Recently, Elizabeth Warren — Harvard Law professor and Massachusetts Senate candidate — was filmed discussing arguments that efforts to raise taxes on extremely high income earners is “class warfare,” an increasingly common refrain. She responds to this line of argument by questioning the individualist narrative of wealth — that is, that people who are rich did it all on their own, and thus owe nothing to society. As she points out, taxpayer-funded infrastructure and services — from highways to law enforcement to widely-available education — are essential elements of such financial success stories. But current discourse about wealth and taxes obscures the social nature of wealth creation, portraying taxation as unfair taking rather than a fair return on the public’s investment:
Transcript after the jump.
I hear all this, you know, “Well, this is class warfare, this is…”, whatever. No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there – good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory… Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea – God Bless! Keep a Big Hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.