How much the wealthy should pay is an issue that has been debated ever since governments began collecting taxes. On Wednesday night, former Governor Eliot Spitzer, State Senator John DeFrancisco, economists and policy experts debated the issue before a sold out crowd at the Everson Museum as part of a debate series sponsored by SU's Maxwell School.
Near the beginning of the debate, Spitzer said that real problem isn't the tax the wealthy pay on their income - it's that capital gains on stocks are capped at 15%
"We should raise the tax rate on capital gains so we equate capital gains with ordinary income," said Spitzer.
State Senator DeFrancisco argued against more taxes on the wealthy. He said that fifty percent of New Yorkers already don't pay any income tax and the wealthy are the filling the gap
"People making over a million dollars a year in New York state pay over 33% of the taxes," said DeFrancisco.
Spitzer said the current tax structure unfairly burdens the poor and middle class. In a surprising twist, Spitzer endorsed a traditionally republican idea - a flat tax where everyone would pay the same percentage of their income with no deductions, or exemptions.
"What better way to share burdens than for everybody, whether you earn 50 million dollars or two hundred thousand to pay the same rate?" said Spitzer.
Those against higher taxes for the wealthy said raising the tax rates even higher would hurt small businesses and make it more difficult for future entrepreneurs to take risks.
"If they don't put their money at risk, we're going to end up with the next Steve Jobs staying in his garage," said DeFrancisco