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I'm curious,
April 9, 2002 10:01 AM   Subscribe

I'm curious, isn't this exactly opposite of what we're being told? I'm always hearing the wealthy are benefitting somehow from GWB's new tax plan. I'm certainly no-where near the top 5%, and now I don't want to be.
posted by the_0ne (54 comments total)

 
[pentagon disinformation desk, late Monday afternoon. staffers gather in the conference room, chuckling over thier latest plant...]
"Tax Burden Falls on the Wealthy"
[staffers retire to thier offices to polish next weeks gem, "First Amendment Applies To Poor As Well As Rich"]
posted by quonsar at 10:09 AM on April 9, 2002


You don't want a minimum combined income of $120,000? You're crazy.

Remember, we're talking minimum. My parents fall into that category near the minimum, and boy, I wouldn't mind having their life.
posted by fleener at 10:09 AM on April 9, 2002


You don't want a minimum combined income of $120,000? You're crazy.


What I'm saying is I don't want to be the poor sap that's paying 55% of the income taxes for making that much money. Drop that down to 30% and I'll think about it. Of course I'm kidding, if I was making $120 grand, I wouldn't complain at all. :)
posted by the_0ne at 10:13 AM on April 9, 2002


<sarcasm>Man, I'm so sick of the liberal bias in the media.</sarcasm>
posted by RylandDotNet at 10:15 AM on April 9, 2002


Well quonsar, if the numbers are correct, where is the disinformation? Of course I can not back up the numbers with anything hard other than to say that yahoo has certainly never been the conservative haven for news stories, if you are trying to say they are leaning right on this one.
posted by the_0ne at 10:15 AM on April 9, 2002


The problem I have is that soon the entire tax burden will be in less than 50% of the population. This means that the government, with a voting majority, can loot from the taxpayers all they need.

I think it is time to resume a consumption based tax scheme. They are self regulating, and prevent abuse (for the most part)
posted by dwivian at 10:17 AM on April 9, 2002


There was a decent counterpoint to this in the Sunday NYTimes, about how the IRS essentially just trusts richer people (especially those with income that is not work-related and therefore not documented by W-2s and whatnot), even in the face of known and continuing fraud.

But I can't for the life of me find a link. Anyone?
posted by hackly_fracture at 10:23 AM on April 9, 2002


To clarify: The IRS trusts wealthier people to report their wealth correctly. Sorry. I need to spend more time in preview mode . . .
posted by hackly_fracture at 10:24 AM on April 9, 2002


You're either not reading very carefully, not processing the information correctly, or just being disingenuous. The reason the top 5% are shouldering more of the tax burden is because they're making more of the money. It's not that complicated. If you look at income tax burdens before and after the GWB tax cut, you'll see that the richest Americans saved the most money.
posted by anapestic at 10:25 AM on April 9, 2002


There was a decent counterpoint to this in the Sunday NYTimes, about how the IRS essentially just trusts richer people (especially those with income that is not work-related and therefore not documented by W-2s and whatnot), even in the face of known and continuing fraud.

This is true. Congress has consistently cut enforcement funding at the IRS and has mandated that IRS do more audits of tax returns claiming earned income credits (i.e., poor people's returns). As a result, the resources for auditing wealthier individuals and corporations are reduced. Audits of higher income individuals are at very low levels, compared to where they were ten or twenty years ago.
posted by anapestic at 10:28 AM on April 9, 2002


The most important line in the article is this: "Between 1980 and 1999, the share of taxable U.S. income earned by the top 5 percent rose from 21 percent to 34 percent." Income is going up for people in the top 5 and top 1 percent. Cutting their taxes to make them even better off ought to be a pretty low priority at a time of war.
posted by rcade at 10:28 AM on April 9, 2002


Well quonsar, if the numbers are correct, where is the disinformation? Of course I can not back up the numbers with anything hard other than to say that yahoo has certainly never been the conservative haven for news stories, if you are trying to say they are leaning right on this one.
ya know, the_One, you think too much. i was trying to say what i said, nothing more.
posted by quonsar at 10:30 AM on April 9, 2002


the_0ne - There's a point I'm not sure you're following. They top few aren't paying 55% of their income in taxes, they pay that much of all taxes collected.

