The Rich Are Taxed Enough

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How do we fix the economy? The U.S. government's budget deficit is nearing a trillion dollars for the fourth straight year and unemployment remains high. With the Bush-era tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of 2012, what is the best move for continued economic recovery? President Obama says we should raise taxes on those making more than $250,000 to reduce the deficit. Others say that the richest 1% already pay more than a quarter of all federal taxes and higher taxes for job creators would slow economic growth. Are the nation's wealthiest not paying their "fair share," or should tax breaks be extended for everyone in the name of job creation?

Brought to you in partnership with the Richard Paul Richman Center for Business, Law, and Public Policy, a joint venture of Columbia Business School and Columbia Law School.  The Richman Center fosters dialogue and debate on emerging policy questions where business and markets intersect with the law. More Information

  • Hubbard-web


    Glenn Hubbard

    Dean, Columbia Business School

  • Arthur Laffer-web


    Arthur Laffer

    “The Father of Supply Side Economics," Fmr. Member, President Reagan’s Economic Policy Advisory Board

  • Robert Reich-web


    Robert Reich

    Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley & former Secretary of Labor

  • MarkZandiweb


    Mark Zandi

    Chief Economist of Moody's Analytics

    • Moderator Image


      John Donvan

      Author & Correspondent for ABC News

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For The Motion

Glenn Hubbard

Dean, Columbia Business School

Glenn Hubbard is Dean of Columbia Business School and the Russell L. Carson Professor of Finance and Economics. Hubbard is the author of two leading textbooks on money and financial markets and principles of economics, as well as co-author of The Aid Trap: Hard Truths About Ending Poverty and Healthy (2009), and Wealthy, and Wise: Five Steps to a Better Health Care System (2006). He previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of the Treasury from 1991 to 1993, and Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors from 2001 to 2003.

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Arthur Laffer-web

For The Motion

Arthur Laffer

Known as “The Father of Supply Side Economics.” Former Member, President Reagan’s Economic Policy Advisory Board

Arthur Laffer is the Founder and Chairman of Laffer Associates, an economic research and consulting firm, and Laffer Investments, an investment management firm.  In the 1980s, his economic acumen and influence in triggering a tax-cutting movement earned him the distinction as “The Father of Supply-Side Economics.”  Laffer was a member of President Reagan’s Economic Policy Advisory Board from 1981 to 1989 and served as Chief Economist in the Office of Management and Budget from 1970 to 1972.

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Robert Reich-web

Against The Motion

Robert Reich

Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley and former Secretary of Labor

Robert Reich is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. Reich was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration from 1993-1997. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers Aftershock (2011) and The Work of Nations (1992). His latest is an e-book, Beyond Outrage (2012). He is also a founding Editor of the American Prospect magazine and Chairman of Common Cause. He writes his own blog about the political economy at

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Against The Motion

Mark Zandi

Chief Economist of Moody's Analytics

As Chief Economist of Moody’s Analytics, Mark Zandi directs the company’s research and consulting activities. Zandi’s recent research has studied the determinants of mortgage foreclosure and personal bankruptcy, analyzed the economic impact of various tax and government spending policies, and assessed the appropriate policy response to bubbles in asset markets. Frequently testifying before Congress, Zandi is a trusted adviser to policy makers on topics including the economic outlook, the merits of fiscal stimulus, financial regulatory reform, and foreclosure mitigation. Zandi received his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, where he did his research with Gerard Adams and Nobel laureate Lawrence Klein.

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Declared Winner: Against The Motion

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Voting Breakdown:

64% voted the same way in BOTH pre- and post-debate votes (19% voted FOR twice, 42% voted AGAINST twice, 4% voted UNDECIDED twice). 36% changed their mind (7% voted FOR then changed to AGAINST, 2% voted FOR then changed to UNDECIDED, 5% voted AGAINST then changed to FOR, 2% voted AGAINST then changed to UNDECIDED, 7% voted UNDECIDED then changed to FOR, 14% voted UNDECIDED then changed to AGAINST) | Breakdown Graphic

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    • Comment Link Shdmittyboy Wednesday, 23 March 2016 14:56 posted by Shdmittyboy

      This is called ''Socialism'' no matter what you call it

    • Comment Link porrer Saturday, 27 February 2016 20:17 posted by porrer

      Vote for Trump!!
      just kidding))

    • Comment Link Ed Sunday, 26 October 2014 17:47 posted by Ed

      The taxation is helping spread the income gap in the US and is pushing the US closer to a 2 class system as well as being a 3rd world country. Many jobs today payed better in the 1950's and 1960's than they do today. Considering that Income for workers have gone down and top management has gone up along with prices on services and consumer products, this trend is unsustainable. It has happened hundreds of times before across the world and always the same result. Either the economy becomes plummeting 3rd world country or there is a revolution, the corrupt gov't is replaced and the country rebuilds. Then the country embraces a socialist democracy. Simple but as humans we never learn from our past. Very sad.

    • Comment Link Dale McCarty Saturday, 26 July 2014 00:34 posted by Dale McCarty

      I watched this debate and was appalled at the off handed way the debaters agreed senators are bought by the rich. The discourse of Robert Reich was by far the highlight of the debate.

