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GOP Issues Part Two: Taxes

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In another social and governmental area with arguments as old as politics, taxes will continue to be an issue; paraphrasing Benjamin Franklin, the only thing other than death which is a certainty. This is of special interest now because of the recent congressional decision on the payroll tax cut. Wikipedia has an interesting pseudo-definition for taxes,

“A nation’s tax system is often a reflection of its communal values and/or the values of those in power…making choices regarding the distribution of the tax burden; who will pay taxes, how much they will pay, and how the taxes collected will be spent.”

Certainly there is some disagreement between the two parties (and all Americans) on how tax revenue should be spent (but that is not the topic under discussion). For further edification on a related topic, here is an article with the gist of how the Republicans and Democrats see tax cuts.

Since 1789 there have been various times when the U.S. government either collected taxes, or didn’t. One notable period lasting 44 years, from 1817 to 1861, was completely without internal revenue by taxation; instead, the government relied on customs duties and land sales (see below for how this is similar to Ron Paul’s tax plan). See History of the U.S. Tax System for more information. During the Civil War, congress passed the Revenue Act of 1861, which first levied taxes on personal income at 3 percent. 1862 saw the introduction of tax brackets: 3 percent up to $10,000; and 5 percent for higher incomes. In 1872, income tax was abolished and then reinstated in 1894, during which time revenue was mostly from excise taxes on liquor and tobacco. By 1909 congress had what they considered a workable plan, but it languished until 1913,  when it was finally ratified. Here is a site that has both the signed resolution for the 16th amendment and the original tax form.

click to view larger imageMoving into what I would consider the modern era of government and taxes, from 1913 to the present, this chart shows the upper and lower brackets (left axis), the rate for the brackets (right axis), and for 1969 to present, the mean income (left axis). Just because it didn’t seem complicated enough, I overlaid the DJIA for the period, the recessions of note, and major military actions (time axis only). There are some interesting possible correlations, but those may only exist in my mind; draw your own conclusions.

As taxes have evolved throughout the years, from zero early on to a maximum of 94 percent (for income over $200,000 during World War II), both the rates and the thresholds have changed very frequently. The current U.S. rates are 15 percent for the lower bracket and 35 percent for the upper, which seem reasonable compared to other countries. In looking at the countries with the ten highest gross domestic products, only Brazil, India, and Canada have higher upper bracket taxes (see chart). For the lower bracket, which is likely more important since more people are in that bracket and therefore more taxes are collected, only Italy has a higher rate. Further down the list is Belgium, 21st in GDP according to Wiki and 18th as judged by the IMF, but with a marginal tax rate of 54 percent; now the U.S. starts to look even better. In fact, this site indicates that America has the second lowest marginal tax rate.

So it would seem that, all in all, the U.S. fares better than many first world countries when it comes to taxes. As much as we would like to complain about this topic, things could be much worse. Given all of the above, what do the GOP candidates have in store for the future of taxes?

Michele Bachmann believes that taxes are too high (which she should know about, being a tax attorney), people have less to spend on priorities, and that having taxpayers keep more of their earnings would strengthen the economy and stimulate job growth. She has sponsored several bills in Congress to relieve the tax burden, unfortunately none of them passed. With typical Republican histrionics, Michele has claimed that “not one shred of evidence that lowering the payroll tax rate created jobs” exists, although BLS data shows more than 1.4 million jobs were created or restored during the 11 months since the tax holiday began. One of her ideas, for cutting capital gains rates, would seem to add to the deficit rather than help reduce it, but maybe she has other ideas for deficit reduction. This article is a little inflammatory, but has an intriguing slant, saying that Bachmann’s advice for Americans to flaunt the law borders on treason. Maybe the most telling words come from fellow party member and Minnesotan, Tim Pawlenty, saying, “Her record of accomplishment in Congress is nonexistent.”

“Food stamp president” is what twenty year political veteran Newt Gingrich called Obama in this article saying, “We’re at the crossroads…down one road is a centralized bureaucratic socialist welfare system… Down the other road is a proud, solid, reaffirmation of American exceptionalism.” He too favors the elimination of capital gains tax, and reducing corporate and death taxes; accelerating economic growth by encouraging investment. His plan is said to be too aggressive and could lead to huge deficits by giving the richest Americans gigantic tax breaks; reducing government revenue by $1.3 trillion in 2015. Gingrich has plans to keep taxes low, essentially by keeping the “Bush era” tax cuts, and instituting a flat 15 percent rate. Some suggest that a flat tax would cause the loss of more than 800,000 jobs almost immediately, as explained here.

