Burke and American Taxes

December 7, 2011

Political Theory

CNN Article: http://www.cnn.com/2011/12/07/election/2012/congress-payroll-tax-cut/index.html

Taxes are one of the most conversional and debated topics in our country and political system. Should the rich be taxed more than the poor? Is that fair and if not, is it still the duty of the rich to pay more to assist the poor? These questions are ubiquitously argued between Democrats, Republicans, and all Americans that are affected by it. Our country currently uses a marginal income tax rate depending on a person’s income and other factors such as their marital status. The article attached discusses Obama’s policy and the possibility of a nation-wide payroll tax cut, particularly for people making over $1 million dollars yearly. That group of people are the upper echelon of society and some of them make up the 1% that is currently being protested on Wall Street. The basic question that I pose to the readers of this blog is should the rich be taxed at higher percentages than the poor and lower class? If so, why is that fair to the higher class who earned their money though hard work?


I do not support one decision necessarily but as I was debating it in my mind I thought about what Burke would think about this purposed tax cut. Burke, does not support change and rather vehemently rejects anything that disrupts the normal flow of society. He believed things were working very well during his time but this may have been due to the fact that he was living very comfortably himself. If he was in the lower class, would his feelings and writings have been different? Also, if Burke were here now would he support the tax cuts or prefer the rich to be taxed at a higher bracket? I believe that he would probably argue against the higher tax brackets for the rich simply because he would probably be part of the rich or aristocracy himself. However, Burke supported the American Revolution so would he support the Occupy Wall-Street protest? This question is posed to all readers but I believe he would still not support it. The reason behind Burke’s support of the American Revolution was because it was hurting Britain to have America colonized anyway. Occupy Wall-Street is not affecting anything previously negative or anything that is already hurting the US. In contrast, it is disrupting the norm and changing society, particularly the financial district of NYC, and this would only frustrate Burke. Although Burke may not have been as rich as the 1% being protested, the lack of a centralized argument would cause him to reject this movement, in my view.

Burke prefers sticking simply to the fundamentals of society. This works in a perfect world when the fundamentals of society are working perfectly without any problem. However, our country is coming out of a horrible recession that destroyed many American lives and their financial position; change may be necessary and vital in order to regain our strength as a country. If Burke were alive, he may argue that we should still stick to the old fundamentals of our country that have worked in the past and will work again. Is it worth taking that risk or is change the only way to regain economic power as a country? This question has no correct answer but its results and implications are massively important.




About bsrobin

Studies at the University of Michigan

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4 Comments on “Burke and American Taxes”

  1. Obada Ghabra Says:

    Burke would not support Occupy Wall Street. This would not necessarily be related to the fact that Burke favored an unequal system which maintained the upper class. Burke was totally against radical change. Occupy Wall Street is clearly asking for radical changes in a short period of time. Similarly and for the same reason, Burke would not support the Tea Party. Burke would be much more likely to support these movement if they were asking for gradual change. Burke did not oppose change per se. He acknowledged that change had to occur in society for society to progress. Burke did believe however that people should stick to the system that they know since it is predictable. If a system has been in place for a long time, people would have a good idea about how the system works. Therefore, Burke believes that a radical change to an existing system would be too risky and uncertain. Gradual change would allow the current system to remain in tact while altering society at a slow pace which would prevent catastrophic results.

  2. keroboim Says:

    I believe the current tax brackets should remain unchanged. This is more equitable than, for example, a flat tax rate for all individuals. If a significantly higher flat tax rate was applied to families whose income currently falls in the 10% or 15% tax bracket, their after tax income would take a considerable hit. Families who are in this tax bracket are most likely struggling to make ends meet and are not as financially free as they would like. On the other hand, a flat tax rate would most likely tax the wealthy less than they are currently taxed and they would see an increase in their already high after tax income. Individuals who are in the highest tax bracket can afford to be taxed as such. They are taxed at a higher percentage and still have income to take care of their families and live very comfortably. In short, the rich should be taxed at higher percentages than the working class. Income taxes are one of the few taxes that are progressive, meaning the individuals at the top pay a higher share of their income in taxes than lower-income individuals. They are better suited to pay a higher share of their income without struggling. If income taxes were regressive, meaning that higher-income individuals pay a smaller share of their income, the overall tax system would be regressive. As a result, the tax system would be very unfair to lower income individuals.

    Tradition has showed that the income tax system is as equitable as it will get since it has made it this far without significant changes. On the contrary, Burke’s views on equality may support a different tax code and not support the OWS movement. Burke believes men should be unequal since men are different. The underlying problem supporters of the OWS movement are protesting is the equality of wealth. I feel Burke would not support this movement and the fact that protesters don’t have a centralized argument would prompt Burke to reject the movement.

  3. blevz Says:

    Burke would not support Occupy Wall Street but would potentially support an increase in taxes on the rich if it was part of solidifying the government’s control of stability within society. Much as many contemporary conservatives supported the stimulus (at least at the time when it seemed important to to the preservation of the economic system) Burke would support filling the government coffers so long as it was not spent on creating forced equality. Burke would believe that a government with large debt rolls would face legitimacy crises and should the necessary steps, so long as they are gradual and not radical, to remedy the issue.

  4. schoemad Says:

    I agree that Burke would not support the Occupy Wall Street movement. As someone who doesn’t appreciate change and likes tradition, he would definitely feel that an American tradition over the ages has been that the wealthy have been at an advantage ever since the Industrial Revolution. Most large businesses and corporation still don’t have a large amount of regulations that constrict how they operate and run each day. Overall the Occupy Wall Street movement is something that wants change and improvements that would definitely break the traditions of how the United States operates today. Burke is a man who would probably also disagree with the higher taxes on the rich. It’s not because he was a wealthier man, but due to the traditional nature of the tax rates. The top marginal tax rates have steadily decreased over time ever since the 1960s and because of this he would probably not want to increase top marginal tax rates.

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