Sept. 19, 2010

Ben Stein: Raising My Taxes Is a Punishment

Asks: If Raising Taxes Won't Help Economy, Why Am I Being Punished?

Like this Story? Share it:

  • Play CBS Video Video Ben Stein on Taxes

    The debate is heating up over whether the Bush era tax cuts should be continued, but only for individual incomes under $200,00 and family incomes under $250,000. Sunday Morning contributor Ben Stein joins the fray.

  •  (CBS/AP)

(CBS)  The debate is heating up over whether the Bush era tax cuts should be continued, but only for individual incomes under $200,000 and family incomes under $250,000. Our contributor Ben Stein joins the fray.


I am a fairly upper income taxpayer. Not anything even remotely close to sports stars or movie stars or financial big boys. But I am above the level Mr. Obama says makes me rich. So, in the midst of a severe recession, I am to have my taxes raised dramatically.

I am not quite sure what my sin is.

I worked for almost every dollar I have, except for a small percentage my parents left me by virtue of hard work and Spartan living, and most of that was taken by the federal estate tax. I have a hell of a lot less than I did before the stock market and real estate market crashes. I didn't get a bailout or any part of a stimulus program, except for traffic jams as the roads in Beverly Hills got worked on for the 10th time in the last 10 years (or so it seems).

I pay my income taxes, and after them and the commissions I pay my agent, I am left with about 35 cents for every dollar I earn.

I own some real estate in California and Idaho and the District of Columbia. Naturally, I pay property tax, supposedly mostly to educate local children. Not far from me, the city of Los Angeles just spent about $600 million to build the most lavish school in America for about 4,000 children. That's my money. Naturally, I had no say in it. My wife and I have no children in public schools and only did for about eighteen months long ago. I still pay my school tax ever year.

I am not asking for any tears. I live a great life, have a fabulous wife, a great son and daughter-in-law, four wonderful, furry dogs and six cats, all adopted. I have more than enough to eat.

But what I don't get is this: There is no known economic theory under which raising my taxes in the midst of a severe recession will help the economy recover. It isn't part of any well known monetarist or Keynesian theory. So if it does no good to raise our taxes, I assume we are being punished.

But for what? I don't own slaves. I employ a lot of people full- and part-time and they are all happy with their pay. When charity calls, I almost always write out a check. I don't have a yacht or ponies or a plane. My wife doesn't wear a tiara. I don't gamble.

What did I do wrong? I know I have often lost my temper with my wife and the cats, but that's not a crime, yet. I tried to be successful, which is what I thought I was supposed to do. When did it turn out that was a crime to be punished? Maybe when the economy recovers, raising my taxes makes sense, but for now, it's just punishment, and I can't figure out what for.

© MMX, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Add a Comment See all 868 Comments
by greco99-2009 September 21, 2010 3:09 AM EDT
Hey, Ben you supported the war (and Bush corruption) -- now pay your fair share.

Apparently you want people earning under 50k to pay for you.

How about *no* taxes for people earning under 100K, and let the millionaires and billionaires pay the difference ? That will provide a better stimulus to the economy than using taxes from working people to fund mansions for corrupt bankers.
Reply to this comment
by bamio September 21, 2010 2:57 AM EDT
Gosh, Obamie should just have the federal government do less!!! If you had the government do less you wouldn't waste so much money. Gosh, Obamie, why didn't you think of that?
Reply to this comment
by jimcrawf0rd September 21, 2010 2:44 AM EDT
Truly, upon reading of Poor Ben's plight, I have almost broken into tears, wiping away as I think upon his misfortunes, a tear forming at an eye duct. Or is it a cinder? A mote, perhaps. Ah, born to the silver spoon and brought so low as to be complaining about being in the upper 3% of America's income strata.

What is your favorite whine, Ben? Is it this one or is it the one about all those poor creationists being fired by unfeeling liberal universities, those who think that teaching flat earth theory is not politically correct? [One good point about Ben is that as long as he has the predisposition to believe something beforehand, he'll believe almost anything you tell him, or anything he reads in the National Review.] Well, alas, he didn't think to check Wikipedia or Google their names before he did that program.

And thanks for your support of Bush and his lying us into an unnecessary war, and for supporting the reduction of your taxes by Reagan, then Bush I, then Shrub --- again. And for supporting the reduction of the capital gains tax to 15%, almost half what I pay on my work-earned income. [Yes, Ben, a ?preemptive? war is a war crime according to all the laws to which human civilization tries to adhere.]

And we know too that you worked hard, and ?earned? every dollar of that income, and that you deserve all of it because you work 160 hours per week and are three times smarter [and better looking] than all of the rest of us.

In truth, Ben, these are only some of the reasons why we are punishing you.

[If I let Ben think he's not being punished,he will become confused.]