Is the fact that Jon Huntsman served as Obama’s ambassador to China the only reason Republicans won’t support him, or is it because he is a rich, moderate? He says it’s because, “I don’t sign those silly pledges. I don’t pander. I won’t do Don Trump’s silly debate.” Along with the now common flat tax (although in three rate brackets) and eliminating capital gains tax, Huntsman wants a tax form that, “resembles a postcard”, and to get rid of “all deductions and loopholes.” He claims that since this worked in Utah it can work nationwide; assuming that this can scale upwards, of course. Earlier this year he acknowledged that this would constitute a tax increase, saying that he would, “…invest that back into the tax code.” Here he has a few more words on his tax plan and the economy in general.

Ron Paul goes beyond the Republican pale, planning the complete elimination of income tax and the IRS saying that, “…55 percent, over half of all revenue, comes from other sources like excise taxes, fees, and corporate taxes…We could eliminate income tax… and still fund the same level of government we had in the late 1990s.”; according to PolitiFact, this is mostly true – a difference of only $150 billion. He calls income tax “a form of involuntary servitude, which was supposed to have been outlawed by the 13th amendment.” There is some possible flip-flopping with Paul’s tax plan (called “paulonomics” by some), as shown in this article, which also highlights some of his stances on other issues.

Fox News calls Rick Perry’s tax plan “fiscally irresponsible” and unable to jump start the economy. According to Fox, the plan calls for taxpayers to choose between a 20 percent flat tax, and staying with the current system; it seems highly unlikely that most would choose the flat tax. By his own words, printed in the Wall Street Journal, he says, “The mind-boggling complexity of the current tax code helps large corporations with lawyers and accountants devise the best tax-avoidance strategies money can buy.”, but it seems that little would change in that regard, either. Perry’s plan also calls for increasing both personal and dependent exemptions, up to $12,500 each, which would seem to lower tax revenue, but according to him, would stimulate economic growth. This site explains why the tax won’t be as flat as Rick makes it out to be.

Mitt Romney is in favor of tax cuts similar to the ones enacted in 2002 by Bush, claiming that he supported them at the time, and pledges to roll back taxes to 5 percent by the end of 2012. In this article he explains how his vision of a “merit-based opportunity society”, compares to Obama’s “European social democracy”, by reducing corporate tax rates and eliminating capital gains, which seems to be very popular among the candidates. It may be that Mitt feels that his business acumen will give him insight into the workings of the tax codes, which he certainly used to his advantage while working at Bain. Here are some statements Romney made on taxes and the economy.

Another proponent of lowering taxes, Rick Santorum, claims to have always voted in favor of lowering taxes, removing the death tax, and cutting corporate rates. Know as the “Made in America” plan, it focuses primarily on the manufacturing sector by, in one instance, repatriating offshore companies and zeroing their tax rate. Rick plans on making U.S. businesses more competitive by cutting corporate tax rates in half, down to 17.5 percent. His personal tax rates, just two brackets, would be 10 percent and 28 percent, which is a return to Reagan era rates. Sadly, perhaps to some, there is very little online that speaks to Santorum’s tax and economy views.

Disregarding corporate taxes, not that they aren’t important to the economy, and also economic stimulus which is equally important, the next most critical aspect of any tax changes, to most Americans, will be the personal income tax rates. Here is why I think the inequality of income, and of taxes, makes more of a difference than most Republicans give it credit for.

