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Wealthy French Want to be Taxed More
August 23, 2011 7:41 PM   Subscribe

16 of France's mega-rich signed a petition urging the goverment to raise their taxes. Despite relatively high taxes and a wealth tax signatories such as the L'Oreal heir and the head of a major oil company, Total, are asking the government to raise their taxes to help solve the country's financial issues. Original petition (French).
posted by stp123 (95 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh please. The French revolution was forever ago, guys! Don't sweat it.
posted by indubitable at 7:45 PM on August 23, 2011 [10 favorites]


I don't know about France, but in the U.S., if you think you should be paying more in taxes, you just have to send a check or money order made out to "United States Treasury" and mail it to:

Gifts to the United States
U.S. Department of the Treasury
Credit Accounting Branch
3700 East-West Highway, Room 622D
Hyattsville, MD 20782

I get the sense that more people say they should be paying more in taxes than actually send a check.
posted by Jahaza at 7:49 PM on August 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


L'Oreal heir

very clever
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:51 PM on August 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


They are the "mega-rich". Of course they can afford higher taxes. But what about the mere "super rich"? Haven't they paid enough?
posted by m@f at 7:51 PM on August 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Next you'll be telling me French people wear hats on their feet, and hamburgers eat people.
posted by Bromius at 7:52 PM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Typical American Nouveau riche don't understand Noblesse oblige
posted by The Whelk at 7:54 PM on August 23, 2011 [33 favorites]


Cette contribution serait calculée dans des proportions raisonnables, dans le souci d’éviter les effets économiques indésirables tels que la fuite des capitaux ou l’accroissement de l’évasion fiscale.

We get to decide how much we should be taxed, or we leave. Classy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:01 PM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wait a minute. There are rich people living in France? How is that possible? I mean with all of the unions, taxes, and government regulation - and a long border with the tax-haven of Switzerland?

If there are rich people living in France, maybe all that right-wing rhetoric about how money seeks a "business-friendly" climate is a load of bullshit and people live where want to live despite being able to enjoy lower costs somewhere else.

France is, you know, a lovely country even if, as it said, God populated it with Frenchmen.
posted by three blind mice at 8:03 PM on August 23, 2011 [15 favorites]


That sounds positively un-American.
posted by Forktine at 8:10 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I get the sense that more people say they should be paying more in taxes than actually send a check.

Which is why they urge officials to adopt policy which will keep them to their word.
posted by weston at 8:11 PM on August 23, 2011 [33 favorites]


I get the sense that more people say they should be paying more in taxes than actually send a check.

This one gets wheeled out every time something like this comes up. Taxation is a matter of policy and enforcement, not one of individual choice. Saying that one pays too little tax is a statement about the level of power society allows you, not an indication of how you believe that power should be used. Whether you send a cheque to the IRS, Battersea Dogs' Home or nowhere at all really has nothing to do with it.
posted by howfar at 8:11 PM on August 23, 2011 [56 favorites]


Jahaza, they are advocating a tax rate increase for the whole group, not individual charity. "Tax rates" and "Charity" are not the same thing, false comparisons just Fox-ify the debate into a guffaw lulz that makes for good zingers and misses the point.
posted by stbalbach at 8:13 PM on August 23, 2011 [20 favorites]


“We are conscious of having benefited from a French system and a European environment that we are attached to and which we hope to help maintain,” said the petition.

Wait, people wanting to maintain, like, for future generations(??) the society and public capital that they depended on for their own personal success? Only the damn french could come up with something as harebrained as that. Now wheres my NRA guns and "dont tread on me flag"?
posted by norabarnacl3 at 8:14 PM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


A certain Warren Buffett has been making the same request.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 8:16 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Warren Buffet has been demonized by practically everyone I know on the right since he came out with his request... Most frequent attacks? Already in this thread. Funny enough, 2 years ago, they loved him for living in Omaha, changing his own oil, and believing in America.
posted by Cathedral at 8:27 PM on August 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


I get the sense that more people say they should be paying more in taxes than actually send a check.

I get the sense that the intended message here is "please raise taxes on my income bracket, which includes thousands of very wealthy people who may not want their taxes raised but owe it as an obligation to the civil society that made their success possible," not "I personally think I have too much money and I don't know what to do with it"
posted by theodolite at 8:27 PM on August 23, 2011 [79 favorites]


Whether you send a cheque to the IRS, Battersea Dogs' Home or nowhere at all really has nothing to do with it.

Funny that because in America we have an expression for just this: putting your money where your mouth is.

Honestly spoken, if Warren Buffet would produced the canceled check to the Treasury showing he had put his money where his mouth is, I'd take the old codger more seriously. As it is, cries of "tax me" are thinly veiled demands to tax other people.
posted by three blind mice at 8:28 PM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


cries of "tax me" are thinly veiled demands to tax other people.

Zero insight. Of course they are demands to tax other people, that is part of their purpose.
posted by wilful at 8:31 PM on August 23, 2011 [44 favorites]


cries of "tax me" are thinly veiled demands to tax other people.

Yes, to tax themselves as well as other people. That is the point.
posted by threeants at 8:37 PM on August 23, 2011 [20 favorites]


Because of the Laffer curve, decreasing taxes on the rich actually increases revenue from the rich, which is class warfare on the rich and productive. So to make things more fair taxes should be increased on the super rich so government gets less revenue from them, and the revenue could be made up by giving the poor and middle class a tax break, which would increase revenue from the poor and middle class.
posted by bobo123 at 8:37 PM on August 23, 2011 [12 favorites]


I personally don't like it when people claim to represent me but don't.
posted by michaelh at 8:55 PM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Laffer curve does not say "increase taxes => get less tax revenue." The Laffer curve says "a simple thought experiment tells me there is a point at which increasing taxes decreases revenue. When this thought experiment is graphed, it creates a curve! And my name is Laffer."

