Posted Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, at 1:08 PM
Photograph by Lauren Greenfield/Magnolia Pictures.
That's my message for David Siegel, the founder and CEO of Westgate Resorts (and the subject of the recent documentary The Queen of Versailles). He is one of the largest resort developers in the world, and I usually have enormous respect for him. Siegel started a business out of his garage and created a timeshare company that operates more than 10,000 units at 28 resorts. For that I congratulate him.
But on Monday, Siegel sent the thousands of employees at Westgate a long letter saying that if Barack Obama is re-elected, Siegel might be forced to lay many of them off.
Mind you, he says he's not threatening anyone, or telling them for whom to vote.
But, he adds, "If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company."
The crux of his complaint? He thinks he is paying too much in taxes, that the 1 percent are being unfairly burdened. "They want you to believe that it somehow makes sense to take more from those who create wealth and give it to those who do not, and somehow our economy will improve. They don't want you to know that the '1%,’ as they like to label us, pay more than 31% of all the taxes in this country."
But he is dead wrong. The top 1 percent paid 21.6 percent of the taxes in 2011. And here is the key: They earned 21 percent of all the income! The middle 20 percent earned 11.4 percent of the income, and paid 10.3 percent of the taxes, and the bottom 20 percent earned only 3.4 percent of the income and paid 2.1 percent of the taxes. In the end, it all pretty much evens out: Americans pay the same percentage of the taxes as they earn of the income. Sounds pretty darn fair to me, David. No redistribution there—just carrying one's fair share.
Yet Siegel says he's so frustrated that his motivation to work may be destroyed altogether, because of the current system. "If that happens," he says, "you can find me in the Caribbean sitting on the beach, under a palm tree, retired, and with no employees to worry about."
He blames it all on what he calls "a system that penalizes the productive and gives to the unproductive." But again, he is wrong. Government has to take from all for the good of all—including for the good of Siegel himself.
Just one example: Westgate's property at the Smoky Mountain Resort and Spa in Gatlinburg, Tenn. People go there and pay Siegel a whole lot of money so they can appreciate the beauty of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the first national park for which the federal government spent its own money to buy land.
No national park, no big resort that people will pay for. You also wouldn't want to build a resort there without reliable public fire services. Or public roads to enable people get there. Or a safe water supply.
Here's the point, David: This country is a community, in which we have to rely on each other. We all give something, and we all get something back. As President Obama said about so many of the things that make it possible to succeed in business here, "You didn't build that."
He was right.