The Problem with Writing Tax Reform at Fundraisers

When I think of Rhode Island, I think of Peter Griffin. He works at a bottling plant that makes his favorite beer – Pawtucket Patriot Ale – and makes enough money to support Lois, Meg, Chris, Stewie and Brian. The Griffins generally enjoy life, send their kids to public schools and have confidence that their government is spending the tax money they pay wisely.

When Speaker Paul Ryan thinks of Rhode Island, he thinks of money, not Peter. Unfortunately, the only part of Family Guy that Paul Ryan liked is the line from the second episode in season nine (October 3, 2010) where Rush Limbaugh says: “Oh I’ll be around. Wherever there’s a rich white guy in need of another tax break, I’ll be there…”

Ryan went to Rhode Island today, but not to meet workers at a beer factory (he could do that in his own district in Wisconsin, but recently refused to even host a town hall). He went to meet a bunch of influential donors (rich guys) who also happen to think they need a tax break.  A lot of the people showing up at high-dollar fundraisers make a living as investment advisors – advising people on where to invest their money. This profession yields a high income to these investment advisors, and they have been doing it so long it feels like all the money they touch is their own money. They have lost sight of the fact that they are risking their clients’ capital, not their own, in the investments they advise upon.

The problem is that because they see this money as their money, some of them think they deserve a lower tax rate than every other working American. We have been promoting a change in the tax laws, so that the preferential tax rate for long term investments will only be used by people who make long term investments (not people who talk about investing other people’s money). When you point this out, the investment advisors still feel that their work is so vitally important to our nation that they must continue to pay lower taxes than all of the other people who actually work for a living. Not only have they deluded themselves into believing that they’re risking capital as well, but they’ve told themselves that they are the reason for our robust economy. But the thing is, these men and women are doing a job, just the same way that Peter is doing a job at the bottling factory. Both play a vital role in our economy, and both should be taxed according to the same rules.

They are wrong, they should know they are wrong, and Paul Ryan should know that they are wrong, but it is very hard to get someone to understand something if his fundraising depends on him not understanding it.

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