Let’s look at two groups of American families, one close to average and the other high, upper-middle class. The average group (Group A) makes between $40,000 and $60,000, and consists of approximately 20,000 families; we will say that their income is $50,000. The upper group of about 17,000 (Group B) has a lower income level of $100,000 and a top level of $250,000; we will call their income $150,000, on average, for the group. Using census data, this chart compares expenses for the two groups, with Group B spending 20 percent more on each expense type (probably not accurate, but I don’t make $150,000, so I’m just guessing). Now, let’s take, for example, the cost of a home for $150,000; according to this site, it should be a little higher, but this is a good round number. Group B has, according to the census data and my calculations, almost 5 times the money to spend towards housing, $120,000 per year, while Group A only has $25,000 to spend. It is clearly much easier for Group B to afford a down payment and mortgage, than for Group A. This concept extends to any expense that is not considered a need by the census bureau; savings, education, leisure activities like vacations, or emergencies. While the basic necessity costs are very similar regardless of your income, the amount available for luxuries or niceties is drastically different.

This analysis does not take into account the very rich or the marginally poor, where the differences are even more extreme. I do not advocate for a socialist system; no sharing of the wealth or redistribution. One of the few things that can be controlled, to help the lower classes to be able to live just slightly more comfortably, is the amount of tax burden. Keep this in mind while evaluating each candidate’s plan.

I believe that the first and most important goal of the future president should be reducing waste, fraud, and abuse in all government agencies, followed by examining the efficiency of each federal agency. Given that the government needs revenue to operate, and if we have learned anything over the years about our government, it is that they rarely cut spending, we will need taxes. If we believe that the examples we see from other first world countries are remotely accurate, then U.S. taxes are near reasonable levels. Assuming that reductions, savings, and gains in efficiency can be made, then will be better prepared to look at lowering the tax rates.

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About One Americans Rant

  • Igor

    50-Cannon is so confused and incoherent I’m tempted to let it pass without comment, except that he’s completely wrong about a couple of his premises:

    “…stop spending what we don’t have,…”

    But that’s totally un-American! And it’s even bad policy. The US economy is built on spending money we don’t have. Installment plans, mortgages, credit cards, it’s ALL based on money we don’t have. And it’s brought about prosperity since people can enjoy the items they’re saving for while they are saving, i.e., paying installments.

    “Keynes never endorsed what “Keynesian” policies we’re running under-his theory allowing for deficits to support stimulation was predicated on the idea that the deficit-spending would be short-term,…”

    It’s really presumptuous of you to speak for Keynes when you’ve never read a word of his writings, nor any accurate account of his policies.

    Basically, Keynes advised ‘counter-cyclical’ policies to stabilize the economy. Thus, during flush times you put away money for a rainy day (in 2000+ Bush should have put surpluses away for bad times, but instead he gave huge cash tax benefits to the rich under the guise of returning surpluses “to the people who created them” and started 2 wars, thus he was soon borrowing money from the Chinese) which re-enforced the cycle, assuring that a subsequent negative swing would also be amplified!

    By contrast, Keynesian counter-cyclical policy would have demanded paying off the debt and saving money.

    Keynesian counter cyclical-policy demands that the country borrow money, if necessary, during bad times and feed it into the bottom of the economy (not the top)where it has a huge Economic Multiplier (i.e., the ratio of circulated funds compared to injected funds) because of the high Marginal Propensity To Spend of people at the bottom.

  • Cannonshop

    There’s no nice way to put it-Republicans want to keep spending while lowering taxes, the Democrats want to increase spending while increasing taxes. Neither one of ’em is willing to bite the bullet, really stop spending what we don’t have, and let the revenues catch up to the expenditures (at minimum). They weren’t willing when times are good, and neither of their doctrines allow for it when times aren’t.

    This should be old news for everyone around these parts (new guys the exception).

    The fundamental problem is that Keynes never endorsed what “Keynesian” policies we’re running under-his theory allowing for deficits to support stimulation was predicated on the idea that the deficit-spending would be short-term, limited, not something carried over multiple DECADES and added to every year.

  • STM

    Spam in Hawaii. Yeah, what’s the go with that? Spam is the fave food in the islands … they have it with every bloody thing. To be honest, once in a while I don’t mind it sliced and fried for breakfast with an egg or two (cheap protein for young guys who’ve spent all their money on beer the night before) and some toast, but I wouldn’t use it for anything else.