You can be on the left of the curve (raising taxes raises revenue), exactly in the middle (perfect, maximum revenue!) or on the right (decreasing taxes raises revenue).

To make a blanket claim that cutting taxes increases government tax receipts is the act of a liar or a dupe. It is not factual, it is not "common sense," it is not some deep insight that only really clever people get. It is, for most countries, simply wrong.

The Wikipedia article on the Laffer currve cites several studies and economists who think 70% is the optimum, revenue increasing income tax rate, one oddball study funded by conservatives that finds something different, and a study from the Congressional Budget Office that estimated a 10% tax cut (actually 3% reduction in a marginal tax bracket) would cost the US government $200 billion in revenue and not gain a single penny.
posted by jsturgill at 9:02 PM on August 23, 2011 [31 favorites]


I get the sense that more people say they should be paying more in taxes than actually send a check.

Maybe individual people have the correct sense that taxation ought to be increased on the wealthy as a whole, because sixteen or so people kicking in some extra money isn't going to cut it. They may also think that the government by its nature shouldn't be dependent on the goodwill of a few wealthy people here or there but should be supported by all, according to their means.
posted by kenko at 9:02 PM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Because of the Laffer curve, decreasing taxes on the rich actually increases revenue from the rich

Hmmmm.... no.

Which, of course, leads to the question: are you rich, or daft?
posted by pompomtom at 9:09 PM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


I would cheer about this if I was in France. I would cheer if it happened in America, too, but then I'd get immediately smacked down by a $680 billion defense budget.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:10 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Honestly spoken, if Warren Buffet would produced the canceled check to the Treasury showing he had put his money where his mouth is, I'd take the old codger more seriously. As it is, cries of "tax me" are thinly veiled demands to tax other people.

And major media outlets, conservative politicians, and large corporations crying that taxing the rich at the current rate, much less a higher one, will DESTROY THE WORLD are... altruistic warnings we should be glad to have shoved in our faces? Thank God someone is able to speak the truth to all those mean-hearted rich people going around begging the country to be fiscally responsible and ensure everyone pays their fair share when it comes to keeping civilization alive?

Yes, Fox & co are fighting the good fight, and we should join them by criticizing Buffet and making no mention of the reality he was responding to.
posted by jsturgill at 9:11 PM on August 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


You know, I've cut a few five-figure cheques to Revenue Canada in my time (I know, small potatoes), and I've never resented it. But if it was up to me to volunteer? I can think of a lot of neat things I could have done with that money.

...I don't mind paying taxes, but the "encouragement" really helps to actually get it done.
posted by klanawa at 9:15 PM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I personally don't like it when people claim to represent me but don't.
posted by michaelh


As michaelh's attorney, I can tell you that this is true.
posted by maqsarian at 9:18 PM on August 23, 2011 [26 favorites]


Jahaza, I am wondering if you are over 21 or something. Because, for the life of me, I cannot understand why anyone who was an adult or even a teenager at the time that the Bush tax cuts were "temporarily" enacted, with the hope of stimulating the ecomony and creating jobs. Any how anyone could see the enormous transfer of wealth upwards resulting from these tax cuts, and the fact that somehow all of that wealth in the hands of individuals and corporations did not create very many jobs.

So I have to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that in 2001 you were not following these issues. Because otherwise, I would have to regard you as a tool.
posted by Danf at 9:21 PM on August 23, 2011 [9 favorites]


Who uses checks anymore? McFly! Hello!
posted by Brocktoon at 9:26 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Without trying to sound too boisterous, this wouldn`t be the first time a great idea came from France!
posted by Meatafoecure at 9:33 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I get the sense that the intended message here is "please raise taxes on my income bracket, which includes thousands of very wealthy people who may not want their taxes raised but owe it as an obligation to the civil society that made their success possible," not "I personally think I have too much money and I don't know what to do with it"

If you actually believe that those who make above a certain amount "owe it as an obligation" to pay more in taxes, then you owe it as an obligation whether the state makes you do it or not.

If you believe that slavery is wrong, you free your slaves, whether the state makes you do it or not or suffer the judgment of history. If you believe that paying taxes to support what you see as an unjust war is wrong, you refuse to do it.

If you think it's a moral obligation to pay more money for the support of the state, you send a check. If you don't send a check, we're justified in believing that either a) you're a hypocrite who believes it is a moral obligation, but is willing to dodge that obligation or b) you don't really believing that it's a moral obligation, but rather have found it a handy rhetorical device.
posted by Jahaza at 9:36 PM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Anglo-Saxon countries have historically relied on voluntary civil society organizations like PTAs, neighborhood associations, charities, churches, fraternal orders, etc. to pick up the slack where capitalism and the state refuse to provide social benefits. The French are awesome because they refuse to do this - their rate of charitable giving is 0.15% of GDP compared with the United States' ~1.8%.

In France, if you want to start so much as a casual soccer team, you get funding from the local government so that the costs fall largely on the wealthy. In America, middle class teenagers work on weekends washing cars for donations from middle class drivers to raise money for school programs facing budget cuts.
posted by AlsoMike at 9:39 PM on August 23, 2011 [14 favorites]


The Laffer Curve was always unsubstantiated B.S. used mainly for right-wing propaganda. Its more recent permutations are no less unsubstantiated.
posted by darkstar at 9:40 PM on August 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Let them eat cake!

No, really, all of them deserve a nice cake for this.
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:48 PM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jahaza, it's not a moral obligation to pay taxes that have not been levied against you. It is a moral obligation to attempt to persuade others to change a law that you feel is unjust and causes harm. Yes, even if that law is a tax law.

