The Shared Sacrifice Lie

The Shared Sacrifice Lie

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Imagine having this exchange with your child on Christmas morning:

Parent:  Here are your Christmas gifts Tommy.

Tommy:  Where’s the other one?

Parent:  That’s it, Tommy, just four this year.

Tommy: What do you mean? I got five last year. You’re ripping me off.

Parent:  We didn’t have to give you any gifts, Tommy. You did nothing to earn them. We chose to give you these gifts because we love you and care about you. You should be thankful for whatever you get.

Tommy:  This sucks. Why should I have to give up a gift? What’s a kid gotta do to get a little shared sacrifice around here?

Most parents, I think – even the ones opposed to corporal punishment – would drop-kick little Tommy back to the Bronze Age.

But in the current debate over deficit reduction and funding government, President Obama has said that if we cut spending and thereby take away some unearned benefits from poor people, we must also force rich people to pay more taxes. Not to do so, he says, is unfair because it does not require rich people to make any sacrifices.

How is this different in kind than little Tommy’s claim?

The following hypothetical comparison exposes the President’s claim for what it is: A class warfare lie.

Poor Man

Poor Man pays no income taxes and receives $11,000 in direct government benefits: 

Income Taxes Paid           0
Earned Income Tax Credit Refund    4,000
Food Stamps    5,000
Child Care Credit    2,000
Net Contribution (Benefit) (11,000)

Rich Man

Rich Man pays $50,000 in income taxes and receives no unearned benefits from the government: 

Income Taxes Paid 50,000
Earned Income Tax Credit          0
Food Stamps          0
Child Care Credit          0
Net Contribution (Benefit) 50,000


Rich Man is “sacrificing” $50,000 per year of his own income to fund the federal government.

Not only does Poor Man not sacrifice anything to fund the federal government, he requires that other taxpayers sacrifice $11,000 to fund him.


Rich Man is already making a sacrifice by paying $50,000 in income taxes, some of which is being used to pay direct benefits to Poor Man and some of which funds Poor Man’s share of indirect federal benefits, like federal highways and national defense.

So, if it’s shared sacrifice that President Obama really wants, he would see to it that Rich Man no longer was forced to fund Poor Man by proposing legislation that stopped the practice of requiring only Rich Man to make sacrifices.  

When Poor Man relinquishes an unearned benefit he makes no sacrifice whatsoever, but merely lessens the sacrifices made by Rich man. In fact, Poor Man should thank Rich Man for making sacrifices that allowed him to receive unearned benefits in the past.

President Obama wants you to believe that Poor Man is making a sacrifice merely by ceasing to be the beneficiary of Rich Man’s sacrifice.

Don’t fall for this nonsense.

About Peter Pappas

Peter is a tax attorney and certified public acccountant with over 20 years experience helping taxpayers resolve their IRS and state tax problems.

He has represented thousands of taxpayers who have been experiencing difficulty dealing with the Internal Revenue Service or State tax officials.

He is a member of the American Association of Attorney-Certified Public Accountants, the Florida Bar Association and The Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants and is admitted to practice before the United States Tax Court, the United States Supreme Court, U.S. District Courts - Middle District of Florida


  1. you are an idiot…..people dont become rich anywhere based purely upon their efforts. they get rich by living in a society where there is public education, public transportation and utility infrastructure, government funded research, tax-paid law enforcement, constraints on unbridled capitalism, and many thousands of other government paid or managed functions that provide and protect the opportunity of that “rich” man to get or stay rich.

  2. Foster,

    I have a pretty good idea why you’re not rich.

    Rich people who pay taxes sacrifice more and give more to society than do poor people who don’t pay taxes and who live off the public teat. This is indisputable.

    Blaming others or the system in general for one’s failure in life is one of the key characteristics of unsuccessful people.

    When successful people fail, they get up, dust themselves off and try to figure out what they can do better next time.

    That this truth pains you does not make it any less true.