    The one thing I really do admire the Hawaiians for is that they’ve still got the Union Jack in the corner of their state flag 🙂

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doc –

    Hawaii’s very expensive, and not just in Waikiki. For instance, I was there from ’94-’97, and in the local (non-military-commissary) supermarkets well away from the tourist areas, milk was $5 a gallon and cereal was $6 a box…but the locals really panicked when there was a poi shortage and they had to resort to rationing poi. Horrid stuff, couldn’t stand it…but give me some saimin or an artery’s-worst-enemy loco moco, and I’m as happy as can be. My oldest son’s favorite snack – Spam musubi. My youngest son was born in Tripler Army Hospital – the only PINK hospital in the military, and it’s that color because that was a hard condition set by the Henry J. Kaiser family who demanded that it remain pink (like the Royal Hawaiian Hotel) if they donated it to the military.

    One last thing – we found out that in many of those big beautiful houses there are often two or more families sharing to save money, and it is normal to have have two jobs (or at least one job and a part-time sideline) (and it’s not unusual to have three jobs) in Hawaii. But if you know how to live, how to budget, and if you don’t have a car (they have the best bus service in the nation), one can live fairly decently there.

    Just a little local lore – I love Hawaii and always will, and felt more at home there than anywhere else I’ve ever been.

  • A heckuva story, Stan.

    I spent in Paris only three days, but let me tell in, in those three days I saw more than I could three years in KY (if I cared to), and all on foot.

    Food is great too. Imagine that, a chateaubriand, an order of escargot, excellent French baguette and butter and a carafe of wine for two Yankee dollars, but that was in the provinces and in 1966.

    Still, a USO-sponsored bed & breakfast a few blocks of Champs, five minute walking distance, also two dollars a day. For the three days I stayed there, I don’t think I slept more than ten hours.

    Those were the times.

  • S.T.M

    Doc and Rog,

    My experience is that just about everyone I met in France had a go at speaking English to me … once they realised I was an Aussie and not a Pom.

    However, quite a few of them don’t care and will just speak English anyway if they can and you can’t speak French.

    The first time I was there I had the luxury of going with a wealthy Aussie girlfriend and former private-school girl who had been to finishing school in France.

    The downside was that she was blonde, beautiful and had rather big you know whats, so every Frenchman who crossed our path become mesmerised and tried to engage her in conversation while trying to stop themselves falling over.

    She even charmed a little gypsy boy on the Metro after his family had robbed us. He returned five minutes later with our stuff, including all our money, much to his mother’s disgust.

    Amazing scenes. That trip should have been named: Jane Does Paris.

  • S.T.M

    Igor, I am currently less than one hour’s drive from Gosford :). In fact, my father used to live up there. What actually happened was that two guys at a reptile park went in to mow the lawn in the croc’s enclosure. They usually only send one in and the croc’s OK with that, but sending in two seemed to annoy him and tip him over the edge.

    Saltwater crocs aren’t native to the state of New South Wales; they are only found in the wild in Queensland, where most of my family comes from, and in the Northern Territory.

    In both those places, they are extremely dangerous and uyou have to be very, very aware of their presence around water … including on the beaches in the far north. They WILL eat you, too.

  • @31 Anarcissie,

    I don’t think we have hit the point of diminishing returns, yet. One of the links I had in the healthcare article talked about a hospital that had more insurance administrators than nurses. This is the kind of waste and inefficiency I think we can get rid of. In the same vein, I also question the number of staffers that each congress-critter “needs”. The average is something like 100, which is more than most small businesses have for employees. Of course, this is a two-edged sword; if we streamlined government we would just up the unemployment numbers.

  • You haven’t seen the link to my relations in Scotland (posted on my latest thread).

    Come to think of it, my cousin no doubt must have connections with some literary agents. Might give him a try since we haven’t communicated all these years even once.

  • And as a matter of fact, a great many of them speak English, they just don’t want to let on.

    Yes: it’s a standard part of the curriculum in French schools – and taught a damn sight better than French is taught in UK schools, I can tell you.

  • Some friends of mine just went for a holiday to Hawaii and were amazed at how cheap everything was and har far their buck stretched. It’s probably not that cheap, but if you’re used to Sydney prices, it probably seems that way.

    Indeed. Hawaii is very expensive, particularly in the tourist trap of Waikiki. One reason is the remoteness of the place, which means almost everything has to be shipped in.

    Not sure how it would compare to Sydney, since we didn’t really notice what we spent when we were there (we were on the holiday of a lifetime after all ([ahem] two years in succession!)), but I can imagine how you would have to pay a premium for living in a place like that.