Keep up the good work,
jmc
Westwood NJ
Reply to this comment
by cdriggs727 September 21, 2010 1:28 AM EDT
Taxes can only come from people who can afford to pay. Wealthy people have more money than they actually need to survive, and poor people don't. To look at this a penalty is just being selfish and greedy. I would love to have the income to pay higher taxes.
And that was deceitful to talk about how much your income was after taxes and your agents fee. The agents fee has nothing to do with taxes. I challenge you to post your last income taxes so we can see how pitiful you're doing, oh wealthy jerk...
Reply to this comment
by southernvet September 21, 2010 12:55 AM EDT
Don't worry Ben. Losing me is but a small drop in your big pool of fans.
Where did that flushing noise come from ? Was that the sound of a lot more drops than one ? Oh yeah, unless you want a neighborhood full of illiterate kids, S.T.F.U. and pay your school tax.
Reply to this comment
by democracy5 September 21, 2010 12:23 AM EDT
Do I use the highways at the same rate that corporations with their interstate trucking do? (No)

Do I have the same access to Congress that these multi-millionaires do? (No)

Do I have the same access to credit that Ben Stein has, even though I've probably worked longer hours than he has and have ZERO credit card debt? (No)
Reply to this comment
by p_syrus September 21, 2010 12:01 AM EDT
Well Ben, YOUR taxes never should have been lowered to begin with. It was a costly & foolish mistake which the nation could ill-afford at the time and which has proved disastrous for the nation as a whole over the last many years.

So, don't think of this as "punishment". Think of it as "righting an injustice" which was wrought by a previous corrupt & incompetent administration. :-D
Reply to this comment
by Lifeson2112 September 21, 2010 12:08 AM EDT
The injustice is that not everyone able is paying taxes. To steal from those who earn more is immoral.
by democracy5 September 21, 2010 12:16 AM EDT
AMEN!!!
by babooph September 20, 2010 11:52 PM EDT
You supported borrowing from China for 2 idiotic wars,gloating on your 10 years of massive tax cuts[that MUST be funded by the shafted middle class-the poor ,of course have no $$$ ,that only leaves the middle paying for your gluttony],now you want me to feel sorry for you ?Confess your bottomless greed for a start...
Reply to this comment
by bobbisjunk September 20, 2010 11:38 PM EDT
You are left with 35 cents out of every dollar you earn. My question is, 35% of what amount? How much unearned income do you have, which is taxed at a lower 15-20% rate? Including unearned income how much out of every dollar does that leave you? Suppose you make $1 million a year. 35% of 1 million is $350,000. If your tax rate raises from 36% to 39% the additional tax on the $100,000 over the $250,000 on which the tax will not increase is $3000. My guess is you are pretty interested in lowering the deficit and putting our country on sounder footing. I make considerably less that $100,000 and even I could manage to come up with an additional $3000 to contribute to that effort if asked to sacrifice for the good of the country.
Reply to this comment
by Mortar_29 September 20, 2010 11:39 PM EDT
So, why isnt everyone contributing?
by democracy5 September 20, 2010 11:45 PM EDT
Because either they don't have it to begin with or they're cheap jerks like you, Mort.
See all 4 Replies
by dance-like-dervish25 September 20, 2010 11:29 PM EDT
y Mortar_29 September 20, 2010 10:58 PM EDT
Okay, they go into stocks and bons. Where does that money go?

My point is that it isnt static. The market is dynamic. So, as a "rich" person, my money doesnt just sit still.

So, I invest a lot of it in Cisco, let's say. And they use it to do what? Well, of course. They use it to expand their company, R&D and so forth.

That is the only way for me to make money off my money. I buy stock in Cisco, they take my money to use to expand or take care of other important business decisions...and they pay me for use of my money.

-------------------------------------

You sound very young and Naive...If it was that simple buds than your swindler of your American financial markets would have not taken my 10 million dollars to their volts in foreign countries...

You are a fool to think market is dynamic,what ever that means..

Markets have been ruled by the lying,swindling,thugs who are part of our government.You don't see after the financial crisis of 2008 FBI charging the system swindlers.

As to CSCO Stock for 10 years it has been trading under 27 dollars...Good luck with your money it hasn't grown a bit...lolololololololololol.

I told you you are talking to me Shazmi,who know every trick of the trade of AssAmerica....


umay doomay dah...
Reply to this comment
by Mortar_29 September 20, 2010 11:34 PM EDT
Gotta be some good chit in the pipe tonight, huh?
by dance-like-dervish25 September 20, 2010 11:41 PM EDT
Oh I am just having a American plum,and listening to Alan Colms on fox Radio...And laughing at the ignorance of the American citizens...

Its all true believe it otherwise we wouldn't be in this mess.
See all 868 Comments
Latest News
CBS News on Facebook
News in Pictures
Scroll Left Scroll Right
The CBS News iPad App

Instant access to breaking news, photos and award winning CBS News video is at your fingertips.

Download the Free App