In the middle of the current debate over Mitt Romney’s tax havens, his tenure at Bain, his 15 percent tax rate, his refusal to make public his tax returns and claims by the right that the Obama campaign is engaged in a battle of class warfare, it seems like a good time to go back to something Elizabeth Warren said last year.
There is nobody in this country who got rich on their own. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.
Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea? God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.
No one is asking Romney and the rest of the 1 percenters to give back all of their earnings, or even most of it. What they are saying is that there is something intrinsically wrong with a system that allows a man worth $250 million dollars to pay an effective tax rate below that of many Americans with an income at a fraction of Mitt Romney’s.
It’s not about wealth distribution. It’s about that underlying social contract Warren speaks of – the one that encourages businesses to make riches while preserving opportunity for a vibrant middle class to grow and prosper and, if they so choose, to make their own riches. If anything can ever be referred to as a win-win situation, it is this.
It’s not that difficult a concept to grasp, is it?