    I’m kind of jealous of the generosity of Stan’s employer, though. My wife landed a job with Scripps, which has a reputation as one of the best companies to work for in the US. They did pay her a relocation bonus, but that’s about it. We are also five minutes from the beach (no ocean view from our building but you can see it when you walk out to the street), but we gotta pay da rent ourselves.

  • And as a matter of fact, a great many of them speak English, they just don’t want to let on.

    They’re proud of their language, however, especially the Parisian who regard anyone from the provinces as uncouth.

  • I wouldn’t live in SF anymore, Dreadful, for exactly the same reasons. Lived there till the Loma Prieta, then moved out to Oakland and then Alameda. When I said the Bay Area, I just meant about 25-30 mile radius.

  • France is a beautiful country and the French can be wonderful (I was in love with a Frenchwoman long long ago), but there are a few things you’ve got to remember. First of all, if you’ve only been to Paris it’s worthwhile being aware that the city is in no way representative of the rest of the country. Secondly, the historical cross-channel enmity goes both ways, and it’s particularly acute on the French side since they’ve come off worst in most of the wars that have been fought between us. So a Brit, like Chris, is likely to come away with a dimmer impression of the place than an American like Clav or a Polish-American like Roger.

    The third thing is that they are a very proud people and it pisses them off no end if you don’t speak the language, or at least make an effort. Think of Archie and the apoplexies he suffers when instructed to press 1 for English. Same sort of thing.

  • Roger, I love San Francisco too, but there are just slightly too many ugly things about that neck of the woods for my liking. And the traffic! As I always say, in LA the drivers are merely insane – in the Bay Area they want you dead.

    Never say never though…

    I don’t know about theatre being a stipulation for cultural mecca-hood, but San Diego does have a replica Old Globe Theatre that’s several decades older than the one in London and is the city’s premier stage venue. There are countless other theatrical and music joints, thousands of restaurants, not to mention Balboa Park with its dozens of world class museums. Can’t wait to go exploring.

  • Igor

    Well, S.T.M., I hope you’re not too close to Gosford. TV just showed a guy there trying to mow his lawn and a giant croc in the swimming pool snatched the mower and took a large bite out of it! While it was still running! That croc must have been 12 feet long. It took an animal control squad to capture the croc and move him out. They got a couple of huge teeth as souvenirs.

  • S.T.M

    Glenn: “beachfront house … what’s the catch”.

    It’s actually five minutes walk from the beach but has stunning water views. It’s 22 minutes on the train from the city centre. That’s about US$400, too. Pretty good eh?

    Compare that to what I’m paying now, which is about $4000 a month, which I really can’t afford.

    It’s just a much cheaper place to live. It’s one of the reasons why I’m leaving Sydney Glenn. Every time you set foot out of your fron door in this mother of a joint you’ve got your hand in your pocket. It’s an outrageously expensive place, in fact one of the world’s most expensive cities. Even if you’re earning $150,000 a year here it can be a struggle. A lot of Americans are stunned when they come here to visit or move over here. Some friends of mine just went for a holiday to Hawaii and were amazed at how cheap everything was and har far their buck stretched. It’s probably not that cheap, but if you’re used to Sydney prices, it probably seems that way.

    The trick is, to enjoy everything this country has to offer, don’t live in Sydney. It’s been ruined over the past couple of decades.

    I just decided to pull up stumps and move interstate. Enough was enough, basically.

  • S.T.M

    Clav: “Pour moi aussi…”

    I’m an Aussi. I thought this was about France?

  • About the statue, darn right. When I saw the miniature Lady of Liberty, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

    But I was there during the DeGaulle’s era when the French reneged on US debt and forced the evacuation of NATO headquarters to Belgium.

    Those were fun times.

  • Anarcissie,

    you gotta loosen up once in a while. BC ain’t as tight and formal as TD, and it’s good. Wandering off topic has its advantages.

  • Since the title of this discussion mentions the GOP I thought it might be interesting to look at, not taxes from a rational point of view, but from a Republican point of view, which is always that they ought to be reduced regardless of expenditures, yet without incurring a deficit. Given the Republican predilection for expensive projects like war, imperialism, and a huge internal police and security apparatus, this principle seems paradoxical, to say the least — indeed, one might say impenetrable. I am willing to dismiss it as a fondness for fairy tales, but some of you may have more insight into it than that.

