Guess What — We Want Equality!
NPR’s All Things Considered reported last weekend that Dan Ariely, the behavioral economist from Duke, did an experiment to see if Americans were actually in favor of the type of income inequality we’ve now got (1% of our population owns 40% of the country’s wealth, and the bottom 40% owns — well, bubkes).
What Ariely found was that (a) American’s don’t, in general, know this is true; and (b) regardless of their race, economic status, or politic party, Americans don’t (by a margin of 92%) want to live in a country with the kind of disparities between rich and poor that ours now boasts.
But wait a minute. Aren’t we in the middle of gutting federal programs for the poor? Aren’t Republicans proposing that we privatize (or maybe just eliminate) the social safety net? Don’t many Americans want to cut taxes for the rich and for corporations even below the nominal rates they now pay?
You Mean, We Don’t Like Getting Ripped Off?
Ariely believes that Americans’ tax phobia and our longing for economic equality live in unrelated conceptual frameworks. In other words, you can’t conclude, because people don’t want to tax the CEO, that they’re actually happy about him making 1100 times more money than they do. (Yes, that is the ratio, according to that most radical of anti-capitalist rags, the Wall Street Journal.)
It all depends on what you ask them. If you ask, “Should we raise taxes on the rich?” you’ll get a no from much of the country (because “taxes”=”bad”). If you ask, “Should 3000 children go without school lunches so that Paris Hilton can get an extra $10K (or whatever the numbers are) on her tax refund?” you might get a different answer.
Your Question = Free Speaker Coaching Session!
Is there a question that will turn equality-loving Americans away from our current policy of squeezing the poor and sort-of-middle-class to subsidize the wealthiest?
Whatever that question is, we can be pretty sure the word “taxes” won’t be in it!