They pay income taxes at the top rate, now 38.6 percent...
posted by NortonDC at 10:30 AM on April 9, 2002


The tax burden falls mostly on the rich (duh - as imho it should). The wealthier you are the more you will benefit from Bush's tax cuts (duh again - he is a Republican after all). Where's the rub and why wouldn't you want to be in the top 5%?
posted by baudboy at 10:30 AM on April 9, 2002


dviwian: I think it is time to resume a consumption based tax scheme. They are self regulating, and prevent abuse (for the most part)

That is tempting. I have a page on this, but that'd be a self-link.

Advantages: the bulk of our complicated tax laws (determining taxable income) goes away, along with the distorted economic behavior it favors (tax-minimization strategies). IOW, this achieves the simplification that the "flat tax" does not: the tiered rates are trivial compared to the income determination.

Disadvantage 1: it's regressive, like any sales tax. How to fix: have exemptions for day-to-day needs (groceries, clothes under $50, etc) that lift the burden from struggling families that have already minimized their consumption by necessity. Some states have similar exemptions in their sales taxes.

Disadvantage 2: different set of loopholes. Today we might cross a state line to save $20 in taxes on a big-screen TV. With the higher sales tax (to supplement or replace income tax), the stakes will be higher. Import duties would probably be affected.

Disclaimer: I'm not an economist
posted by kurumi at 10:30 AM on April 9, 2002


Maybe it's me, but doesn't this seem a little obvious? If you're earning more money, you're going to pay more tax. Given the old "1% of the people have 99% of the wealth" stat, then it seems to me a logical corollary that they'd be paying the biggest chunk of taxes, no? If they weren't, I'd be screaming bloody murder.

Also, people at lower incomes will generally pay less tax because (a) a bigger portion of their income is not taxed, if you're honest and don't engage in endless financial trickery to shelter your income, and (b) as you make more income, it's taxed at a higher rate.

That noted, I do take issue with the article's slant about how more people are moving into the higher income levels. For example:

"It's very easy to move into the top echelon of taxpayers," Hodge said.

If that were true, wouldn't they no longer be the top echelons? The implication is a double-damn: rich people are paying more taxes, but more "average" people are becoming "rich".

So aren't more of us actually picking up the bulk of the tax bill?

Can you tell I'm not an accountant?
posted by mkultra at 10:37 AM on April 9, 2002


I have a page on this, but that'd be a self-link.

Self-links inside a thread to a pertinent page are A-OK, kurumi.

Despite shouldering the "tax burden," it's odd how few of the rich are enthusiastic about wealth redistribution to, you know, spread the burden around.
posted by Shadowkeeper at 10:40 AM on April 9, 2002


Just a quick math problem...

Assume a 10% flat tax rate, okay? Good.

Now assume a population of 10 individuals. 8 of them earn 10k per year and two earn 500k per year. Kinda sucks for the majority of the population but I guess that's life. Got it? Let's move on...

Tax time comes and the 8 poor saps cough up a combined $800 bucks. The top two cough up a combined $100,000 dollars for a total tax intake of $100,800.

The top two are paying (get ready) 99.2% of the taxes!!! Outrage! Injustice! Tax Breaks! Tax Breaks!

The free loading 80% of the population is paying a paltry 0.8% of all taxes collected! What kind of sick society is that?!? Not one I would want to live in...

The numbers don't lie, you just have to look at what they actually say. It sounds like the rich are getting hosed, but the richer they get and the poorer the rest of the population gets, the greater the discrepancy will be.
posted by Sr_Cluba at 10:51 AM on April 9, 2002


Here's an interesting note- the article in question links at the bottom to the Tax Foundation, a group founded during the New Deal by businessmen who were "concerned" about FDR's federal spending.

