Tax the rich? Totally. It'll buy us ... a year.

  • Article by: DANIEL MCGROARTY
  • Updated: January 31, 2012 - 8:06 PM

Somewhere on the afternoon of May 26, we'll run through our last billionaire. On to the millionaires.

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Republicans, Democrats, the Tea Party and the Occupy movements -- Americans from 1 to 99 seem to have their own favorite plan on how to tackle taxes and federal spending.

Assuming there's room for one more plan, I've borrowed bits and pieces from the current debate, but -- urged on by the political commentariat and citizen-pundits alike -- I've gone big and bold.

First, the philosophy behind my policy, drawn from careful consideration of the debate to date: For any plan to work, we need a federal tax policy that's simple, fair and -- this part is key-- to the maximum extent possible, involves someone else's money.

With that principle in mind, like Willie Sutton, that early "corporate raider," we go where the money is. Our national treasure: America's billionaires.

Under my plan, billionaires aren't just going to pay more, they're going to pay it all -- a 100 percent tax rate. And not just on what they make in a year. We're going to take it all -- 100 percent of their entire lifetime net worth.

As for the "99 percent," relax. We're cutting your 2012 rate to zero percent. That's right: You're going to live like you're a hedge fund manager on the Newt Gingrich plan.

We're going to simplify that U.S. tax code at the same time. The IRS will be replaced -- by the September issue of the Forbes 400.

Let's get started. The Obama administration has requested $3.7 trillion in federal spending for 2012. Conveniently, that's a bit above $10 billion a day.

Fittingly, Bill Gates leads us off, with his $59 billion. Microsoft's founder could pay from the moment we rang in 2012 to almost midnight Jan. 6.

Up next, Warren Buffet. The Sage of Omaha's $39 billion gets us to the end of Jan. 10.

Larry Ellison -- $33 billion -- gets us through the weekend. Koch brothers David and Charles -- $50 billion combined -- cover the workweek. Then come four Walton Wal-Mart heirs -- sons and daughters of Sam, bringing us eight days federal spending combined.

George Soros, friend of President Obama, is next; his $22 billion will cover two full days and a bit more. Then comes Sheldon Anderson, Friend of Newt, with his $21.5 billion. Another two days and change.

We've burned through Forbes' Top 10 billionaires -- a total of nearly $310 billion.

It's Jan. 31.

Forbes' No. 11 to 99 -- folks like Google's Sergey Brin, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Amazon's Jeff Bezos -- would get us through February and March, with nearly $600 billion. Nos. 100 to 200 -- a collective $260 billion -- get us past Tax Day and almost to the end of April.

But by the second half of the Forbes 400, we're scraping the bottom of the billionaire barrel. All 200 remaining billionaires batched together barely cover a month of federal spending. By mid-May, the federal burn rate reaches 10 billionaires per day.

Then, somewhere on the afternoon of May 26, we've run through our last billionaire. Fittingly, it's Washington's own Dan Snyder, owner of the Redskins.

Altogether, the lifetime earnings of the Forbes 400 have paid for more than $1.4 trillion in federal spending. In other words, their lifetime take has covered the federal deficit -- for one year.

But enough celebrating. We're still $2,219,999,999,999.99 short if we want to keep the federal government running until New Year's 2013.

So on to the millionaires. We've got more of them -- but we need more, too: After all, it takes 1,000 millionaires to equal one billionaire. In federal budget terms, that's 10,000 millionaires a day.

Trouble is, millionaires are fiscal twigs in the federal fireplace. Mitt Romney's $20 million for 2010? That's three minutes of federal spending.

Romney's entire $190 million to $220 million fortune? A bit over one half-hour.

Newt Gingrich's $3.1 million 2010 take? Gone in 30 seconds.

Barack Obama's book royalties plus presidential salary ($1.7 million)? The federal government will spend that in 14 seconds.

Hey, Steve Forbes, come back here. Thanks for compiling the federal contributor list -- and for your net worth of $430 million. That's more than an hour of federal spending!

In order to pick up the pace, let's take the IRS data that tells us that in 2009, 236,000 Americans made $1 million or more. All told, at our 100 percent rate, that's $610 billion -- another two months of federal spending.

But there are still five months left to fund.

Let's move from the people who earn $1 million a year to the people who have more than a million in net worth. They're millionaires too, right?

After we've taken away all of that wealth and fed it to the U.S. Treasury, what's the takeaway from all of this?

For one thing, $3.7 trillion is an enormous amount of money -- far more than our mortal minds can comprehend. It's $6.9 million in federal spending per second, every second of every minute, every hour of every day, including weekends, every day all year.

But back to the budget. It's 2013, and not a billionaire in sight. Wait a minute: Where's that 99 percent? Please step forward.

Your turn.

____

Daniel McGroarty, a former White House speechwriter, runs Carmot Strategic Group, an issues management consulting firm in Washington. This article was distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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