Linking Buffet's actions here with the actions of slaveholders makes zero sense, and your willingness to cast him in a negative light is really, really odd. Buffet's actions are the definition of selfless: if he succeeds, he puts himself at a relative disadvantage in order to better the group.

His stance only becomes selfish, and therefore worthy of criticism, if you think that helping America remain strong and competitive is a self-serving move that benefits him at least as much as it would cost him were his advice heeded. Is that what you're trying to tell us? That society would benefit too much from a sane tax system, therefore we shouldn't listen to those bastards out there trying to help themselves by helping everyone else?
posted by jsturgill at 9:48 PM on August 23, 2011 [17 favorites]


Jahaza, if someone is calling for a change in the social contract, they may be legitimately are calling for the change because they believe that the change will, in the aggregate, have a significant benefit to society. They may also believe that this change is meritworthy on an ethical basis. BUT, they may also believe that individual and sporadic, voluntary action/compliance would have little significant benefit, and therefore that would undermines the ethical necessity for individuals to act without collective action.

Requiring Buffett to send a check to prove he believes in the ethics of a change in national tax codes is ridiculous. It's the same as saying Al Gore and Jimmy Carter should be living in a one-bedroom economy apartment and sitting in their sweaters before they can have anything legitimate to say about changes to our energy policy. In short, it's nonsense that attempts to sound wise, but simply serves as an ad hominem attack on the messenger and a distraction from the issue at hand.
posted by darkstar at 9:49 PM on August 23, 2011 [23 favorites]


What Buffet and the French elite are suggesting makes perfect sense. They want to cut that check to the government, but it makes no sense to do so if they are the only ones to. Why? Business competition. It's a poor idea to willingly take on a disadvantage with no return. Why is there no return on individual tax contributions? Is this some sort of suggestion that increasing taxes won't help? Not at all. Freeloading anti-tax crusaders will say "The government makes enough revenue, cut our taxes because you don't need us to pay more."

If the anti-tax wealthy truly wanted a balanced budget and room for lower taxes, they'd call for reductions in defense spending and robust national health insurance which would take the health care burden off the back of their businesses they invest in and/or run. The only ones who have something to lose there are defense contractors and private health insurance, and any genuine capitalist will tell you that if demand decreases, it's time to diversify or shift business strategies.

Of course, if the wealthy don''t want a robust economy to help their businesses thrive, the burden of health care on their shoulders as an alternative to losing workers constantly either to those who offer health insurance or to untreated sickness/injuries, and the reduced debt which would make the dollar stronger both increasing the value of their money and lighten the burden of trade deficits, then by all means. Keep crying for lower taxes. It isn't helping, and most of the wealthy are too short sighted to see it. I'll back Warren Buffet, because something tells me the second wealthiest man in the United States probably knows a lot more about money than career finance "experts" who seem to have it so tough they're afraid of taxes.
posted by Saydur at 9:51 PM on August 23, 2011 [21 favorites]


After preview-

His stance only becomes selfish, and therefore worthy of criticism, if you think that helping America remain strong and competitive is a self-serving move that benefits him at least as much as it would cost him were his advice heeded.

While I agree with the sentiment that Buffet's actions are right, I really wouldn't say they're selfless. His extra payment of taxes may decrease his relative position to others in the United States, but the societal benefits and likely increased efficiency both in government programs and fiscal policy would most likely improve his position on a more global scale. His suggestion here absolutely has potential to benefit him, and I think he knows that. It just happens that it benefits others even more.
posted by Saydur at 9:57 PM on August 23, 2011


Saydur, I agree.
posted by jsturgill at 10:03 PM on August 23, 2011



"Of course I am minimising my tax. And if anybody in this country doesn't minimise their tax, they want their heads read, because as a government, I can tell you you're not spending it that well that we should be donating extra!"

Kerry Packer
posted by the noob at 10:05 PM on August 23, 2011


Jahaza, it's not a moral obligation to pay taxes that have not been levied against you.

True, but not on point. If you believe people of a certain income level have a moral obligation to pay more money to support the government, there's no reason that this obligation must be met through taxes, and the obligation is in no way lessened if you're somehow exempt from taxes, by accident or design or connivance.

I haven't specifically addressed Buffet's arguments, largely because his argument is diffuse and slippery... he doesn't propose concrete policy measures and he doesn't actually say things like "I should pay X% more in taxes" instead saying things like (paraphrasing) "We would pay more in taxes if we were asked to" and "I would raise taxes on people earning over $1 million per year." He doesn't even go as far as to say "My tax burden is lower than other people in my office and that's not fair."

Jimmy Carter should be ... sitting in their sweaters

My understanding is that Jimmy Carter did exactly that when he asked Americans to turn down their thermostats to save energy.
posted by Jahaza at 10:09 PM on August 23, 2011


Again, missing the point.
posted by darkstar at 10:19 PM on August 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


If you believe people of a certain income level have a moral obligation to pay more money to support the government, there's no reason that this obligation must be met through taxes, and the obligation is in no way lessened if you're somehow exempt from taxes, by accident or design or connivance.

Ok, what if I believe that it is smart, sound, and reasonable for people of a certain income level to pay more money to support the government. Is that ok? Or do I have to cut a cheque to someone first before I can float the idea?
posted by mazola at 10:21 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


True, but not on point. If you believe people of a certain income level have a moral obligation to pay more money to support the government, there's no reason that this obligation must be met through taxes, and the obligation is in no way lessened if you're somehow exempt from taxes, by accident or design or connivance.

Ah libertarians, can see you guys coming a mile away. What is there are no morals involved, but simply a pragmatic approach. Rich people as a cohort ought to pay more tax, because of the awesome effects it will have. Thusly, one rich guy paying tax does not equate to all rich guys paying tax.

