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How Much Should You Pay for Your Privilege of Being an American?


Location: Washington, DC

By Representative Lynn Westmoreland

Recently, Treasury Secretary Geithner said wealthy Americans should have to pay more in taxes for the "privilege of being an American." His comment sparked a lot of debate, including a great article in the Wall Street Journal by Lawrence Lindsey.

When the secretary testified before the House Financial Services Committee this week, I took the opportunity to ask him about those comments, especially in light of the fact that almost 50% of Americans do not pay any income tax and the fact that the top ten percent of wage earners pay 70% of the income taxes collected.

Rather than actually answering my question, the secretary opted to argue with me about the definition of "income tax' as a way to avoid the issue. He tried to claim the Social Security tax and the FICA tax were considered "income taxes' and therefore almost 50% of Americans actually do pay income taxes. His argument was clearly inaccurate -- those additional taxes assessed on your paycheck are not the income tax. They are separate taxes assessed to pay for future benefits -- Medicare and Social Security.

But more than his obfuscating, I was disappointed the Treasury Secretary refused to give his thoughts on this issue. The Obama Administration has continually called for higher taxes on those Americans who earn more money, while constantly disregarding the fact that they already do. This would have been a good opportunity for the Treasury Secretary to discuss his opinions on the situation, but instead he chose to evade the issue.

I do feel privileged to be an American and I know that I am afforded so much more simply by being an American citizen. But I don't believe that privilege should used to fleece American workers and companies out of even more money than they already pay to cover the spend-happy mentality of President Obama and Secretary Geithner. As I have repeatedly said, we don't have a revenue problem in this country - we have a spending problem.

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