Which is a great question, as the only way to answer that truthfully would be with a percentage. With income tax percentages ranging from negative (yes, the government gives you money, earned income credits, below a certain level) to the recently established 39.6, fairness has long since left the building. As you earn more, they take a greater percentage. So it's already unfair.
There is no honest (or honorable) answer to the question. But that's not what I'm here to discuss today.
How do you keep people poor?
Well, you prevent them from becoming rich.* While most people are happy to do this for themselves by living beyond their means, here are some wealth-prevention levers:
- Take away more of what they earn. It's hard to save when the money for saving is taken away. So raise taxes. Add taxes. Add fees.
- Take away what they have. Today through increased capital gains and death taxes, tomorrow through outright property seizure and means-testing, such as social security benefits, 401k and Roth savings.
- Social Security is itself a tool for keeping people poor. It takes money you should save/invest on your own, and gives you back a small portion of it. What a lousy return on that investment.
- Devalue what they have. Inflate the currency to the point that savings and investments, gaining or not, are devalued anyway.
- Steal from the next generation. Through spending beyond our means to pay back.
*For lessons on becoming rich, please see: Who wants to be a millionaire anyway?