This is why we have laws and legislation. Morality doesn't really pay the rent, stop people from robbing you blind etc. This is how you try to change laws and legislation. For more examples, look at all the lobby groups sponsored by rich guys who believe in paying less tax. By the standard of your argument, they should just refuse paying tax cause that's what they believe in man, or something.
posted by smoke at 10:22 PM on August 23, 2011 [16 favorites]


Jahaza, the question of what an individual should do with excess money is not the same as the question of at what rate a society should tax its citizens in order to remain healthy. Buffet, and these Frenchmen, are speaking to the latter, but you are criticizing them for the former. Why? It's like talking about touchdowns in soccer. They just don't fit together the way you are trying to make them fit together.

Perhaps it might help you to stop thinking about moral obligations and start thinking about legal obligations.
posted by jsturgill at 10:22 PM on August 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


If you believe people of a certain income level have a moral obligation to pay more money to support the government, there's no reason that this obligation must be met through taxes

The sense I get out of it is the wealthy (read: everyone who makes more than me) are heartless when they say things I oppose, but are mighty swell when they say things I agree to.

It's a cheap appeal to authority where the same qualifier relegates one to either a whipping boy for the National Trust or sainthood depending.

Bottom line is folks advocating for the ends justify the means, which is fine, but dressing it up in some faux moral obligation completely cheapens the stance.
posted by quintessencesluglord at 10:34 PM on August 23, 2011


Jahaza. If I think it's a smart, moral and socially beneficial action to lobby for a river to be dammed, am I obliged to flick a pebble into the river once a year before you'll listen to me?
posted by Sebmojo at 12:28 AM on August 24, 2011 [23 favorites]


If you think it's a moral obligation to pay more money for the support of the state, you send a check. If you don't send a check, we're justified in believing that either a) you're a hypocrite who believes it is a moral obligation, but is willing to dodge that obligation or b) you don't really believing that it's a moral obligation, but rather have found it a handy rhetorical device.

So basically, what matters isn't ideas and their value, history and meaning; it's the moral purity of the individual who proposes the ideas?
posted by generichuman at 12:32 AM on August 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


Requiring Buffett to send a check to prove he believes in the ethics of a change in national tax codes is ridiculous.

A few tens of millions of Buffett's dollars into the Treasury would have more impact - financially and rhetorically - than a few hundred words in the NYT. That's what "putting your money where your mouth is" means.

And then at least you could get your progressive hands on some of that sweet, sweet rich person's money.
posted by three blind mice at 12:40 AM on August 24, 2011


Jahaza, I think your fixation on the word "moral," which no one had mentioned until you yourself added it into the mix, has got you tripped up.

You seem to want to argue about Moral Objectivism, or at the very least Morality in general...in which case you brought a gun to a fruit fight, because no one said anything about moral obligations with regards to taxation.

Morality aside, the fact remains that tax rates on top earners are at historic lows and with the debt as it is, restoring rates on the mega rich is one reasonable approach, among others, to solving this particular problem. Restoring / raising that rate, as others here have pointed out, only makes sense if it can be enforced in aggregate. What people like Buffet are saying is "while right now I will continue to benefit from an advantageous tax law, should the law change and that advantage be taken away in the future, I won't complain....and honestly neither should you other rich guys"


A few tens of millions of Buffett's dollars into the Treasury would have more impact - financially and rhetorically - than a few hundred words in the NYT. That's what "putting your money where your mouth is" means.


Nonsense. A few tens of millions of Buffet's dollars in the Treasury would have a statistically negligible effect financially on our debt problem - Buffet knows this and would be crazy to spend tens of millions simply to stem sophomoric arguments about hypocrisy trotted out by partisan spinsters. A few hundred words in the NYT can easily get people talking and thinking, which has the potential to enforce tax law that, in aggregate, WOULD have a statistical effect.

Buffet doesn't need to "put his money where his mouth is." He has no obligation to follow any moral code. He has, however, signaled that he is currently benefiting from an unfair system, and that he continues to do so doesn't make the fact that the system is unfair any less true. And that is the real point to all of this...even if the Devil himself decried the current US tax scheme while receiving government subsidies, he'd still be right about the tax scheme - his own morality notwithstanding.

You're throwing the baby out with the bathwater and missing the point entirely. If you'd like to argue, at least argue his point. A truth is a truth even if said by a liar.

And then at least you could get your progressive hands on some of that sweet, sweet rich person's money.

Ridiculous.
posted by jnnla at 12:55 AM on August 24, 2011 [16 favorites]


Oy! noob. Stop horning in on my quotes.

I've already given you the answer on this subject, I have told you that I pay whatever tax I am required to pay under the law, not a penny more, not a penny less, and the suggestion that I am trying to evade tax, which is what you're putting forward, I find highly offensive and I don't intend to cooperate with you in the blackening of my character.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:59 AM on August 24, 2011


Jahaza, Buffett has spoken on this in the past. Again, if he has a moral obligation to look out for his self interests, he wants to pay more in tax. At a certain point, societal benefit and the strength of the nation as a whole are of more benefit to a wealthy individual than more wealth possibly could be.

If self-interest means working with others, what's so wrong about that? Is it wrong to improve one's position on an absolute scale at the cost of letting other people improve relatively? Success isn't about beating others.
posted by Saydur at 1:12 AM on August 24, 2011


I get the sense that more people say they should be paying more in taxes than actually send a check.

For someone who's the loudest Catholic on MeFi you don't seem to have paid a fuck of a lot of attention to what the Pontif has to say on the topic of wealth and the common good.
posted by rodgerd at 1:56 AM on August 24, 2011 [11 favorites]


Having written checks and sent fair whacks of cash to both the US IRS and the HMRC in the UK, I am not in the least surprised at the French position. Granted, the French occasionally pick up the mantle of 'protecting civilisation itself' and do delight in opposing Anglo positions.

