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Forum Post: http://loyalopposition.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/21/rich-man-wanna-be-king/?hp

Posted 2 years ago on Nov. 21, 2011, 5:16 p.m. EST by OldLeftie (253) from Washington, DC
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November 21, 2011, 4:17 pm Rich Man Wanna Be King By ANDREW ROSENTHAL

Despite Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, the dissolution of the super committee, and the apparent popularity of Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 flat tax proposal, I’d wager that most Americans agree with the philosophical position that it’s OK to lean on the rich with higher marginal tax rates to pay for the little things, like the military, highways and Social Security.

We disagree over just how heavily the government should lean, and which government services are truly necessary. We also disagree over who, exactly, counts as rich.

I was reminded of this fact in reading the comments on a blog post I wrote urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York to support an extension of the so-called Millionaire’s Tax, a New York State surcharge on individuals who make at least $200,000 and families that make at least $300,000. One commenter argued that “Millionaire’s Tax” is not an appropriate name, and that we should “call it the ‘Thousandaire’s’ tax instead.” Many readers seemed to feel that it was unfair to group those earning $200,000 with the uber-wealthy.

I’m not opposed to a more progressive system that would better distinguish the Thousandaires from the Half-Millionaires, and the Millionaires from the Billionaires. As I mentioned in my blog post, Sheldon Silver, speaker of the New York State Assembly, has proposed replacing the current surcharge with a “true” Millionaire’s Tax on individuals with incomes in excess of $1 million. That’s not a bad compromise if Mr. Cuomo or others need one.

But I’d also like to point out that if you earn $200,000, you’re doing very well. I highly recommend a Wall Street Journal widget that tells you what percentage you’re in based on income. If your household income is $300,000, you’re in the top 3 percent. If it’s $200,000 (meaning you’re at the bottom of the heap eligible for the current Millionaire’s Tax), you’re in the top 6 percent.

We can argue about wealth versus income. And maybe if you earn $200,000 it’s a stretch to send your kids to prep school in New York City (which can cost something like $35,000 a year), or ski in Aspen each winter or buy a second home—but you’re still doing better than virtually everyone else.

It’s easy to lose sight of this, especially if you mix with “true” millionaires. In fact, a study from HNW Inc found that half of the top 1 percent earners don’t think they’re in the top 1 percent. As Bruce Springsteen said, “Poor man wanna be rich, rich man wanna be king.”

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