Tomorrow (4/10), they release their annual report on our "tax burden" and announce what this year's "Tax Freedom Day" (they day you have to work until to be able to afford your taxes). Coincidence? Draw your own conclusions.

Check out an interesting critique of their numbers here.
posted by mkultra at 10:51 AM on April 9, 2002


The numbers, as written are semanticly loaded so as to give the impression that the top tax payers are paying more than their "fair share".

I would argue that this is completely disingenuous. Top tax payers can afford accountants, tax shelters and financial advisors that can 'hide' assets in such a way as to make their tax liabilities negligable. For example, (sorry, no link for this), most 6 figure income earners have huge schedule C deductions. I'd be willing to bet money that huge numbers of people have "home businesses" that have never made a dime...because it's a solid 20K write-off every year. If you know how to work the system, you can write off your cars, your second house, credit card debt, gambling losses, stock losses, computers, travel...the list goes on and on.

And because they have professional prepared returns, they are almost never audited. If you have a real accountant (as opposed to the HRBlock type outfits) do your taxes, you have virtually eliminated your chance of an audit.

So, you'll forgive me if I don't share in the crocodile tears, bemoaning the tribulations of the aristocracy.
posted by dejah420 at 10:59 AM on April 9, 2002


File under "I can't do math" but the point is the same...

Total tax burden = $108,000 (not $100,800)
Top two pay 92.5% (not 99%)
Point remains intact, ego however, is fractured.

Ah, hubris...
posted by Sr_Cluba at 11:02 AM on April 9, 2002


How about we just get rid of government and then we wouldn't have to pay any taxes.
posted by jaden at 11:35 AM on April 9, 2002


A couple of salient points here:
1) Yes, rich people do pay plenty of taxes.
2) There are plenty of ways for people to avoid paying too much tax, a good accountant should help.
3) Home businesses are great write-offs.

I'm nowhere near the 'minimum' income specified in the article, but I make decent money, and I run a small business out of my home. There was no way on earth I could do my own taxes this year. I went to a knowledgeable accountant, and in the end I got a tax return that weighed in at about 50 pages. 50 frickin' pages!! The several hundred the accountant charged was a bargain for all the work she did, and the money we saved. This is not saying that I didn't pay a lot of taxes this year, but the amount of taxes that higher income people pay is a lot. People always talk about income tax. Well, once you own a house, you have property tax, which is a lot of money. If you own a business then you have business taxes, and license fees. So that money is going somewhere.
posted by patrickje at 11:49 AM on April 9, 2002


The Tax Foundation

Why when people read anything in the paper-they naturally believe it. The Tax Foundation is a VERY CONSERVATIVE tax group. If there IS a tax-they are against it. And thank god they are protecting the rich and the corporations. AND WE NATURALLY BELIEVE IT.

Check out http://www.taxfoundation.org/collclasssponsorlist.html

http://www.taxfoundation.org/TFpolicycouncil.html
posted by KevinH at 12:05 PM on April 9, 2002


Note that everyone in the US pays just under 15% of the first $85,000 they make towards Social Security and Medicare. Those numbers are counted in this survey because that's "payroll" rather than "income" tax (there is a slight difference).

Rich people pay proportionally less into SS and Medicare, because once you make more than the cutoff point ($85,000 now), your effective percentage rate goes down. In addition, the more wealthy you are, the more likely you are to derive more of your income from investment income (not subject to payroll tax) and capital gains (also not subject to payroll tax).

In any case, as has been pointed out, this article is just the reverse spin on "the rich are getting richer". As they get richer, they will pay more taxes. They will also get richer.
posted by daveadams at 12:20 PM on April 9, 2002


Those numbers are counted in this survey

aren't counted.

Sorry.
posted by daveadams at 12:21 PM on April 9, 2002



"It's very easy to move into the top echelon of taxpayers," Hodge said.