Regardless, in the US, it's very hard for one to see indeed where the taxes are going -- that is, the result of taxes on the ground. For instance, I am a big supporter of high-speed rail in California yet that programme is consistently broken whilst there is ample money for more roads. Yay. More roads. Not really.

Further, so much tax money in the US goes to pet projects in random places (bridge to nowhere!) and subsidies for non-threatened industries (oil -- record profits, record subsidies. hmmm). When I wrote those checks to the IRS, I did so begrudgingly. Perhaps my own contribution bought the nosecone of a cruise missile that would 'accidentally' destroy a hospital half a world a way. Granted, I worked four months to generate that income, thus I worked four months to buy that nosecone.

In the positive sense, perhaps that nosecone provided employment for one of my fellow Americans who works at a defense contractor. And perhaps their efforts generated corporate profits that were again leveraged by subsidies so that the Koch brothers can sit in Texas, espousing hateful viewpoints and putting religious archetype puppets in office. Puppets that do things like strike down gay marriage.

Thus, my four months of taxes helped destroy a hospital, marginalised my own political influence within the United States, and helped ensure my good friends do not have all of their civil rights.

Yay taxes!

Further, to escape all of that nonsense, I may have taken one of those beautiful new roads out of town, to a state park. Which has been closed down due to budget cuts. On the way there, I pass through farming communities, where poverty runs rampant. So again, I have paid my taxes, yet the places and people I care about receive no benefit -- in fact, they are worse off today than they were before.

But that hospital in the middle east -- that bastard hospital -- my nosecone helped take care of that shit.

In the UK, you see the results of tax money. There is a very effective public transportation system. A lot of money is pumped into the countryside to keep those communities viable. And let's not even discuss the NHS, that beautiful gem of a liability. Nosecones to kill Iraqis or public healthcare all around? Hard choice. Not really.

Likewise in France, the French put a phenomenal amount of money into maintaining France. There is a direct recognition between euros paid in and the society one lives in. Sure there are agricultural subsidies, however, agriculture is not the same booming industry as oil. Agriculture actually needs assistance and the society benefits as a whole from investment in the sector.

Overall, it doesn't surprise me that France is open -- even encouraging -- of higher taxes, because they are used in a way consistent with the desires of the nation. Can we say the same thing about America?
posted by nickrussell at 2:11 AM on August 24, 2011 [13 favorites]


Thus, my four months of taxes helped destroy a hospital, marginalised my own political influence within the United States, and helped ensure my good friends do not have all of their civil rights.

While I can sympathise, I have to say - that's democracy for you. This is an argument to change the ruling class, not to stop paying taxes. Easier said than done, I know.
posted by Summer at 2:57 AM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, but these guys are French and the French are evil, doncha know. They're rude and all. And they wouldn't help bomb Saddam, but they bombed that nice Kadaffi fellow, who wears such nice hats. And they eat too much cheese.

Seriously, tho, I wish Libertarians were right, but they seem to have a utopian assumption that people are inherently good and will automatically do the right thing without being told, so we don't need many laws or taxes. It's a wonderful fantasy, but a fantasy.
posted by tommyD at 3:44 AM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's possible to speak of legality and morality separately and on their own merits. But not for long.
posted by klarck at 4:26 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


His suggestion here absolutely has potential to benefit him, and I think he knows that. It just happens that it benefits others even more.

I'm not convinced that's the case. Buffet makes a ton of money on his various life insurance products, and the taxes he's suggesting will make life insurance a more attractive product, because life insurance benefits aren't taxed. The result is that life insurance can act as a tax-free investment vehicle. The reason more people don't use it that way is because the returns tend to be worse than other investment vehicles. Raising the taxes on everything but life insurance benefits changes that calculus significantly.

Buffett didn't get to be one of the world's richest men by being altruistic about his money. He got there because he's a damned savvy operator. And it looks like he's totally hoodwinked the left, because increasing taxes in the way he's suggesting will make him even richer.
posted by valkyryn at 4:32 AM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Buffett didn't get to be one of the world's richest men by being altruistic about his money. He got there because he's a damned savvy operator.

Sir, I'd like to return this dichotomy you sold me, it's false!
posted by smoke at 4:36 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


And it looks like he's totally hoodwinked the left, because increasing taxes in the way he's suggesting will make him even richer.

That's collateral damage. If his proposal improves things for everyone, it's not important that he gets richer.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:47 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


The send-a-check "argument" is like requiring that those who want to wage war go and personally fight, even if there is no war. Oddly, the same people who want to wage wars usually turn out to be those who evade military service, the chicken hawks, . . .and, hey, they're the same ones making the send-a-check retort!
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:00 AM on August 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


Buffet makes a ton of money on his various life insurance products, and the taxes he's suggesting will make life insurance a more attractive product, because life insurance benefits aren't taxed.
his main insurance businesses are P&C insurance and re-insurance. There is some life reinsurance sure. But beyond that, most wealthy people use cheaper tax shelters than life insurance. The marginal benefit berkshire would see from higher tax rates would be pretty marginal.

I do find it amusing that the mefi eat the rich crowd isn't out in full force on this article, given many of the high profile signatories have been involved in very high profile tax evasion or bribery scandals, are generally part of the grand intersection between government and high-profile industry in France, and are for the most part high profile supporters of Sarkozy, a man who could lose lose to a squash in the next election unless he turns things around.
posted by JPD at 5:02 AM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sir, I'd like to return this dichotomy you sold me, it's false!

No, it isn't. Being generous with one's assets is not the same thing as being stupid about business decisions. Altruism does not generate wealth, but it's an admirable way to handle wealth once you've got it.
posted by valkyryn at 5:12 AM on August 24, 2011


The marginal benefit berkshire would see from higher tax rates would be pretty marginal.