    • Comment Link Ryan Tuesday, 13 May 2014 01:04 posted by Ryan

      To Mike Horn,

      Both Marie Antionette and Czar Nicholas II were in some way involved in government. Marie Antionette was royalty and Czar Nicholas II was an emperor. They were essential tied to the government and you can't necessarily control who is in the royal family and how they spend their money.

      Businesses operate to solve society's problems in most cases. Gas companies exist to supply oil so people can drive to places. Tech companies exist to bring new technology to the world and to make things simpler, fashion companies exist to bring people clothing. If one does not agree with the business and their practices, they do not need buy from them. The French and Russians did not have the option to give their tax money elsewhere.

      And your a pretty twisted person to want to execute business/political leaders. I'm not a fan of the Koch brothers necessarily, but execution. Maybe just change the super pac laws instead?

      Furthermore, as some of the narrators suggested, raising the income tax rate doesn't really tax the rich, it only really increases taxes the upper middle class because the rich generally do not become wealthy through income. They get rich off investments and equity in companies. Both of which generate capital gains taxes.

      Finally, we do not need to increase the taxes on the rich. Right now, 53% of all money spent on military spending in the ENTIRE WORLD is spend by the United States. If we just spent 40% of all military spending in the world, we would have absolutely no need to raise income taxes on anybody. That just puts the burden on small business owners when many in favor of increasing the tax rate make it seem like they are increasing taxes on people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. It is not affecting them at all, they don't get rich off income.

    • Comment Link Diane Sunday, 02 June 2013 11:40 posted by Diane

      I enjoyed the debate but why wasn't it called 'The rich should pay higher tax rates"?

      None of the debaters seemed to think the rich are taxed enough. They disagreed on how to tax them more, by raising tax rates, or by other means.

      This might not have been so noticeable if one of the debaters hadn't kept pointing it out. Otherwise, it might just have been vaguely confusing.

    • Comment Link VanishingMediator Sunday, 05 May 2013 11:33 posted by VanishingMediator

      The money that wealthy people make is for altering the economic landscape with novel ideas about how things can work. This is what is rare and therefore what people are most rewarded for. This talk about workers not sharing in the profits is nonsense. They didn't do the planning or execution of novel ideas. They just did the execution of specific tasks that were laid out for them, and which anyone could do. Capitalism is set up to most reward skills which are the most rare to the benefit of all. Any conversation about redistribution of wealth is Communism and entertaining these notions means dooming your society to failure.

      If you want equality, teach people how to think and do things that the most capable people do.

    • Comment Link Starr Saturday, 13 April 2013 11:20 posted by Starr

      Apparently this is what the esteemed Willis was takiln' 'bout.

    • Comment Link David E Tuesday, 02 April 2013 15:35 posted by David E

      The rich cannot survive without the poor...

      It is the poor that turns the wheels of labor...

      It is the poor that buys the goods from stores...

      It is the poor that pays the bulk of taxes...

      The rich do not understand that without taxes that funds the infrastructure of the country, it will be harder for the poor to do their services to the rich, and hand over the money they earn to the rich to pay for food and merchandise...

    • Comment Link Tony Calandro Tuesday, 26 March 2013 10:32 posted by Tony Calandro

      I'm always struck when people talk about how hard wealthy Americans work to earn what they have earned. I don't disagree with this by the way. I think lots of people in this country have fought hard and done good work to get where they are. What I disagree with is the idea that most people in poverty don't work hard as well.

      The problem isn't that they are rewarded too much. The problem is that people at the bottom have no leverage to seek reward. It's a zero sum game, and most of the people that made fortunes in this country did it with a great deal of help from people that didn't share in the profits.

      Very few people in this country can expect to achieve what is labeled "success" without hard work, but we need to stop pretending that being born in a good family doesn't provide the reasonable expectation that you will be rewarded for that work.

      Let's assume two brothers. They work equally hard. They are equally talented. If they embarked on the same financial journey, but circumstances happened to make one of them blindingly wealthy while making the other homeless. What can we reasonably assume they would credit for their fate?

      I imagine the successful brother would say, "Hard work." The homeless brother might say, "bad luck."

      Who is wrong?

    • Comment Link Benjamin Wey Saturday, 16 March 2013 19:26 posted by Benjamin Wey

      "You cannot love jobs but hate job creators." Well said! This is the most cherished foundation of the American capitalism. Flat tax is the right solution and is the fairest process. The rich can buy tax-free municipal bonds and tax-free treasury securities. That's how the rich can legally lower their tax rates. There is nothing wrong with that.

    • Comment Link Pat Gumby Monday, 04 March 2013 16:03 posted by Pat Gumby

      Tax should just be a flat rate for rich and for poor.

    • Comment Link john stark Monday, 04 March 2013 14:19 posted by john stark

      Broadening the base is as clear as mud. One side using the term to mean removing loopholes, the other side using the term to include a higher percentage of the taxes paid by middle income earners. Typical lack of clarity leading us to a floating definition of terms which then leads to inaction when the time for the calrification of terms comes and agreement can't be reached because terms were not clarified at the begining of the debate. Games lawyers play churning the waters, givng a good show, with no intention of resolving the issues.