Well, that's good to know!
posted by electro at 12:25 PM on April 9, 2002


We should just abolish the income tax, and not replace it with any new taxes. The states often already have consumption taxes. They provide services at a closer level than the federal government. In a state like ohio(or any other state with 6% sales tax), a national consumption tax would be a burden similar to the current income tax, just on different people. Whatever happened to equal treatment people? Why do the rich get treated by the government(which supposedly operates under the principle of justice for all) differently than the poor do? I guess it's because, in your paranoid little socialist worldview, KevinH, those rich people must have gotten rich by theft, so the only solution is more theft, by the state. It's cool to hate the rich, because obviously, none of them are decent people who got there through hard work or good business practice. Theft justifies theft, or two wrongs make a right, and so on. I hope you run for office, you'd fit right in.

According to Ron Paul, R-Texas, if the Federal Government could curtail spending to it's 1990 level, the revenue brought in from the income tax would not be needed to run the government. The government already collects trillions in imposts, excises, and corporate income taxes, to name a few.

Unfortunately, the problem is government spending, which under our system is insatiable(each corporation and individual vying for their piece of the government pie, from Enron to wealthy old people asking for prescription drug benefits). And it's not even on dubious social programs which burn through money, it's corporate and individual welfare, along with the cost of paying the national debt, brought about by LBJ's dual wars on Poverty and Communism (vietnam). From 1929 to 1975, federal spending increased from $3 billion per year to $300 billion, 10,000 percent. And for what? So the IRS can pay auditors to pry into your personal lives (you won't care about this of course, until it happens to you) and so that they can spend millions on tv ad campaigns telling you how you can file your taxes. Remember to overpay your taxes, so they don't send the feds knocking on your door ready to shoot you if you resist arrest.

Peace
- Dan
posted by insomnyuk at 12:26 PM on April 9, 2002


An important concept that is seldom mentioned in these debates is the declining marginal utility of money. This is an economic concept that holds an extra dollar of income for a poor person is more valueable (i.e. has greater utility) than an extra dollar of income for a rich person. Another way of putting it is that each dollar you earn slightly decreases the value you place on earning an additional dollar.

If economics is about maximizing efficiency and efficiency is defined as maximizing everyone's individual preferences, then it follows that it is more efficient (or alternatively less inefficient) to tax the rich at a higher rate then the poor than to tax everyone equally.
posted by boltman at 12:43 PM on April 9, 2002


Sr_Cluba: the problem with that analogy is that the top 99.2% of income earners are paying the 99.2% of taxes. That actually looks reasonably sane. In our case, the top taxpayers actually earn less than the amount they're paying (that progressive tax rate we have, you know).

This is not the top X of the population, but the top X of the income earners, right? I must admit, I see enough of these this time of year to get them muddled in my head.

Oh, and Sr_Cluba, the problem therein is that the 80% of the population could vote, without fear of veto even, to change the tax rate to 12% for all income over 50k, and 0% for all below that. The end result would be $120,000 in the coffer, giving the government more to spend, and yet reducing their burden to nothing, helping the poor.

When the poor can vote to be pickpockets, the society is on a dangerous downward spiral.
posted by dwivian at 12:48 PM on April 9, 2002


From 1929 to 1975, federal spending increased from $3 billion per year to $300 billion, 10,000 percent.

I wonder what the compound inflation is over that period.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 12:49 PM on April 9, 2002


Theft justifies theft, or two wrongs make a right, and so on. I hope you run for office, you'd fit right in.

You're not trolling, are you insomnyuk?

And for what? So the IRS can pay auditors to pry into your personal lives (you won't care about this of course, until it happens to you) and so that they can spend millions on tv ad campaigns telling you how you can file your taxes.

Wrong...Social Security, $391 billion, Defense Expenses, $292 billion, and Payment of the National Debt, $229 billion, are incredibly large portions of our national budget.
Accessed via OMB.

Perhaps factual evidence could help your case, insomnyuk.
posted by BlueTrain at 12:50 PM on April 9, 2002


Boy, talk about skewing your stats.

