The Scrooge Tax for the Wealthy
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) Allow me to suggest that it might be time for a wealth tax in America.
Unlike income and sales taxes, a wealth tax applies to existing, high-value assets such as bank accounts, investments, businesses or buildings. Anyone who pays property tax has already tolerated this under a different name. They're effective ways of raising revenue, and to simplify the complicated wealth taxes encourage earning at the expense of saving.
For a country with a cash-strapped government and an economy weighed down by growing pools of stagnant wealth, that might be just what we need.
My proposed tax would only apply to cash and equivalent holdings, reaching into investments and stocks since few people actually keep large sums of money in cash. Houses, cars, direct investment in a business, anything that actually involves spending or creating with money would be exempt. So would any retirement account that already qualifies for exemptions.
Finally, and most importantly, my proposed tax would apply only to large pools of cash. For the sake of argument, let's say this would apply only to every dollar of wealth above $8.4 million. That's not a random number. According to a study by the New York Times , it's the 1% threshold for net worth in the United States.
This isn't about punishing the rich or instigating class warfare. My tax would about getting America's stagnant money moving again.
By now it's old hat to say that America is becoming increasingly unequal. The top 5% of earners account for nearly three-quarters of all the country's wealth, more than the entire bottom 95% combined. So far, so boring.
We've been talking about this problem for nearly half a decade with nothing done. All the politicians' speeches and adolescent protests in Zuccotti Park have made no actual progress.
A wealth tax could help level the playing field. Unlike the income tax, a wealth tax applies regardless of how someone makes their money. No more bankers squeaking by with insignificant 1040s because they got rich through investments rather than work. If you're sitting on a pile of cash, it's taxable. Full stop.
More importantly, my Scrooge Tax could address the problem of massive, stagnant wealth.
Growing inequality causes money to pool in fewer, larger accounts. Sooner or later those individuals and businesses simply don't need any more money and, past that point, extra income no longer really matters. The new money just sits, pulled out of the economy into large holdings such as Apple's $150 billion war chest.
That's not good for an economy. Right now one of the biggest problems with jobs in America remains low demand. People still aren't spending enough to give employers the means and motivation to hire. You don't build products no one is buying nor hire clerks to man an empty store. People need more money to spend, but increasingly that money is going a handful of individuals and companies at the top.