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Robin Hood, the myth that won’t die

Robin Hood fantasies thrive today. If we could just take all the money from those evil rich guys, the country’s monetary problems would be solved. Right?Wrong!Whether or not “Robin Hood” ever existed is still being debated. His legend began early in the 15th century and was passed down in ballads and books until he became the man in green tights portrayed by Douglas Fairbanks in 1922. His habit of “robbing from the rich to give to the poor” made him a folk hero to millions for more than 600 years. That philosophy had its merits during medieval times, when a small group of nobles lived in luxury while the producers of wealth – millions of serfs – languished in poverty. However, it’s time to shoot an arrow of honesty through the heart of Hood’s “evil rich” legacy before it totally destroys the core of the United States’ economy.Our highly inequitable progressive income tax system, combined with ever-growing entitlements enacted by Congress, has certainly eliminated any resemblance between today’s economic reality and the medieval world. Here are the facts straight from the Internal Revenue Service. In 2005, the top 5 percent of households, with adjusted gross incomes over $145,283, paid a whopping 59.7 percent of all the income taxes collected. Yes, it’s true. Out of the 134.5 million tax returns filed that year, a mere 6.7 million households footed the majority of the tax burden not only for the poor, but for the middle class, too.I know it’s hard to believe, especially when someone like Warren Buffet is out there saying the rich need to pay more. Mr. Buffet laments that the tax system is unfair because in 2007 he only paid 17.7 percent on his taxable income, while his receptionist paid 30 percent. There’s a good explanation for his low percentage rate. According to a July 15, 2007 New York Times article, “Mr. Buffet’s income is made up largely of dividends and capital gains, which are taxed at only 15 percent.” But the majority of people in the top 5 percent are mostly working stiffs – two-income families – who pay the maximum income tax rate of 35 percent. So, maybe Buffet should expunge his guilt by sending the IRS additional funds, instead of suggesting more pain be inflicted on those already shouldering most of the tax burden.Why should 95 percent of American taxpayers care about the tax rate of the top 5 percent? Because these are the same people who generate jobs, invest in businesses and buy those expensive goods that keep the economy humming. If you don’t believe me, then the next time you’re unemployed I suggest you ask a poor person for a job.For the last year, we’ve all listened to Barack Obama’s plan to tax the rich. Sorry Barack, that’s not change, it’s the current system. His latest campaign slogan is “Put the middle class first.” But the numbers show the myth of the beleaguered middle class in America is about as accurate as the legend of Robin Hood. A March 2007 article by “The Tax Foundation” examined not only who pays the most taxes, but also who receives the biggest benefit from the revenue collected. It said, “America’s lowest-earning one-fifth of households receives roughly $8.21 in government spending for each dollar of taxes paid.” Middle-income families receive $1.30 worth of services for every dollar they pay in taxes, busting the myth that “the middle class pays all the taxes,” because they still receive a net benefit of 30 cents for every tax dollar they send to the IRS. But those in the highest 5 percent tax bracket get 41 cents worth of services for each dollar they are taxed, leaving them with a deficit of 59 cents. Perhaps the IRS should send them a “Thank You” card, because funding “the needs of the many” must seem like a thankless job.As for John McCain, his fiscal plan is to maintain the status quo, and while that may not add to the top taxpayers’ bill, it certainly won’t do anything to improve the economy either. Incentives to create wealth and keep more of our income are what every American citizen needs. Perhaps if the tax burden was shared, at least percentage wise, we would all be more inclined to stop Congress from giving away our hard-earned dollars.To truly energize the American economy, we need to revamp the entire tax system. Now that would be a real change! Unfortunately, no federal political candidate ever proposes to do so because in order to get elected they need the vote of the majority of taxpayers, who actually receive benefits from the money collected. I’m not running for election, so I have the freedom to suggest a tax system more in keeping with the principles this country was built on. Remember the idea that if you work hard you can get ahead? Now the truth is, if you’re successful, be prepared to write a large check to the IRS.Here’s how my tax reform would work. First, there would be one tax rate for everyone. We could call it “the government’s tip,” because it would probably hover around 15 percent. A flat rate has an added advantage over the current multi-rate system because it would eliminate the need for most IRS jobs and the endless hours spent trying to figure out those mind-boggling tax forms. But the second part of my plan, while eminently fair, is more controversial. In fact, if enacted it would cause many people, including Warren Buffet, to weep.Part two – do away with all deductions! That’s right, all deductions, including personal deductions for being single, married, blind or having dependents. Forget the breaks for state taxes paid, capital gains or charitable donations. Skip the largest “special interest” tax break ever passed by Congress, the deduction for interest paid on mortgages.Gee, what’s that screaming? It must be the collective cry of real estate brokers and mortgage bankers. But haven’t you ever asked why any taxpayer, especially those without a mortgage, should have to pick up the tab for another taxpayer’s McMansion or shack?OK, so there is little doubt my tax reform plan stands the proverbial “snowball’s chance” of ever being implemented. But just once in my life I would love to see a political ad where a presidential candidate speaks the truth. Let me set the visual. The candidate would appear on our television screens dressed in green tights, with a pithy pointed hat cocked to emphasize the candidate’s best profile, and a bow neatly slung across his shoulder. Looking right into the camera the candidate would say, “I’m going to fund health care, social security, wars, welfare and all the pork barrel programs Congress sends across my desk just like Robin Hood would. I’m going to steal the money from the rich, and give it to the rest of you, so you will vote for me.”To say anything else is merely a folk tale.

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