Tautology aside, I'm not really convinced. Frankly, the idea that a person known for being one of the most brilliant financial operators in history isn't working some kind of angle just because you can't see it strikes me as almost silly.

But the rest of your comment is pretty much on point. In the French case, we've got a people who are infamous tax evaders saying that tax rates should be higher. The idea that they're actually going to wind up paying these taxes is pretty incredible, given that they aren't even paying the taxes they owe now.

Really, the whole thing really reads as "The government should increase taxes on people that have enough money to be considered "rich," but not rich enough to avoid paying taxes."
posted by valkyryn at 5:17 AM on August 24, 2011


Being generous with one's assets is not the same thing as being stupid about business decisions.

You're right Valkryyn, it's not. But you seemed to be strongly implying that one is incompatible than the other and that Buffett's altruism is nothing more than a sneaky trick to fool "the left".

Armchair psychology is banal, I prefer to take Buffett on his word and his nearly lifelong example of charity and generosity of a nearly unprecedented level. It is possible to make money without riding completely roughshod over your fellow humans; that is the false dichotomy you are trying to promote.

Walking and chewing gum at the same time is not just for proles.
posted by smoke at 5:22 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's true that some of the names on that letter raise an eyebrow or two. It's also true that what they propose in fact is to raise the income tax mostly on people having lower incomes than them (I heard one of the signatories today on the radio talking about higher marginal tax rates for the income bands above 100K euros and 200K euros). It's finally true that they may be directing attention to the income tax (which in France is actually relatively low, contrary to the payroll tax), in order to divert it away from a proposed rise in France's wealth tax.

However, while they appear to be more self-serving than Warren Buffett, they are not necessarily wrong, however. Higher taxes on the ultra-rich may be satisfying for the masses, but they alone won't float the budget.
posted by Skeptic at 6:02 AM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Tautology aside, I'm not really convinced. Frankly, the idea that a person known for being one of the most brilliant financial operators in history isn't working some kind of angle just because you can't see it strikes me as almost silly.



I don't know what to tell you - if you want to willfully disbelieve the fact that his life insurance business is purely reinsurance, , never mind that the P&C insurance and reinsurance businesses are the much larger chunks of that segment, then fine. But bear in mind his other tax-centric op-eds have mostly been about property taxes in California, where its hard to see how that would benefit him personally (he owns a huge house in Newport Beach) or professionally - (Mid-American has lots of assets in CA that would see an impact from higher taxes)

I mean - believe me I can list off 35 different things Buffett did, that he could only do by being Buffett - he loves looking like the saviour of some company, when in reality he's written some incredibly one-sided deal. But I really don't think he's working an angle on the tax thing.

Skeptic - I agree 100% - my point was more directed at the people who had a negative reaction to the Buffett op-ed (although not anyone who objected because they thought he was working an angle as Valkyryn does - I think that's a pretty fair view even if I think its incorrect)
posted by JPD at 6:10 AM on August 24, 2011


Jahaza: I trust that you paid a bit more than your share of taxes as well, then? I mean, if you think that we all have a "moral obligation" to do so if we can afford it.

three blind mice: I'd personally take your arguments a good deal more seriously if you didn't toss around phrases like "old codger".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:24 AM on August 24, 2011


What all of these proposals by the super-rich to raise taxes have in common is that the higher taxes will be absolutely painless to them, and brutally painful to the upper middle class.

Most proposals to tax the "rich" involve huge hikes in the tax on salary income (by raising marginal income tax rates and uncapping Social Security payroll tax) ... the professional and managerial upper middle class rely almost entirely on salary income whereas the super-rich rely on it to modest extent, and often have tools to convert salary income to capital income.

The (very modest) increases in tax upon capital gains and passive income that are proposed are neatly tailored to devastate the entrepreneurial segment of the upper middle class, while once again leaving the super-rich only theoretically bothered. Doubling the long-term tax expectation of a guy who wants to build an apartment complex or open up a restaurant changes everything about it; making a super-rich guy net only $6 million on the sale of $10 million of stock rather than $8 million means nothing.
posted by MattD at 6:49 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


What all of these proposals by the super-rich to raise taxes have in common is that the higher taxes will be absolutely painless to them, and brutally painful to the upper middle class.

Could always make more tax brackets for higher earners, 1 million, 100, million, billion, would that work?
posted by Max Power at 6:54 AM on August 24, 2011


What all of these proposals by the super-rich to raise taxes have in common is that the higher taxes will be absolutely painless to them, and brutally painful to the upper middle class.

Unless you take the pain to read them.
posted by pompomtom at 6:59 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am always amused when conservatives argue that the very wealthy pay a major share of the taxes in this country and that some X percent of the not-rich file Nothing for tax returns, neglecting to note that most of those that file nothing have already had taxes taken out of weekly pay, thus owe nothing and so pay "nothing."
posted by Postroad at 7:00 AM on August 24, 2011


I don't know about France, but in the U.S., if you think you should be paying more in taxes, you just have to send a check or money order

Despite this being a line that was tired and outdated before I was even born, I sort of have to admire the way you've taken the suggestion that as a Democracy the people collectively better the economy, and turned it into the suggestion that someone other than yourself is personally obligated to prevent you from having to contribute, lest they be a hypocrite.

Libertarians truly are masters at spinning personal greed as other people being selfish.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:02 AM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Could always make more tax brackets for higher earners, 1 million, 100, million, billion, would that work?