Dan, look at the numbers adjusted for inflation. It's really $29 billion vs. $969 billion, or 2400%. Still a lot, mind you, but keep in mind that we're a much bigger country now, with global responsibilities. Also, where are the numbers on State spending during the same period? The 20th century is a continuing story of the increased role of Federal over State governments.


Hey, someone's got to pay for that stupid missile shield...
posted by mkultra at 12:51 PM on April 9, 2002


What percentage of the federal budget receipts is made up of income taxes? (scroll to table S-11, 2001 Actual figures)

(figures in billions)
Individual income taxes 994.3
Corporation income taxes 151.1
Social insurance and retirement receipts 694.0
Total receipts 1,991.0

Looks like income taxes are just about 50% of the total receipts, so that 55% is quickly looking like 27.5% of the total budget to me. And the linked article says that the top 5% earn 34% of taxable income. Is my math right? Because that seems to prove that the top 5% are actually shirking 6.5% of their logical liability towards the total budget receipts.

Or to spin those numbers for maximum propoganda value, like these no talent ass clowns did;

The Top 5% Of The Taxpayers In This Country Are 25% Under-taxed.

What percentage of the 35% of the budget that is made up of Social Security taxes is paid by the top 5% of income earners? Good question.

Let's say you make $50K per year. What percentage of your income goes to Social Security taxes? Well, let's assume self-employment to get the total impact, so;

$50K * 12.4% = $6200 divede by $50K = 12.4%

And if you make $120K? A little different calculation, since Social Security taxes aren't paid on income over $84.9K, so that calculation goes like;

$84.9K * 12.4% = $10,527.60 divided by $120K = 8.773%

Of course, they were talking only income taxes in this press release from a special interest advocacy group. I wonder why?
posted by dglynn at 12:57 PM on April 9, 2002


Adjusted numbers for inflation don't really change the fact that the federal government is stealing and wasting our money.

Wrong...Social Security, $391 billion, Defense Expenses, $292 billion, and Payment of the National Debt, $229 billion, are incredibly large portions of our national budget.

I mentioned those costs in the beginning of my post, but I guess you just picked out the stuff that looks stupid out of context. I used the IRS waste as one example, of many, and it seems poignant considering tax day is but 6 days away.

You're not trolling, are you insomnyuk?

Sorry for being sarcastic, but I feel this animosity towards the rich is a common attitude which I often encounter. I admittedly was very sarcastic in doing so.

Also, where are the numbers on State spending during the same period? The 20th century is a continuing story of the increased role of Federal over State governments.

It's a sad, sad story (state spending numbers), the 20th century. Perhaps the most violent ever? All of this is perfectly justified if you think that governments should have absolute, unlimited power to take your money and do with it what they wish, rather than what you wish. What we have in America today is a war-state which operates partly on capitalism and partly on socialism, except in our country you have thousands of special interests vying for the privilege of central planner. It's all about power.

Hey, someone's got to pay for that stupid missile shield...

Only because the central planners in control want it, for whatever reason. If the federal government did not have so much power, things like this would not be a political football, it would be an issue of 'does it actually provide defense or doesn't it?' Instead, every issue that should not be dealt with by government is politicized, from what can be on TV to what we can do in bed to how much water our toilets can flush. And the more taxes you pay, the more power you give the government over your everyday life.
posted by insomnyuk at 1:12 PM on April 9, 2002


Just a quick math problem...

Assume a 10% flat tax rate, okay? Good.

Now assume a population of 10 individuals. 8 of them earn 10k per year and two earn 500k per year. Kinda sucks for the majority of the population but I guess that's life. Got it?


The two people who earn 93% of the nations income each spent approximately $25 000 per year to live: house, food, health, etc.

The other 80% of the population which, all combined, have only 7% of the wealth, each spend approximately $9 000 per year to live.

At the end of the year, the wealthy get to sock another $425 000 into their retirement fund. The lower-class slobs have $200 in savings over the year.

