All too often I hear the, so called, progressives framing the issues of compassion in terms of taking from the rich. I wonder if it even matters that we "justify" such actions by alleviating conditions of poverty. While such a scheme is probably righteous in some religious circles it is not necessarily just and fair. And when the "progressive movement" transgresses upon the boundaries of justice and fairness I, for one, become less enamored. For me this lack of support for "progressives" happens because I know that almost all of the problem of poverty and inequality of opportunity can be eliminated without this indiscriminate blackjacking of the rich. Assuring equal opportunity is not the same thing as showering the poor with goodies simply because they are poor; it is not the same thing as nurturing and feeding those that refuse to contribute to the society. Opportunity and equal justice matters. Outcomes are not guaranteed.
Equal opportunity has to do with the idea of realistic entitlement and the definition of earned and unearned. And the natural world is an entitlement that is given by nature or by the almighty to all of us equally. They put that word "natural" in front of that word "resources" to signify that the resource is totally unearned and that the "ownership" of it (and that term actually does not apply) is vested in the entire community. Natural resources are the things that exist without any contribution from any person and this lack of contribution is a hallmark of the word "unearned". Access to the natural world (natural resources) is the realistic entitlement of all citizens of any sovereignty. It can be argued that sovereignty has nothing to do with it and that all the peoples of the earth have an equal and moral claim on all the natural resources but religion and culture prevent that.
This "equal right" does not extend across political and religious barriers. Morality in New Deli is different from morality in Jerusalem and that is different from the morality of Istanbul and New York. The word "morality" is from the Latin "moralis" which means "of manner and custom". Religious beliefs inform and control "manner and custom" and so each sovereignty has its own idea of righteousness and its own way of dealing with entitlement to natural resources. Religion trumps economics every time. And so we address life in these here United States as opposed to the entire world.
Let's begin with something very obvious. Let's begin with oil. The oil is a natural resource and it is the equal right of every American voter to use, abuse, waste, preserve, or consume all of the oil within the political boundaries of the United States (democracy matters). And all of the proceeds from the sale and consumption of oil (less the cost of finding it and extracting it) should be equally distributed to all American voters. If the proceeds from the consumption of oil are redistributed equally then those who use a lot of oil directly or indirectly will be subsidizing the poor who do not guzzle oil. Most certainly this is true of oil in the north slope, the arctic regions, Gulf of Mexico, offshore Florida, and offshore California. But it is also true of the oil under the land owned by Mr. Texas rancher. So long as the extraction of the oil does not interfere with the ranching then the oil should be available to all persons of the sovereignty. Many would argue that the ranch itself is a natural resource and not subject to privatization any more than the oil. But American morality will not yet allow this redistribution of land rent.
The discussion of the oil is important in the discovery of truly unearned income and the Texas ranch owner will be the example. The rancher (who no longer ranches because he gets $50K per week in oil royalties), could be comatose and he would still get the royalties. He made no investment in creating, finding, or extracting the oil and he does nothing to "provide" the oil at all. Further, if the $50K of income was taxed at 80% the oil would still flow as before and the land owner would still get $10k a week for doing the same nothing that he is currently doing. Gasoline will still cost the same amount as it does now and the only difference is that the poor (and the rest) will be receiving their/our natural entitlement. And if all of the natural entitlement were redistributed in this way (all land rent and extraction fees) then there would be very few poor people and those that were poor would probably be poor because they choose to be poor, i.e. because they actually choose to live a very poor existence instead of contributing to the society and earning more. Redistribution of natural entitlement is not a robbery of the rich, but a redistribution of that which naturally belongs to all the people. The redistribution of unearned income is a rational mechanism to eliminate poverty and it is not an indiscriminate attack on the rich. It is an attack on privilege that arises primarily through the abuse of government and the privatization of the commons.
While a very progressive income tax is seen as the "one size fits all" solution to the problem of unequal opportunity it should be augmented with a natural resource recovery system. Land and oil and gold and trees in the national forests are natural resources that simply are not subject to private ownership. These resources are not earned in that they occur naturally and the administration of these resources is the province of the elected government. It is therefore possible to have much more equal opportunity through natural entitlement.
High income people who actually earn their incomes should not to be the indiscriminate targets of taxation, but there is a definite limit to how much a person can actually earn. When I was younger and a lot smarter I was paid for developing software and providing software development support services. Then came the H1B's and I decided I'd rather drive a truck. My income was less than half of what it had been as a technoid and my work week was 70 hrs instead of 40. But I also got to see all of the USA and I derived enjoyment from the beauty of the country and I liked the solitude and the fact that nobody was on my case all the time about doing the impossible. If a reduction in the income I received from being a technoid would not have resulted in my choosing to drive a truck then some amount of that income would have been unearned. In other words, if i would have done the job for less as opposed to changing to doing something else then I was being overpaid. And the amount of excess is defined by many as unearned. If a Baseball player will chose to sell insurance instead of playing baseball because his income in excess of $1M per year is taxed at 80% then he must be earning the excess income. If he does not elect such a change then the income is not earned, i.e. he enjoys the game and would rather play than sell insurance. The same is true for CEO's and others who supposedly earn their wages. A CEO is not going to turn to selling insurance because his salary above a million a year is taxed at 80%.
Supply side, trickle down economics is a total lie and a sham and it has been used by the Republicans to enhance the wealth of the nobility of the USA. The lie was that rich people would invest and that this would make all boats rise. Well, they saw to investment in China and India and Mexico and now all the middle class boats are sinking faster and faster. And to a great extent they really didn't invest at all. Most of the investing was done with money created from the ether. When you give rich people a tax break on unearned income then they have more money. What happens next is probably bad forr all but the rich who want to stay rich and get richer.
The proper way to get the money back is to simply print more of it and distribute it at the bottom of the economic ladder as opposed to the top. The "stimulus" and many more like it and much larger is part of a the proper methodology to recoup what has been stolen by the Republicans and their backers. The other key is the taxation of private income derived from the ownership of natural resources and the taxation of truly unearned income at the top. Instead of spending money into existence via the occupation of Iraq we should spend money into existence through education, research and development of pharmaceuticals, the construction of a decent power grid, high speed rail for freight, wind and solar energy, and a multitude of other things that enhance the quality of life and the productivity of America. We do not need more interstate highways. We need to get the trucks off of the highways we have. I hope the "progressives" will stop screeching about rich people and "oh poor me" and actually use their alleged minds to help create real PROGRESS. Because it looks more and more like the opportunity for real change is at hand.