Back by popular demand: Taxing the rich

Large majorities in the world's richest countries just don't want to take it anymore.

By Andrew Leonard
July 23, 2007 10:26PM (UTC)
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The Financial Times is featuring the results of a poll indicating that large majorities of citizens in rich countries want to stick it to the man.

In response to fears of globalization and rising inequality, the public in all the rich countries surveyed -- the U.S., Germany, U.K., France, Italy and Spain -- want their governments to increase taxation on those with the highest incomes. In European countries, a large majority want governments to go further and to impose pay caps on the heads of companies.

For a citizen of the United States such as myself, who has watched Republican presidential candidates campaign, mostly successfully, on the holy writ of tax cuts for the rich since 1980, these poll results take on a dreamlike quality. What alternate reality is this, where the rhetoric of a quarter century is suddenly turned on its head? As recently as just a few years ago, if you tried to suggest that government should consider raising taxes on the wealthy, the notion was immediately dismissed as a throwback to the "failed redistributive policies" of the past. But now it's all the rage. Is this the pendulum swing that liberals have been waiting for since the Reagan Revolution?


It is beyond ironic that the richest countries of the world are the ones now complaining about globalization the most. And it is especially interesting in the context of the United States, where Democratic candidates have raised $100 million more in campaign contributions than Republicans, according to the Wall Street Journal, while pushing steadily harder on so-called economic populism. When "tax the rich" becomes an effective money-raising technique, the pendulum isn't just swinging, it's turning into a wrecking ball.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Globalization How The World Works Taxes