In terms of retained monies, the poor's taxload is 34x heavier than the rich's taxload. (Rich retain 8x what they paid in tax; poor retain 0.25x what they paid in tax.)

Tax time comes and the 8 poor saps cough up a combined $8 000 bucks. The top two cough up a combined $100,000 dollars for a total tax intake of $108,000.

The top two have 93% of the wealth ($1000k/1080k) and pay 93% of the taxes ($100k/108k). The bottom eight have 7% of the wealth ($8k/108k) and pay 7% of the taxes ($80k/180k).

Although on the surface it looks like flat taxes are fair, they simply don't factor in the cost of living, with the result that the poor get pooched.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:38 PM on April 9, 2002


And the more taxes you pay, the more power you give the government over your everyday life.

Let's try this again insomnyuk...what's your solution? What do you propose?

In terms of retained monies, the poor's taxload is 34x heavier than the rich's taxload. (Rich retain 8x what they paid in tax; poor retain 0.25x what they paid in tax.)

five fresh fish, talk about fuzzy math...why don't we try sticking to actual arguments instead of making up numbers to prove one's point, eh?
posted by BlueTrain at 1:48 PM on April 9, 2002


When the poor can vote to be pickpockets, the society is on a dangerous downward spiral.

Why are you worrying about this now? Those horrid poor people have been able to do this to sweet clean good decent rich people forever. Since the stink of money has never been stronger on Capitol Hill, the odds that poor people are going to vote themselves a free ride have never been lower, in my estimation.
posted by rcade at 2:17 PM on April 9, 2002


Maybe I'm dumb, or hungover, but the article seems to be saying that more and more people are fitting into the top 5% now.... but then it wouldn't be 5% anymore, would it? If everybody in America earned at least $120k, they make it sound like we'd all be in the top 5%, but I think in reality we'd all be in the top 100%. I don't get it...
posted by spilon at 2:27 PM on April 9, 2002


It may have been noted before, but the "Tax Foundation" is devilishly conservative and funded by the usual suspects.

Also, as dglynn already pointed out (must... type... faster!) this whole discussion is based on an article that is playing this same semantic game: INCOME tax burdens. Note that it isn't discussing payroll taxes such as FICA, SS, etc. Nor is it mentioning the estate tax, itself a big source of revenue. Yet these revenue sources aren't being affected by the Bush tax cut, which- once these sources are considered- actual pushes the tax burden more onto middle class paycheck slobs than it did before.

Lastly, how cool is it that people are pulling out actual figures, and even linking to sources for information? It seems to me that this hasn't always the case lately, and I'm glad to see it returning; it's one of the things that initially drew me to Metafilter, a certain intellectual standard. Certainly not something you see at Fark! :)
posted by hincandenza at 2:33 PM on April 9, 2002


Nor is it mentioning the estate tax, itself a big source of revenue

The estate tax is a pitiful 1.4% input to the total receipts.

From the dreaded table S-11 (scroll down, please), all figures in billions of dollars;

Source 2001 Actual
--------------------------------------
Individual income taxes 994
Corporation income taxes 151.1
Social insurance and retirement receipts 694.0
Excise taxes 66.1
Estate and gift taxes 28.4
Customs duties 19.4
Miscellaneous receipts 37.8
--------------------------------------
Total receipts 1,991.0
posted by dglynn at 4:31 PM on April 9, 2002


28.4 billion is not "pitiful"- perhaps "big" was a poor choice of words, implying significant in terms of percentage. And my poor sentence structure badly lumped it in with SS et al, when it shouldn't have been part of that group. What I meant to suggest is that part of the proposed plan was to eliminate the estate tax, which wholly affects only a fraction of that 1%; yet it's $28 billion in revenue each year, not a small sum by any means. Not SS money, but not a minor amount of cash.
posted by hincandenza at 4:40 PM on April 9, 2002


Five man, that's part of my (i hope) implied point.

