The Top 1% Pay for Our Public Services and Welfare


“The 1 Percent.” It’s become a slogan for Democrats, socialists, and proponents of big government. “The 1 Percent” are evil, slithering, maniacal, greedy capitalists who oppress the poor and middle class. Bernie Sanders recently claimed the top 1% take 99% of all new income. So what’s the deal?

Well, statistics like Sanders’ are often claimed, but you know how statistics can be manipulated in many ways. Actually, “new income” for Sanders referred to growth coming out of the recession in which the rich gained more than the poor (among many other variables). But Sanders (being honest, thankfully) now refers to updated figures  released in June 2015, that the top 1 percent captured 58 percent of total real income growth from 2009 to 2014.

And that’s income growth. When it comes to adjusted gross income, the top 1% paid only 20% of America’s AGI in 2010-2014. Of course the wealthy hide money through tax deductions and loopholes, but so do the less wealthy (especially in service jobs with tips and cash-only small businesses).

But when I hear about the top 1%’s supposedly hoarding of all of America’s money, I ask myself: since we have a progressive tax system, I wonder how much of our taxes the 1% pay? 

According to CNBC, the top-earning 1 percent of Americans will pay nearly half of the country’s income taxes for 2014, “the largest share in at least three years, according to a study.”

That means people can complain about the 1%’s large incomes, but in the end they are funding nearly half of everything you receive through tax dollars: half of your police department; half of your food stamps; half of your medicaid; half of your social workers.

But not only that, people forget that many of the 1% are honest businessmen that have started businesses or taken over businesses and expanded them. They employ hundreds or thousands of people and pay them wages that their workers find fair enough to remain employed there. They are helping America remain an industrious and economically strong nation. Their tax dollars pay a large percentage of our public services and our government’s payroll.

Let’s not be naive, though.

Plenty of the 1% inherited their money and some are surely lazy and dishonest. Many of them earned their income through manipulation, greed, and cut-throat practices. But you can find these sorts of vices in all economic strata of society and in all countries, no matter what the economic system. The solution is not to increase the tax rates even more on “The 1 Percent,” as if they’re all evil exploiters who don’t deserve their money.

The 1% is already taxed higher than anyone in the nation and pays the bulk of our taxes. Large corporations, associated with the 1%, are also taxed at the third highest corporate tax rate in the world.

After acknowledging the bad apples in the 1%, I think our final reaction should be more respect and gratitude that they have been successful and generate wealth in a way that benefits families, citizens, and our government. There are still many problems to fix, such as tax loopholes, tax fraud, etc. But the problem is not that the 1% makes lots of money. That’s actually a good thing.

The problem is not that the 1% makes lots of money. That's actually a good thing. Click To Tweet

The bigger problems are the individual bad apples that use their money for evil and exploitation, as well as the incredibly high individual progressive tax rate and corporate tax rate that takes money from wealth-creators and puts it into the hands of wealth-distributors. I suggest we find ways of raising up the lower class other than punishing the entire class of “The 1 Percent” for making money, when in reality the bulk of them are actually enriching and funding our society while creating jobs and creating new wealth.

About Todd Scacewater

Todd is a Teaching Fellow in New Testament and PhD candidate at Westminster Seminary in Hermeneutics. He holds a Th.M. in New Testament and a B.A. in Political Science, and has served the church in music, college, youth, children, and discipleship ministries.