    By contrast, the Democrats’ ideal Bismarckian welfare-warfare state makes sense, even if in a rather unpleasant way.

    I believe that the quest for reducing waste, fraud and abuse in government, and increasing efficiency, has probably long since passed into the realm of the law of diminishing returns. But of course one person’s waste is another’s valuable program or just entitlement, so one’s mileage may, as they say, vary.

  • I thought that was just us Brits? The USA wouldn’t even exist without the perfidious Frenchies and they even gave you a rather good statue…

  • for the record, when I was stationed in Verdun, never had any problem with the locals, perhaps because I wasn’t an ordinary Yank, nor did I call ’em frogs.

  • Kinda surprising me there, Clav. With all the animosity we have towards the Frenchies?

  • I love Paris and everywhere in France I’ve ever been; it’s French and the French I can’t stand!


  • Clavos

    …Paris for me is the epitome…

    Pour moi aussi…

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Stan –

    $400 a week for a beachfront house???? What’s the catch?

  • @22

    “… it does rather feel like I’ve rejoined the civilized world after 10 years in the Central Valley.”

    Amen! Bur it’d feel even more so if you relocated to the Bay Area, and that’s in spite of the anarchists and gays and lesbians and whatnot. Although Paris for me is the epitome. (Never been to England).

    Can you imagine a cultural center without a first-class theater or opera or concert hall? I was practically weened in the theater since I was a three-year old, my father having been a stage actor in Poland.

  • STM

    Yes mate. They’ve paid most of my moving costs too. I’ve sold my house in Sydney and I’ve rented a beaut 4-bed beachfront place down there for … wait for it … $400 a week. The only real fly in the oitment is that my missus crashed her car a month or so ago and it has engine damage, so it can’t go down on the train with the furtniture. She flummed a great job there, though. I think she gets a car as well as a payrise. Big mistake, the car bit. Anyhoo, it’s a bit of an adventure and I can’t wait. Cheers champ, hope all goes well. (Maybe enjoy your enforced break for a short time if you’ve got the drachmas to get through it. Change is as good as a holiday, but change AND a holiday is even better.)

  • Hi Stan: yeah, I like San Diego a lot. Despite being an unemployed layabout at the moment, it does rather feel like I’ve rejoined the civilized world after 10 years in the Central Valley.

    Good luck with the move – it sounds like your drive from Sydney to Adelaide’ll be about as exciting as the one from Fresno to SD. What are you going to be doing in the way of moving bits of the economy into your bank account? Did Uncle Rupert give you a transfer?

  • STM

    Sadly, boys, I think that is the truth. There’s not much room for the concept of everyone being entitled to the old “a fair go for all”. Hello Doc … I’m off to Adelaide next week. Scary stuff. I notice you’ve recently relocated too. Hope that all works out nice. San Diego’s a pretty good joint – or it was 20 years ago when I was last in the vicinity.

  • What some people seem to have forgotten about the American Dream:

    Equal opportunities for all =/= Every man for himself.

  • Since when US is supposed to be egalitarian, STM? It’s always been a myth to make the suckers go for it.

    More like a dog eat dog, don’t you think?

  • STM

    Whatever the issue with the stats, I believe OAR is genuinely on the right track here. There is a great disparity in the US between the taxes the wealthy and corporations pay compared to lower-middle income earners and smaller businesses. That is a fact, and should be a major issue for taxpayers. OK, the big earners pay a higher amount, but generally it’s not proportionate.

    Looking up north from down in this piece of paradise in the South Pacific, I sometimes get the feeling that America is nowhere near as egalitarian as most Americans would like it to be.

    It is certainly not as egalitarian in terms of who pays for what as Australia. We just have other problems, like a totally incompetent minority government that has got into bed with the loony left to stay in power. Somehow, we dodged a bullet in the GFC but how long it lasts given the mad schemes the government is legislating for is anyone’s guess.

    That’s another story. Probably worth writing.