    • Comment Link Sagun Sunday, 17 February 2013 21:11 posted by Sagun

      I'm not sure how a tax cut is going to have any immediate effects, unless you are proposing some sort of immediate rebate solution. In that case, we know that those types of programs are usually used a short-term economic prop that only keeps the drop from happening so early.3% seems like a massive amount of money to inject back into the system. With the Federal Reserve and the Treasury printing and pumping over a trillion dollars back into the economy, we should already expect an inflationary wave to hit us in the next couple of years. At this point, it seems like the markets are correcting themselves and we really just need to cradle the egg as it's falling instead of trying to stop it altogether.You should also remember that the congress, senate, and all other budget-makers are not the finest group of financiers. There is very little proof that we could see a federal smart spending program that does not get tied down with bureaucracy and waste.

    • Comment Link Gwen Gage Monday, 07 January 2013 01:26 posted by Gwen Gage

      The "brilliant" guy sealed his own fate with the example of Warren Buffet, making it clear that the richest people will always be able to find a way to colossally minimize their taxes. I paid 10% on adjusted taxable income of $15,000 while Mitt Romney, a 2 percenter, paid less than 4% more!!

    • Comment Link Mike Horn Saturday, 05 January 2013 14:47 posted by Mike Horn

      I was impressed with the talent on the panel. I believe that the Laffer curve exists but I don't think that even Arthur Laffer knows where we are on the curve. I suspect the parameters may "float" with inflation.

      We might have been near the optimum operating area of the curve during the Eisenhower Administration or the Clinton Administration or both.

      Nobody talks about the wage-price spiral anymore.

      Economists often say a one percent inflation rate is good. They haven't convinced me that any inflation is good. I do understand the relationship between inflation and balance-of-trade with other countries.

      Since the Korean Conflict such things as housing, automobiles, motor fuel, college education, and health care have shown average annual inflation rates around 5.6 percent. During the same time incomes of the wealthy have risen at 6.0 percent or more, wages of most everyone else have risen at about 4.0 percent, and prices farmers get for their crops have risen at only 2.8 percent. All rates are annual averages.

      I see executive compensation in the U.S. as an expression of pathological eliteism and I see many of the wealthy to be as clueless as Marie Antionette or Czar Nicholas II. The French and Russians haven't really fully recovered from the excesses of their respective revolutions.

      We cannot have the general population lose faith in the rule of law or something like the "Occupy Wall Street" movement snowball into something far worse. If that happened one of the milder outcomes would be Grover Norquist, the Koch brothers, Wayne LaPierre, and possibly some UAW leaders being led to the guillotine.

      It might be necessary to "tax the snot out of the rich" to restore public faith in the rule of law.

      I see a high volume of firearms sales as a symptom that the public are losing faith in the rule of law.

    • Comment Link max Saturday, 05 January 2013 01:17 posted by max

      I think this debate was REALLY UNFAIR. There was no representation of Conservative American values as both sides were Socialists: Fabian Socialists on the right, Marxist Socialists on the left. This tinkering of economies, taxing and devaluing, arguing over rich and poor classes are all Marxist point of views.
      We should end the FED, and base our money on actual value and then their would be NO inflation bubbles, no over-printing and devaluing of our money for imperial wars, no tax on the money printed (our money), and less of a NEED to over-tax individuals. The poor would then have value in their money, their hard work, and the rich would have to produce more value instead of making it the way Romney did, through: tax schemes, government hand-outs, Wall-street manipulations/gambling, and offshore account *hoarding*. Taxation in the manner of the IRS is illegal in American under the Constitution. Free Wesley Snipes!

    • Comment Link Mochica Friday, 04 January 2013 09:11 posted by Mochica

      Quite good. Missing argument is that in the past lowering the tax rate with increased revenue occurred because the middle class was earning proportionately more than now thus was tapped those with cash in hand. Today, the middle class is struggling with minimum COLA while the bankers, CEOs, and ilk earn a proportionately bigger piece of the pie. The bulge in the pie is at the top, so that is where the tax rate needs to follow. Decades ago the bulge was with the middle class so taxing them and not the rich as much made sense and worked. Today it is mathematically incorrect.

    • Comment Link ftw225 Wednesday, 02 January 2013 16:33 posted by ftw225

      A lot of people here aren't making valid points. You can correlate all Americas problems to the tax rates of the rich people. The rich people are in the higher tax brackets. You cant tax them more because they are more privileged than others. That doesn't encourage business growth. Doctors, lawyers etc. work very hard not only to get the position they have, but to maintain it. The small percentage of rich people pay the majority of taxes. Even if taxes were to raise on the rich, it wouldn't have much of an effect on the national debt. Thats why i believe the rich are taxed enough and we should worry more about spending.

    • Comment Link brenda strand Saturday, 17 November 2012 01:20 posted by brenda strand

      "Bush tax cuts"...The U.S. government's budget deficit is nearing a trillion dollars for the fourth straight year and unemployment remains high."
      Nuf said?

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