In the Ayn Rand novel Atlas Shrugged, Ellis Wyatt creates the enduring image of the book when he sets his shale oil field in Colorado on fire rather than turn it over to the federal government. The resulting fire, called Wyatt’s Torch, could not be put out, and stood as the symbol of the producers rejecting their enslavement by the masses including their economic competitors who were more reliant on the government picking winners and losers than on their own ingenuity, drive and excellence.
President Obama laid out a vision for America yesterday that could have been ripped from the pages of Atlas Shrugged. Long on rhetoric, promising magical spending reductions, Obama’s plan can be reduced to one simple principle. If you are successful in America, your money is the government’s to take.
Engaging in a class-warfare political plan pitting government program beneficiaries and public employees against those who pay to sustain them, Obama is betting that the politics of taxes have shifted in favor of those who get government checks and against those who write them.
The shocking fact is that the math works in his favor. Nearly half of all Americans (47%) pay zero taxes, and on average the bottom 40% of American wage earners receive more money back from the government than they paid into the tax system.
That’s right, on average, four out of 10 of the lowest wage earners actually make a profit off of their tax refunds. Any wonder why the Marxist redistribution of wealth argument might have political appeal?
Of course, you always have the wealthy, who most people assume are skating by like an Obama-favored General Electric, and paying no taxes whatsoever.
The National Taxpayers Union reports that in the last tax year where data is available, 2008, the top 1% of wage earners (based upon adjusted gross income) actually paid 38% of the federal personal income tax. The top 10% of wage earners paid 70% of all federal income taxes (see chart).
When 1% of the people are paying almost 40% of the income taxes and 40% of the people are getting a bigger tax refund payday than was deducted from their checks, is there any question why our government balance sheet is out of whack?
It is amazing that Atlas hasn’t already shrugged, throwing off the burden of unfair taxation imposed by politicians who spit on the very people who fund their various pet projects to purchase the votes and freedom of their subjects.
Now, just two days before the traditional tax filing date of April 15, our current president comes blundering into this debate spouting platitudes about how the wealthy aren’t doing their share, and need to pay more in taxes.
For once, he is half right. The wealthy aren’t doing their fair share; they are doing far more than that. They are not only paying a vast majority of the federal income taxes, they are creating the jobs that the rest of us depend upon to pay our mortgages and buy our big-screen television sets.
The president sees the reality that the wealthiest 10% of taxpayers pay 70% of federal income tax as a political opportunity, not as an economic travesty.
Obama knows that if he can successfully pit the other 90% of wage earners against those who pay almost all of the taxes, he will create a new political base for continuing the growth of government through increasing the confiscation of the wages of the wealthy.
At some point, high-wage earners will respond just as Ellis Wyatt did, not only by dropping out of the economic system, but by taking the wealth they produced with them.
If Obama and his “yours is mine” government policies aren’t defeated in 2012, it won’t be long before America will hear something similar from real producers and not just by Ayn Rand through a fictional Ellis Wyatt who left a mile-high natural gas flame that would not be extinguished along with a voice message to the world saying, “I am leaving it as I found it. Take over. It’s yours.”
Rick Manning is the Communications Director of Americans for Limited Government, and is excited by the release of the movie Atlas Shrugged Part 1 on April 15.