Stick to Your Day Job, Comrade Steves

The thought-provoking wealth distribution video I posted a few days ago stirred up more comments than anything else we’ve ever posted. Of the over 700 comments on facebook and this blog, there were many constructive suggestions, lots of questions, and — as usual — plenty of anti-government sentiment. Thanks for all of your comments.

The most common question: What can we do? There’s the obvious: Avoid needless wars. Cut back on military spending. Open up our economy for investment and growth. Go back to a more progressive tax code, as we had under Reagan and Clinton. And defend the inheritance tax (without which we encourage a future generation of idle-rich kids).

And then there’s something nobody seems willing to seriously consider: Why not institute a small but inescapable wealth tax? Imagine if just having a “net worth” here in the USA cost 1 percent of that net worth every year? If you sat on a pile of wealth (say $10 million) for 20 years, it would cost you 20 percent of that wealth ($2 million) to keep it in a country where it’s not scary to be rich. (Anywhere else on the planet, someone that rich would spend at least that much just on security.) I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t pity a person once worth $10 million now only worth “only” $8 million if it makes our country a stronger and healthier one.

Many asked why, if I care so much, don’t I just give more taxes? That’s kind of silly. We need to respond to this challenge as a society. A few caring, patriotic, wealthy people giving what all wealthy people should give would accomplish nothing. If being wealthy in the USA came with a higher tax obligation (as it did for most of the 20th  century), we could — assuming smart use of that money entrusted to the government — create a better society. Remember, not long ago our tax dollars took us to the moon and built the Interstate Highway System.

What can we do? In short, I’d say support a return to a more progressive tax code. Making it more expensive to be rich would not deter hard-driven capitalists (like me) from investing and working hard to get rich — and, assuming they’re at all patriotic, it certainly wouldn’t drive them out of the country. I believe anyone who says otherwise is either mistaken or dishonest.

For all those who say, “Why don’t you just stick to travel writing?”, “I’ve been a loyal customer for years, but with this post, you have lost me,” and “Stick to your day job, comrade Steves,” I say life is political. We have to live with the political decisions we make as a society. And so do people struggling in our country, people struggling south of our border, and people who will be struggling generations from now with the mess we leave them. Politics is like stewardship. And I believe in thoughtful stewardship.

If you missed this wonderfully intriguing little video clip, check it out below. Meanwhile, next week, I kick off my spring travels overseas — reporting from Egypt, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories.

If you can’t see the video below, watch it on YouTube.