I have absolutely nothing against rich people. In fact, I'd like to be one some day.
Sooner, rather than later, if you please.
So I'd be one of the last people in the world to tell rich people how they should spend their money. Mostly, I admit, because I'd be furious if anyone took it upon themselves to try to tell me how I should spend my money.
So what's good for me has to be good for everyone else. That's only fair.
Rich people included.
And it doesn't matter to me if they got rich the easy way -- inherited or lottery -- or the hard way -- nose to the grindstone.
If you've got it, spend it as you wish.
And not one pipe out of me.
Well, maybe a tiny pipe. I admit it does bother me a little bit when rich people/politicians spend huge sums of money on political campaigns. I consider it a total waste of perfectly good cash. Might as well cram it down a rat hole or light it on fire.
And the reason that bugs me is I look around and see all the good things that could be done with that money beyond ego-building by politicians and the pursuit of power.
I think I know the difference between money well spent for the societal good and money spent on politics. Two different things.
Beyond that, I say more power to the rich person with cash in his/her pocket, as long as they're paying their fair share to support the various government bodies and programs that demand all of our support through the payment of taxes.
And that includes Social Security and Medicare taxes.
Because as it stands right now, I'm thinking the semi-rich, the almost-rich, the rich and the super-rich are all getting away with murder as it relates to paying their fair share to support the alleged entitlement programs in this country.
I say "alleged" only because government officials keep talking about "entitlement" programs as though the money to pay for them is coming straight out of the general budget.
It doesn't. Because the money to support those programs comes directly from workers (6.2 percent of their pay) and employers (6.2 percent of their workers' pay) and should be going straight into the trust funds that support those programs.
In 1937, the feds started collecting from American workers and employers on the first $3,000 earned. So if you only earned $3,000 a year, you paid Social Security taxes on every penny you earned. If you earned $100,000 a year, you still only paid Social Security taxes on the first $3,000, and got a free ride on the rest of your earnings.
The system works exactly the same today. Only today, the cap on wages is a lot higher -- $113,700, not $3,000.
So today, we all pay Social Security taxes on the first $113,700 we earn in a year. If you earn $200,000 or $500,000 or $1 million a year, you still only pay into the Social Security and Medicare trust funds based on the first $113,700 you earn.
If that's not a break for the wealthy, I don't know what is.
Consider this example provided by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa: "... payroll taxes apply to every dollar of earnings for a janitor making the minimum wage, but a professional athlete making $1 million a year pays only payroll taxes on approximately one-tenth of their earnings."
And if that athlete earns $10 million or $20 million a year? Same deal. He/she still only pays Social Security taxes on the first $113,700 he/she earns.
As regressive taxation goes, it doesn't get any worse that this.
Consider, too, that the Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes only apply to wages earned, not to capital gains, dividends or other types of income (mostly utilized by those Americans with high incomes).
And we wonder why the balances in the Social Security and Medicare trust funds are what they are, how close they are to bankruptcy.
I personally would like to see Congress phase out the payroll cap entirely. I think that's fair. One estimate determined that eliminating the cap altogether (as long as benefits didn't increase) would ensure solvency for Social Security for at least 65 more years.
By then, all of the Baby Boomers will have died and the pressure will be off Social Security.
But if not a total removal of the payroll cap, increasing the cap to $250,000 would at least protect the Social Security trust fund for 50 years or so.
It's a hot topic in Congress right now.
But don't count on anything being done anytime soon.
As usual, it's all about politics.
And the rich-people lobby has been hard at work.
We all know what that means.
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.