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Reagan: Should the Wealthy Pay Less In Taxes Than a Bus Driver?

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I came across this video comparing President Obama’s speech on asking the wealthy to pay as much or more in taxes than the middle class. Here is that video.

Watching that video caused to me to wonder about the entire Reagan speech. Since videos are easy to edit, I wanted to watch the entire Reagan video. On June 6, 1985, President Reagan went to Atlanta,Georgia, to speak to the Northside High School student body. While the entire video, from the Reagan Library files, is worth watching for his remarks on the importance of education and the public school system, his comments on the tax system come just after 9 minutes into the video. Watch it.

So, my questions are: was Reagan engaging in Class Warfare when he asked those students if a wealthy person should pay less in taxes than a bus driver or was he simply stating facts on the ground? If not, then how can President Obama now be described as engaging in Class Warfare if President Reagan was not, since they have both advocated a similar tax policy and for the same reasons?

I don’t believe in taxing the rich into oblivion or in destroying private industry. Being able to create wealth through innovation and private business creation led this nation to economic greatness…and the dream of that opportunity drew immigrants from around the world who created other new businesses and other new innovations. The United States, historically, has been the most innovative country in the world because we invited immigrants and opened the doors of opportunity, education and success to all her citizens unlike the old feudal, class systems of Europe and elsewhere in the world.

But as Reagan said, wealth – or materialism – for its own sake should never be an admired goal. If accumulation of wealth is used only for self-aggrandizement, that person has morally failed. And every person who has succeeded so greatly owes their achievement to the opportunities only provided by this great nation – as a result everyone, regardless of wealth, owes a payback to the nation and all her people.

The progressive tax system was originally set up to be morally equitable. The richest families were taxed more because they could afford to pay more without harming the health and welfare of their families. The poorest paid less because any more would harm their ability to care for their families. It was designed to follow moral, Christian values.

Reagan emphasized these same moral values when he spoke to the Northside High School student body. He emphasized a kind of fairness, equity, and compassion lost in the current debate.

As John D. Rockefeller told his children more than a century ago, “to those who have been given so much so much is owed.” That statement is a moral value worth remembering when listening to the tax debates going forward.

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Written by Valerie Curl

October 4, 2011 at 9:45 AM

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