    But at least the tax burden is pretty evenly spread these days among all income levels. And so it should be …

  • Glenn Contrarian

    OAR –

    That certainly is an interesting article, and it had me thinking pretty hard…until I saw that it was published in Nov./Dec. 2007…which means that the tax cuts had been in place for a whole three years. Furthermore, the first two graphs are from 2004 data – which was when our real estate market was ballooning quite nicely and everything seemed hunky-dory with our economy. (I was a (not very successful) Realtor at the time)

    So please take care to consider how old the data is, and that it might be much more accurate to use data drawn from a longer perspective.

  • Baronius and Glenn,

    I wasn’t really trying to be that precise – usually when I do I spend more time defending my calculations or estimates and less time on whatever the issue was really about.

    I’m going to rethink what I was using for logic there. The gist of what I meant was that there are more people in that group paying taxes, and therefore there is a larger voter base with which to lobby or sway candidates.

    I apparently didn’t do enough research in this area, because I DID think that this group paid, at least, a fair share of the taxes. It didn’t take much specific searching to find this article which has some interesting data. I want to see the raw numbers, but for now I will take it as given that the author did HIS math right.

  • @7 OAAR,

    I missed putting in the ‘ when I first signed on, and don’t know how to change it without losing the connection to all I have written. It bugs me too, but I guess I can live with it.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    You’re right – I did argue against something you didn’t say – my apologies. It’s just that every time we discuss on BC what the wealthy should pay in taxes, someone brings up the same kind of statistic you quoted, and the implication is obviously that some here feel that the rich are already paying enough or too much…

    …and that’s what I thought you were implying as well. If you weren’t, then I do apologize.

  • Baronius

    Glenn, where did I convey sympathy for the wealthy?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    The top twenty percent also own about eight-five percent of the wealth in the nation. Frankly, I have NO problem making those how have 85% of the wealth to pay 85% of the taxes, not just the 70% that you’re pointing out.

    Of course the obvious reply would be that’s “wealth vs. income”…but also remember that the wealthy have much of their income as capital gains, which is only subject to a 15% tax vice the 35% the rest of us pay. Furthermore, the wealthy have accountants find every loophole in the book for them, whereas you and I don’t. Furthermore, we already tax wealth to some extent in the form of property taxes.

    So I would say to keep the sympathy for the wealthy to a minimum, because if you’ll look at the charts I referenced, you’ll see they’ve done VERY well since the advent of “supply-side economics”, whereas the rest of us have stagnated. Protecting the wealthy – which is what the GOP’s been doing for a long time now – is NOT helping the American economy, or the American people.

  • Baronius

    Glenn – I’m not making a false argument, but then again I’m not making an argument at all. Look at what I posted. I didn’t say that anyone’s paying more or less than they should, or anything about the size of government. You’re arguing against things that I didn’t say. I was talking to an engineer about his somewhat imprecise use of math, that’s all.

    As I said, I haven’t looked up the numbers in a while, but it’s something like the top 20% earn 45% of the AGI and pay 70% of the taxes. That’s not an argument; it’s a mathematical fact (actually, it’s not, but the numbers are in the right ballpark). And for better precision, you shouldn’t talk about wealth in terms of income tax, because wealth and income are different concepts.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    but I can tell you that the top 20% of AGI-earners pay something like 70% of the taxes

    And that’s because the top 20% have such a large proportion of our national wealth. Think about it, Baronius – what you’re using is actually a false argument. If the top twenty percent had 100% of the wealth, they’d be paying 100% of the taxes.

    The middle class isn’t paying as great a percentage of the taxes, NOT because the middle class is paying less taxes, but because the middle class has shrunk and their wages have stagnated for thirty years, whereas the wages of the wealthy have skyrocketed…therefore it should be expected that – all other factors being equal – the wealthy would wind up paying a larger percentage of the taxes than they used to…because the middle class simply has less of a percentage of the income than it used to, and the wealthy have a larger percentage of the wealth than it used to.

    When it comes to government (just as with most everything else), you get what you pay for. If you want good government, you’ve got to be willing to pay for it. If you want small government, then go to a third-world nation and you’ll find it, along with the low taxes and little-or-no regulation that conservatives crave.

