Huffpost College
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Joseph Rauch Headshot

Why Obama Should Raise Taxes in 2013

Posted: Updated:

If my title didn't catch your attention, I'll say it again: Obama is going to win the election this year and when he does, I want him to raise taxes on wealthy Americans by repealing the Bush tax cuts or introducing new tax legislation on the "1 percent" as well as capital gains. Why he will win is an entirely different issue, so for now I'll just explain why raising taxes on the rich is a good idea.

Proponents of tax cuts often ask the question, "Why punish success?" I think the implications of this question and the beliefs of those who pose it are much more important than the question itself. The first implication is that raising taxes on wealthy Americans, commonly referred to as job creators or investors, will make these job creators stop creating jobs and investing/stimulating our economy. I believe this is false because raising taxes will not affect the potential of an investment. In other words, a good investment will still be profitable and appealing and allow wealthy Americans to create jobs and stimulate the economy even if they have to pay a little more money in taxes as a result. I am certain that taxes would not stunt the growth of an industry if the idea behind it has potential and if the investors see this potential.

The second implication of "Why punish success?" is that raising taxes on the rich is class warfare. Hyperbole aside, this is also not true. Raising taxes on the rich in any capitalistic society is simply logical. We have a massive debt to China, and one of the most feasible ways to pay them back and regain our economy is to generate revenue by raising taxes. Raising taxes on rich people is the most sensible solution simply because they have more money. A member of the "1 percent" will still be able to live the same lifestyle and will not have to make significant sacrifices if their taxes are raised while a tax increase for a poor American can mean the difference between sending a child to college or not. It is not class warfare, just math and the idea that shaving a piece off a loaf of bread is not so tragic if the loaf is as big as a refrigerator.

I believe the last purpose of the "Why punish success?" question is to generate sympathy for wealthy Americans by creating the illusion that all rich people gained their wealth by working incredibly hard throughout their life. Proponents of tax cuts for the wealthy want people to think, "How could I possibly be so spiteful as to raise taxes on someone simply because they worked hard and earned every penny they have?" While many of the "1 percent" percent are rich because they worked hard on brilliant ideas or creating businesses, the life stories of these people are not the definition of becoming wealthy. The less inspiring story is that a lot of wealthy Americans (in this case I mean Americans that make more than $300,000 dollars a year) are rich because their parents were rich and afforded them connections, opportunities and the financial support to go to a top-tier college. Thus, rich people with rich parents usually have their inheritance to thank more than hard work, not that these people aren't capable of working hard in addition to their given advantages. There are also a lot of Americans that become rich due to having luck in their investments and not necessarily skill in predicting the market. I always chuckle when I think of the people who were persuaded into investing into some little company named Google because they thought the worst case would be they would lose a little money if the company bombed.

The logic of believing rich people are necessarily rich because they worked hard is also dangerous because of its implications about other Americans. If rich people have lots of money because they worked hard, then are poor people inherently lazy, and are middle class Americans inherently not quite lazy but not hard-working either? Fortunately, some of the wisest and most influential of the "1 percent," whose financial savvy and hard work earned them their fortunes, such as Warren Buffet and Irwin Jacobs, do not see taxes as punishment and have stated that their taxes should be raised. Jacobs stated that the economy was healthy during the Clinton years when taxes were high and Buffet argued that it was unfair for him to pay fewer taxes than some of his staff. I hope these men act as shining examples and that Warren Buffet does not continue to be a pariah due to his statements.

If Obama raises taxes on the "1 percent," the worst-case scenario is that they will be upset. Many of them will moan and make threats, but please do not take this as a stereotype of being rich. Rich people will not like increased taxes simply because they are human or rather because they are American. However, if Obama wants to raise their taxes, he has to change his attitude a bit from what is was in his first term and be less willing to compromise. The word bipartisan has a nice ring to it but is generally a waste of political time and effort for both parties. I'll try to use a positive analogy by saying that American politics is and should be, for better or worse, a lot like American football. The opposing teams smash into one another and try to score more points than the other team. The fans of the winning team cheer and the fans of the losing team boo and have to swallow their pride and cheer again next game. In conclusion, I believe this is the attitude that the formerly naïve Obama should have in his second term if he wants to implement new tax legislature or repeal the Bush tax cuts.

Around the Web

Taxes | The White House

Taxes — President Obama's Record — Barack Obama

HR 4646 - Obama's 1% Transaction Tax? - Urban Legends