How to Tax the Rich

Oct 14, 10 | 10:22 AM   byScott Adams
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If a well-dressed stranger walks up to you at the mall and asks for a dollar, with no reason given, you're unlikely to hand it over. But if the same person asks for a dollar and gives a specific reason, such as "...because my wallet was stolen and I need gas to get home," you're far more likely to hand over your money. (See the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Cialdini.)

After the US midterm election, the question of raising taxes on the rich, or allowing the so-called Bush tax breaks for the rich to expire naturally, will be hotly debated. You might think this sort of tax law would easily pass, given that 98% of the voters are not rich. But it won't work that way. The people who pay the most taxes also have the most control of the government. So in my imaginary role as president, I fantasize about how I could convince the rich to accept higher taxes on themselves. I think the key is in how specific the president gets about the purpose for the new taxes.

As it stands, Obama's likely proposition is that the rich will pay more taxes and the money will be distributed in some hard-to-fathom way across numerous budget categories, many of which the rich believe to be overfunded. Or maybe the tax revenue will be put toward reducing the deficit, which is a debatable and intangible benefit. Those are hard propositions to sell: "Give me a dollar and I will use it for miscellaneous."

Now imagine that instead of proposing to spray the new taxes into the general budget miasma, the president cleverly ties the new tax revenue to one specific category, such as national infrastructure.

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More of Scott Adams' blog posts, and the Dilbert™ comic strip, can be found at He can be emailed at
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