Furthermore, dwivian, your points make me smile for all sorts of reasons, but first:

...the 80% of the voters being pickpockets? That's good. It's been commented on before so I won't revisit it, but man, that's funny. Those bastard poor people, hoarders of political power...

...secondly, I was using a 10% flat tax just to show that *the bigger the discrepency becomes between rich and poor, the more "burden" will be placed on the rich.* See? The more skewed those top two, or even one, person's wealth is compared to a vast majority who are just scraping by, the more the numbers will paint a picture of "the rich carrying all the weight," which is just ridiculous. I know we have a tiered tax system, and I agree with the concept of the diminishing return on the next dollar. We don't tax poor people at the same rate as the rich because it cuts into their basic needs.

Just play with the numbers for a while and you'll see what I mean. Run it through with 9 people getting 10k a year and one getting 1,000,000. Arguments of equity aside, I think you will see that the amount paid compared to the total continues to be absurd. I also understand that the correlation in the U.S. tax structure is not 1:1 between wealth and amount of tax burden, but why should it be? The only way to ensure such a thing is a flat tax which leads to absurd outcomes as the one I outlined above.

Ah, I love tax. And the discussion of tax. I need a drink.
posted by Sr_Cluba at 5:06 PM on April 9, 2002


Lots of comments here prove that it's easy to spend other people's money. This is not a socialist country, yet the rich pay the vast majority of the taxes and use the least amount of government services. Why should they pay for everyone else? Just because they have the means? Why does having the money mean you have to give it away? I'll never understand that.
posted by fried at 7:06 PM on April 9, 2002


It takes around $110,000 in yearly gross income to be in the top 5 percent. Personally, as my tax burden got increasingly higher during those glorious dot-com years, I viewed the higher taxes as a small price to pay for living in a country where I have the opportunities to make a good living, provide for my family, and pursue my dreams in a safe and peaceful place.
posted by rcade at 7:12 PM on April 9, 2002


The article mentions that 19% of income is earned by top 1% taxpayers, while 34% of tax is paid by them. While progressive tax makes sense at some level, saying that one who makes 20k/year is "scraping by" is a bastardization of the word. People *deserve* food, a roof over their head and clothing, nothing more. That doesn't cost 20k/yr unless you live in downtown San Francisco.

Tax that "restributed wealth" past the point of letting people survive healthily is, literally, stealing from the rich. Most rich actually have earned their money. We don't live in a class society. Income mobility is gigantic in the United States (I believe that only 30% of the lowest fifth income bracket ten years ago are still there).

Taxes should be paid more by the rich, of course. Defense provides more importance for them than for poorer citizens, as does US trade negotiation and many other aspects of our society. But paying double your supposed burden (FICA goes directly back to the payer, in theory, so I won't count that as a tax burden) if you're rich seems like too much of a burden.
posted by Kevs at 8:16 PM on April 9, 2002


I viewed the higher taxes as a small price to pay for living in a country where I have the opportunities to make a good living, provide for my family, and pursue my dreams in a safe and peaceful place.

It would be nice if paying taxes was logically connected to living a good life in safety and peace. Taxes fund lots of things that destroy safety and peace. Some taxes (we don't know how much because their budget is a secret) go to fund things like the CIA, which has this nasty habit of really pissing off other countries by overthrowing their governments and installing puppet rulers. It happens, and as long as the federal government is so huge, they will be doing this whenever they see fit. The result is a destabilized, less peaceful world. You would like to live in peace and quiet, but what if part of that equation includes freedom? Do you wish to be free to live how you see fit? I would imagine so, but when the government says that you can only buy cigarettes when you are 18, alchohol when you are 21, and marijuana never, your own taxes are only being used to further limit your freedom.
posted by insomnyuk at 8:19 PM on April 9, 2002


Who can spend my money better, me or the government? People get a guilt trip that they're not paying their "fair share" while the politicians take our money to find out what cow farts are doing to the ozone layer or spending several thousand dollars for a hammer. The fact that anyone's income is taxed is sickening. A consumption tax of some form would allow people to decide how much tax they'll pay. (I know it doesn't completely answer the poor people situation, but they can make choices too)

