? Are small business owners who can earn $400,000 going to cut back their business operations to earn only $250,000, just to avoid paying $6000 in taxes?


Reed Hasting
, CEO of Netflix, got it right: "Besides, half of a giant compensation package is still pretty huge, and most of our motivation is the sheer challenge of the job anyway." And he was arguing for 50% marginal tax rates on high income earners.

More insulting is the notion conservatives put forward that high income earners don't understand that they do very well --even better than they can do now -- when the economy does very well. Can you expand a business when consumers can't buy your products? Many high earners realize that consumer spending and business expansion won't happen in the economic conditions Obama inherited without targeted public investments helping tens of millions of working families keep jobs and avoid foreclosures.

Contrary to the culture of entitlement and dependency conservatives have promoted for those at the high end, better off Americans already seem to understand that after a long binge, they need to do a little more to help the country recover, Candidate Obama was very clear that he intended to let the Bush tax cuts expire on those earning $250,000 and up - and the majority of voters in that demographic cast their ballots for him.

But what if the Republican voices of rational self interest are right? What if the return of somewhat higher tax rates in fact induces those currently earning, say, $1,000,000, to slow down and smell the roses instead of working so hard?

Good old competition might just take over. Undoubtedly there are talented lower earning Americans just looking for that chance to leap into the 39.6% tax bracket. They will no doubt work a little harder and smarter to get those higher paying jobs.

Unless, of course, what conservatives are really saying is that only a small elite of Americans are motivated and talented enough to be earning seven figures. But they couldn't believe that, could they? How un-American that would be.

David Abromowitz is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.