  • Baronius

    “For the lower bracket, which is likely more important since more people are in that bracket and therefore more taxes are collected…”

    OAR, think that through. The lowest bracket really is 0%, and a lot of wage-earners fall into that bracket. But secondly, you need to consider the thresholds for the brackets to figure out how many people are paying what percent. So you can’t say that the people in the bottom bracket pay a larger total than the people in the top bracket simply because there are more of them.

    How do the numbers really work out? I posted the income tax revenues on this site a while back – I don’t recall which thread – but I can tell you that the top 20% of AGI-earners pay something like 70% of the taxes. Now, that’s a little different from identifying which bracket they’re in, but it’s safe to say that they tend to be in the higher brackets than, for example, the bottom 50% of AGI-earners, who pay something like 5% of all the income taxes.

  • One Australian’s Apostrophe Rant

    Mind you, I’d think Americans should be more worried about the tax dollar the US government needs but isn’t getting.

    The other key issue in this is that many wealthy Americans, and that includes big corporations, don’t actually pay a tax rate that is proportionate to what middle-earning Americans pay. The old story: the more money you make, the easier it is to pay someone to hide it.

    In effect, the lower-earners in the US are paying above the odds compared to the rate paid by the wealthy and by corporations.

    Something’s wrong there. Some tax write-offs are fair enough, but greed isn’t – especially when the burden falls on those who can afford it less.

  • One Australian’s Apostrophe Rant

    OAR: I’m loving your easy style of writing and the nicely thought out contributions. But, mate … that missing apostrophe appears to have gone west permanently and is driving me absolutely bloody crazy 🙂

    Cheers, OAAR

  • Roger,

    I was referring to the book reviewer. Is that Anarcissie? No offense intended, I just thought it was harder to read than necessary.

  • Quite the contrary, I think Graeber’s view is on-target, he just stops short of carrying it to it’s logical conclusion. Credit is the basis of all money, but where you go from there — he fails to say.

    Anarcissie if far from obtuse, if that’s who you’re referring to. Quite sharp in \fact and therefore liable to estrange..

  • Roger,

    Sorry, I thought that you were advocating that view. It is an interesting premise, but I think it is weak in that it is too extreme, and with any argument taken to the extreme, it becomes fallacious.

    I stopped in the middle of this comment to read the last cite you posted. Good god, that woman writes obtusely. I had to read some of the paragraphs three times to understand the point. But still, that seems like a good review, and I think I will order it from the library. It might take a few weeks, but there’s probably not going to be a long line for it.

  • OAR,

    Just for the record, I haven’t offered yet any critique of Graeber. I happen to think his analysis falls short in that he fails to connect real-life economic activity and health to production. I don’t really buy the idea of deficit for the sake of running the deficit, although that has been the pattern. A reasonable injection of credit is fine as long as it’s directed to stimulating production activity instead of serving its own ends as a money-making machine. I’ve got to think some more on this, but at this point that’s where I’m at.

  • Glenn,

    Thanks. That is basically what I got from the research, and some analysis. We are better off than most first-world countries and pay less in tax than most. My assumption is that the Philippines, and many other places, could be great places to live, or horrible ones (I can only speak to countries around the Med, firsthand). But I think that I would still prefer to live here as long as it is livable.

    I harp on the waste, fraud, abuse, and efficiency a lot, but I think that is the key to lowering the deficit; although not to zero if Roger (and Graeber) are right.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    OAR –

    Excellent article. I noticed something:

    One notable period lasting 44 years, from 1817 to 1861, was completely without internal revenue by taxation; instead, the government relied on customs duties and land sales (see below for how this is similar to Ron Paul’s tax plan)

    That’s not far different from what I see in the Philippines, for they draw most of their tax revenue from customs duties and (I think) land sales…and this is largely due to the fact that they have no reliable system in place to ensure individuals and small businesses pay taxes.

    And the result? Although so many things are cheaper there, electronics and imported cars cost up to twice what they do in the U.S. That, and poorly-paid (and thus significantly more corrupt) government workers, from police and customs (I’ve bribed both before) to every other branch of national and local government. Its endemic, entrenched, and will not go away in my lifetime.

    The lesson? We get what we pay for. If we want a good, effective, and not-quite-so-corrupt government, then we need to PAY for it. OTOH, if we want for our government to be “small enough to drown in a bathtub”, well, the examples of third-world nations should show us exactly how we can travel down that road.