Aristotle: "How immeasurably greater is the pleasure, when a man feels a thing to be his own; for surely the love of self is a feeling implanted by nature...."
posted by jbunch at 8:49 PM on April 9, 2002


i live in a country with state health care (as opposed to insurance based), no tuition fees in higher education and free school lunches but probably also a whole lot some of you would deem as very restrictive. and you know what? i'm happy to pay tax.

that's not to say that i don't have any problems with the way the government handles tax money, that there aren't any poor people, or that no-one abuses the system. however, taxes are necessary to provide basic service for the residents, and living in a social group means taking care of the weak.

if people abuse the system the system should be debugged. the solution isn't leaving those really needing the help out in the cold.
posted by hannala at 2:47 AM on April 10, 2002


Bitch all you want, just keep in mind that progressive taxation has built-in efficiencies that allow for a smaller government apparatus than flat taxation.
posted by NortonDC at 4:36 AM on April 10, 2002


Poor people who make less than a certain amount of income pay no income tax at all. If they were taxed at the same rate as wealthier people, they would literally not have enough money to survive, and the costs of housing, feeding, and caring for them would have to be shouldered by the state.

So any "flat" tax would would have to be at a rate near to zero, or loaded up with all sorts of credits so that it wasn't really flat, anyway, or you'd have a massive poverty problem on your hands.
posted by oddovid at 6:46 AM on April 10, 2002


Why are you worrying about this now? Those horrid poor people have been able to do this to sweet clean good decent rich people forever.

Er. no. Only recently have voting laws changed in the United States to allow the poor to vote regularly (removal of restrictions for land ownership, polling taxes, etc). As they learn of their power, they vote more and more for personal gains. Which, I must admit, everyone does....but....

There will always be more poor than rich. As a result, a government that gives equal weight to the poor will ultimately result in one that allows the poor to loot the rich, unless the rich find some way to defend themselves. One such way is equal taxation (equal protection being the foundation of their argument). This can be accomplished by a flat tax, with the only exemptions being for the basic cost of living. It can also be accomplished with a consumption tax, with the only exemptions being for materials fundamental to living.

Either way, the tax burden stays on the rich, but they have less to bitch about. I guess the problem is the size of government, and the desire it has to be all things to all people.

I'm not claiming answers, but pointing out issues.

And, oddovid has the same observation, so I'll stop here.
posted by dwivian at 7:16 AM on April 10, 2002


a government that gives equal weight to the poor will ultimately result in one that allows the poor to loot the rich, unless the rich find some way to defend themselves.

The rich already have a way to defend themselves. It's called 'money'.

Who can spend my money better, me or the government?

It's funny: I just got to watch a tape of the last episode of Century of the Self, a series that documents the influence of Freud on commerce and politics, particularly through the work of his nephew Edward Bernays, who's considered the father of public relations. Its basic premise: that big business has harnessed the Freudian unconscious as the linchpin in consumer choice, building its marketing machine to feed the irrational wants of the individual.

So, to answer your question: it's quite likely that you can't spend your money 'better' than the government, if you define 'better' as 'more sensibly' rather than 'more easily'. The irony? Modern marketing techniques, honed around 'life-style' profiling, rely upon that premise: that the individual, as a mass of competing and contradictory desires, can be persuaded to buy things that feed those impulses, even though (and often because) they have little permanent value. You can protest at that characterisation, but you ought to direct your complaints to the ad agencies and the marketeers who have it drummed into them at Selling School.

While modern goverments are, in a sense, just as hobbled by fashion in the lobby, it's becoming more obvious, at least in Britain, that the attempt to run politics on a similar basis isn't working, and that people don't want their government to behave like an impulse buyer with a freshly issued credit card.
posted by riviera at 5:59 PM on April 10, 2002


Why should they pay for everyone else?

Who else is going to do it?

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 8:33 PM on April 10, 2002


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