Tax Their Sinful Ways

We in the United States need a definition of greed. We need to settle on a figure. Just how much is too much? When does accumulating some become hoarding too much? When does a fat cat become an obese cat?

Who doesn’t like taxing cigarettes and alcohol? They’re easy targets. Everybody knows too much of either is bad for you. Our government takes a serious piece of the action to discourage gluttonous consumption of both smokes and booze and to help defer the health costs their use incurs. It’s generally accepted governments should discourage destructive, sinful behavior either by taxes, fees, or the criminal justice system. We’ve been doing this for generations. But as of late we seem to have turned a blind eye to an ongoing evil. How did greed, one of the seven deadly sins, manage to avoid paying for the damage it has done to society?

Even an occasional smoker or the most moderate of drinkers is forced to pay sin taxes. Even if you limit yourself to a cigarette a month or a martini at Christmas, you pay the same rate as chain smokers and potential DUIs. But the greediest, most avaricious, “I’d rather spit in your face than give you a nickel” billionaire usually pays less proportional taxes than the most frugal citizen on the low end of the income spectrum. With the present tax rates in place, it appears this government actually encourages greed.

Greed is not good. Greed will forever remain a deadly sin, one of the top seven. When a billionaire boasts about his accumulated wealth, it’s like a glutton rhapsodizing on how he’s eaten non-stop for the past forty years, while addressing an audience that hasn’t had a solid meal in weeks. Somehow the United States, this allegedly Christian nation, has forgotten that obscene accumulation of wealth remains an abomination unto their Lord. Fortune and Barrons and The Wall Street Journal might as well be kiddie porn in the way they egg on their rapacious readers. The message of this culture promotes ripping off as much as you can from your fellow man.

Greed needs to be defined. A dollar limit needs be set. If you earn more than this country’s President for an extended period of time, and you keep accumulating more and more, you might be a greedy redneck. If you never worked a day in your life, and you clip coupons purchased by your grandfather while sipping champagne in a Park Avenue penthouse, you probably are an avaricious prepster. If you work for a Fortune 500 company and earn more than 20 times the income of its lowest paid employee, you almost certainly are a greedy sinful scumbag.

Getting back to the sin tax part. How does a society discourage its citizens from engaging in avaricious behavior? When does reasonable accumulation become greed, a deadly sin? It was only a few decades ago that this country decided taxing greed wasn’t necessary. All that “trickle down Economics” rubbish gave rise to a tax rate which presently allows the obscenely rich among us to accumulate unbridled wealth. Following this trend, those citizens not in the top half of one percent of income will soon be left with next to nothing.

Where do you draw the line? How’s this for a modest proposal, every dollar taken in over one million dollars a year (averaged) should be taxed at a 90% rate. Certainly the vast majority of citizens will agree that if a person believes they need more than a million a year to survive, they’re being a bit greedy. And as we all know, sin taxes are meant to discourage evil behavior.

Greed is hard to recognize at times. Like pornography it might forever remain a judgment call. Greed falls under the “I don’t know exactly but ‘I know it when I see it’ rule”. But pretty much everyone can see grasping for more than a million bucks a year is pretty damn greedy.

It’s long past time to seriously tax the greediest among us. It’s time to help curtail their evil habit. Greed will forever remain a sin. In so many ways.

Peter Breschard is the author of Circus Rider: A Novel History of the First American Circus and My Love Affair with Barack Obama: Occasional Writings as well as other lesser works of fact and fiction. Read other articles by Peter.