It's not a matter of the amount of income but the nature; once you've moved up to getting your income from capital gains (i.e., profits from stock trading and investments), you're in that rarefied Olympus of titans outside of the reach of the shackles that bind the little people. (Capital gains tax in the UK is 28%, compared to 42% or so for the top marginal tax rate.) The fact that people who get their income in this way are relatively few and invariably powerful and influential, and that the average voter can easily be distracted from the existence of two classes of income, means that "taxing the rich" is always going to be "higher tax rates for highly paid employees" rather than slugging the plutocrats where it hurts.
posted by acb at 7:04 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


The idea that they're actually going to wind up paying these taxes is pretty incredible, given that they aren't even paying the taxes they owe now.

I'd appreciate seeing some support for that allegation, since we're having tautology and all.


What all of these proposals by the super-rich to raise taxes have in common is that the higher taxes will be absolutely painless to them, and brutally painful to the upper middle class.

How, in terms of income, do you define the upper-middle class?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:04 AM on August 24, 2011


The (very modest) increases in tax upon capital gains and passive income that are proposed are neatly tailored to devastate the entrepreneurial segment of the upper middle class, while once again leaving the super-rich only theoretically bothered.

I'm very glad to see you are likewise outraged- outraged- by the gradual elimination of the top tier tax brackets over the last several years in the parallel universe where you are pretending that isn't relevant because it makes you look very silly.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:05 AM on August 24, 2011


These arguments against taxation are hardly ever about any specific tax increase. They're more like arguments against the concept of taxation.

I suppose it might be possible to construct an alternative economic system where taxation isn't needed. Maybe if money came with an expiration date, and expired money gets replacements minted that go straight to the treasury.

I hardly ever see these arguments advanced to support taking any kind of action to fix a problem, though. I only see them advanced to shoot down solutions that the speaker dislikes. It makes me wonder if libertarians are really committed to their ideal of a tax-free society.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:08 AM on August 24, 2011


> I get the sense that more people say they should be paying more in taxes than actually send a check.

I did my part.

I sent them $5.
I read our current national debt is $13,169,257,749,345.36 give or take a few hundred thousand. This is a pretty big number if you ask me. This is why I am sending you $5. By my calculations this will make the debt a slightly more manageable $13,169,257,749,340.36! Just think, if everyone in the world did this we could get this debt whipped into shape in no time!
Fuckers didn't write back.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:14 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Doubling the long-term tax expectation of a guy who wants to build an apartment complex or open up a restaurant changes everything about it; making a super-rich guy net only $6 million on the sale of $10 million of stock rather than $8 million means nothing.

Doesn't it kinda mean you and me have $2 million more to keep the bus routes running in our city, so that your entrepreneur can be sure the guy who washes dishes will reliably show up on time?
posted by escabeche at 7:17 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I read our current national debt is $13,169,257,749,345.36 give or take a few hundred thousand. This is a pretty big number if you ask me. This is why I am sending you $5. By my calculations this will make the debt a slightly more manageable $13,169,257,749,340.36! Just think, if everyone in the world did this we could get this debt whipped into shape in no time!

If everyone in the world did this, the debt would be down to a piddly $13,134,275,749,345.36. Give or take a few hundred thousand.

Keep that wallet open, bucko.
posted by nickmark at 7:56 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Quoting...
Gilles Carrez, a member of the parliamentary budget committee for the ruling UMP party, has said that a levy of 2 per cent on those with annual revenue of more than €1-million would affect some 30,000 people and would bring in about €300-million for state coffers.
whereas
In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy is already planning to axe some tax exemptions that benefit the wealthy as he seeks some €5-billion ($7.2-billion) to €10-billion in extra revenue in the 2012 budget following a market rout that has highlighted concern over French public finances.
evidently if the ones with a revenue > €1M/year and affect by the self request tax increase are 30K people, the latter tax exemption axing will affect not only those 30,000, as taking €5 billion from 30,000 people requires at least an one time payment €166K/each. More likely, these billions will come from tax exemption for companies (that are legal persons after all). If I were filthy rich, I'd probably rather pay 2% on my annual revenue than having my companies' exemptions axed.
posted by elpapacito at 7:57 AM on August 24, 2011


"Warren Buffett is only advocating for more taxes because he thinks it will benefit him, by making a healthier and more vibrant society. What a selfish hypocrite!"

I my mind, the question of "how much extra should you be paying if you believe in high taxes" betrays the same shallow mindset that animates a lot of the right-wing rhetoric on taxes -- they are "punishment," liberals "want" them, etc. It's treating taxes as an end in themselves rather than as a necessary evil that's required to accomplish other things.

I don't want to pay more taxes. I want to live in a healthy society. Me paying more taxes is necessary for that, IMO, but it's not sufficient. Simply cutting a check to the government is like a cargo cult building a landing strip.
posted by bjrubble at 8:06 AM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Progressively tax income, including capital gains taxes, at increasing percentages as income increases. Hell, make it by factors of ten if that's reasonable. I don't care.

I'm not an economist or tax attorney but I have no idea how taxing someone above the $10 million mark is going to raise the middle class tax burden. Enlighten me.
posted by mikeh at 8:52 AM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't want to pay more taxes. I want to live in a healthy society. Me paying more taxes is necessary for that

I feel like if the Left in the US could figure out a way to get this message across, they'd have a lot less of a hard time getting people behind their message; it's not about punishing people, it's about building roads, and keeping bridges standing, and making sure that the food we eat is safe, etc. It's not that we want the rich to suffer, we just want people to pay what they can afford to continue to enjoy living in a healthy country.

And right now, the rich can afford to pay a lot more than they are.
posted by quin at 9:05 AM on August 24, 2011


I feel like if the Left in the US could figure out a way to get this message across, they'd have a lot less of a hard time getting people behind their message

For starters, how about actually spending money effectively? It's no secret that a great deal of money is wasted. Worse, much of it is spent harmfully because of regulatory capture. It's not realistic to expect a knowledgeable person to want to give money to something that won't use it well. Naturally I'll receive responses about how great everything actually is, but at least consider that reforms might make the government even better and thus an even more deserving recipient of individuals' money than charities and investments.
posted by michaelh at 9:32 AM on August 24, 2011


It's no secret that a great deal of money is wasted.

