Back in December, when Congress and President Obama extended the Bush tax cuts just in time to help all the rich people afford their much needed Christmas presents, rich guy Larry David, creator of “Seinfeld” and star of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” wrote a thank you letter that was published in the New York Times.
“There is a God! It passed!” David sang. He went on to describe all the splurging he could now do thanks to his rich guy tax rebate. “I was planning a trip to Cabo with my kids for Christmas vacation. We were going to fly coach, but now with the money I’m saving in taxes…First class!” It gets better. “I’m also going to call the hotel and get another room so I don’t have to sleep on a cot in the kids’ room…Now I get to have my own room with a king-sized bed.” And to top it off, “when I get home…the first thing I’m going to do is get a flat-screen TV. Finally I can throw out the 20-inch zenith with the rabbit ears.”
The sarcasm is laid on heavier than a French man’s cologne. Larry David’s pretending to be happy but really saying that the tax cut is taking money away from much needed government programs and giving it to rich people who spend it frivolously. If only! If rich people really did spend their tax breaks on first class plane tickets and big TVs and yachts and limos and caviar and high class hookers and all that other stuff rich people like, it’d be a good thing. That would stimulate the economy. Larry David is unintentionally making the tax break argument Republicans wish they dreamt up.
But let’s set aside the fact that even without those Bush tax cuts Larry David would still be richer than everyone but God and Jerry Seinfeld and would never have to debate flying coach versus first class anyway, thus rendering the entire premise of his column bullshit. The problem is that rich people don’t splurge. When they get tax breaks, they put that money away. Just ask Matt Damon. He said, “I just got a 3 percent tax cut. Do you think I’m going to start a small business with that money? You’re out of your mind if you think so. I’m going to put it in the bank. So is every other guy that makes the kind of money I make.”
The best way to stimulate the economy is to spend some of that excess rich guy tax money. Pump it into government programs. Create teaching and firefighting and road repair jobs. If tax breaks need to be handed out, give them to the middle class who’ll spend it (they pretty much have to or the bills won’t get paid).
No, I don’t begrudge rich people their money (believe it or not, I want to be rich someday too). Rich people like movie stars and baseball stars and business leaders deserve what they make. They earn it by being the best in the world at what they do in a marketplace that values their skills. But—and this is a big but—they are also pretty darn lucky. They are lucky to live in a country that cares about their talents and contributions. Warren Buffett has even admitted that if he lived in a primitive tribal society, he wouldn’t be the rich powerful guy. He’s fortunate to live in America where he can put his business skills to use. And because of that, he (and other rich people like him) should pay higher taxes for the privilege of living in a place that allows them to get rich. And I bet they’ll still have enough left after taxes to fly first class, buy a flat screen TV, and even stick some money in the bank.