And it always will be. Even in private enterprises (especially in some private enterprises) money is wasted. Things can always be improved, of course, and we should always be looking for value for money, but waste will always occur and the forces that resent the public sector will always make a lot of capital out of it.
posted by Summer at 9:42 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


And it always will be. Even in private enterprises (especially in some private enterprises) money is wasted. Things can always be improved, of course, and we should always be looking for value for money, but waste will always occur and the forces that resent the public sector will always make a lot of capital out of it.

But...there is legitimate capital to make out of it. A reasonable person does not say "well, since I can't change this broken thing, it's okay to take my money away from less broken things and support it." You're asking people to invest their money poorly. If things are bad enough, the people the left is trying to reach with its message, to use quin's words, are resenting a real problem.
posted by michaelh at 10:01 AM on August 24, 2011


You're asking people to invest their money poorly

I would argue that a reliable transnational transportation infrastructure, courts to enforce and uphold legal contracts, public schools to educate our youth, grants for research, development and the sciences, clean food and water standards, pristine and protected natural commons for the citizenry to enjoy, help for the poor, and the multitude of other things taxation enables is hardly a "poor" investment. I find it so incredibly unfortunate that we live in a political climate where so many can take the good that government does for granted.

There will always be waste. A reasonable person says "lets work to fix the waste, but lets try hard to understand that the benefits outweigh the waste." A reasonable person doesn't disregard government and taxation completely just because a few Joe Schmoes use their welfare checks to buy bigscreen TVs or a new sofa...yet that's what the right argues each and every day, ad nasuseum.
posted by jnnla at 11:42 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Quin has it right on.

I always wondered what would happen -- in a Bulworth-cum-Crazy People way -- if the President of the United States and Congress laid it out, 'for reals', as the kids say.

Basically, a political speech that begins the standard way, "My fellow Americans..." and then takes a radical change.

"We are involved in the Middle East, spending billions of dollars, because it keeps your fuel prices low. You may see carnage on the news and yes, there is going to be collateral damage, yet when you drive to work, you will not pay as much as the Europeans."

And in the Q&A, "Sir, what do you have to say about the quality of education?"

"The reality is that most of you care more about low taxes and discretionary spending than education the children of the other people in your society. For those with the will -- and the means -- there will always be private education, however, the reality is that most of you would rather spend in other ways, thus that is the system that we set up."

"And sir, what about health care?"

"Well, health care is an easy one, really. We as a country want to consume in a certain way -- in many cases in a manner that leads to obesity, and there are substantial costs to that. It is much less expensive to exercise preventative health-care measures, however, we have two groups of people that gain a lot out of the current system. The people get to live however they want, eating fast-food, and in general not taking care of themselves, and on the other end, there is a very high-profit industry that will provide care for them, for a certain cost.

"The reality is again, you would rather consume calories and drive around using cheap gas, than fund things like schools and healthy living policies."

"And as your President and elected representatives, that is how I am spending your money because that is what you want."

That is a very different message from "They hate our freedom," then, isn't it.
posted by nickrussell at 12:22 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, the issue here is not whether there should be taxes at all. In this thread we are discussing whether revenue should be increased by levying additional taxes on the most wealthy.

When those benefits are listed without qualification and without comparison to their opportunity cost, how could anyone say no? Yet in each case, it's questionable whether additional money would be spent better than it's currently being spent in other channels, let alone objectively well, and that's even assuming that the additional revenue would go towards the beneficial programs and not to the DoD or Goldman Sachs.

It's easy to say that things are fine, but please don't get upset if others won't lower their standards.
posted by michaelh at 12:27 PM on August 24, 2011


Governments are large, diverse collections of people working on many different problems on many different fronts all at the same time. It is not wise or even sane to insist that problems be tackled in serial fashion rather than parallel.

There are efficiency gains to be had. There are many programs that I think should be cut entirely or receive less funding. There are changes to the tax laws that would be helpful to make.

You don't just pick one to work on, you work on them all. And work on one does not preclude work on another.

Insisting that maximal efficiency be reached before tax regulations are corrected would be like insisting the fire department put out the fire burning your house down before letting the paramedics treat the gunshot wound you're bleeding out from. Do both at once, you (hypothetical) moron!

Discussing opportunity costs misses the point here. All things being equal, everyone could find things to do with their tax money that would bring them, personally, greater benefit. But if you don't pay the taxes, all things are not equal.

When those benefits are listed without qualification and without comparison to their opportunity cost, how could anyone say no?

Instead of thinking of opportunity costs, the appropriate framework through which to look at the issue is the free rider problem. The very rich and large corporations are on the whole benefiting greatly from what society gives them without contributing their fair share.
posted by jsturgill at 1:11 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Skeptic: "It's also true that what they propose in fact is to raise the income tax mostly on people having lower incomes than them (I heard one of the signatories today on the radio talking about higher marginal tax rates for the income bands above 100K euros and 200K euros)."

While a 100K income per annum is orders of magnitude smaller than that of the signatories here, it is still a quite high salary. The average gross salary for a French university professor, for instance, is €54000.
posted by brokkr at 2:02 PM on August 24, 2011


While a 100K income per annum is orders of magnitude smaller than that of the signatories here, it is still a quite high salary. The average gross salary for a French university professor, for instance, is €54000.

Does France pay its academics better than, say, Britain does?
posted by acb at 3:42 PM on August 24, 2011


Does France pay its academics better than, say, Britain does?

If the €54000 average is correct, then yes, it does.
posted by howfar at 10:18 AM on August 25, 2011


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