January 3, 2001
3:59 PM   Subscribe

Lawrence Lindsey, George II’s economic advisor, would have the rich pay less taxes, but to keep the revenue flowing, he’d raise rates for everbody else. With both major political parties relying on the same corporate donors it’s no wonder the superrich and their kingdoms get away with nearly anything.
posted by capt.crackpipe (32 comments total)
Blume: "...Now, for some of you it doesn't matter. You were born rich and your going to stay rich. But here's my advice to the rest of you: Take dead aim on the rich boys. Get them in the crosshairs and take them down. Just remember, they can buy anything but they can't buy backbone. Don't let them forget it. Thank you."
posted by mathowie at 4:14 PM on January 3, 2001

Welcome to the return of "trickle down" a.k.a. "screw the working classes" economics.
posted by Mr. skullhead at 4:55 PM on January 3, 2001

That rich 5% now pays about 47% of all income taxes. from the "raise" link.
I know it all comes down to the differences in the way we were raised, maybe a gene switch is active/inactive, but I think this is a shameful way to run a society. I really cannot understand why people think other people should pay for the services they rely upon, just because thay have more money. Why do people balk at the idea of a flat tax? Considering how unpopular the rich are, it must really be galling to some that they pay your way with societal perks from cradle to grave, just like mom and dad.
I see your points too, they make sense to me, but without somebody trying to think of a fair system, the whole thing is bound to tear in the middle.
posted by thirteen at 5:03 PM on January 3, 2001

It's time for the flat tax rate !
posted by andre_111 at 6:18 PM on January 3, 2001

Good one Thirteen. The rich allready pay the majority of taxes. Sick of hearing how they should pay even MORE. Its time for the non-rich to carry thier fair share - FLAT TAX BABY
posted by stbalbach at 6:33 PM on January 3, 2001

"...without somebody trying to think of a fair system...".

There you go again -- assuming that fairness is a good idea. It's not.

Fairness engenders an uppity proletariat, with people thinking that they have some sort of innate right to cheap cola products and caffeinated potato-chips. This is, as I'm sure you can see, abhorrent. Privileges become Rights, and One Right becomes Two, etc. etc.

The only sensible way to proceed is through Random Enforcement with Maximum Brutality (both phrases being trademarks, thankyouverymuch).

...the end result being a populace that lives in terror, and is desperately happy to receive anything you deign to toss their way. Desperate Happiness is the only True Happiness.
posted by aramaic at 6:40 PM on January 3, 2001

No, with the ridiculous debt rate in the US what we need is a sales tax to replace the income tax. Let's penalize consumerism and reward savings and investment.

I really cannot understand why people think other people should pay for the services they rely upon

Now, I'm all for moving away from a progressive tax - and yes, I know that the poor including me would end up paying more under a regressive tax. Still the reason the rich should be expected to pay seems pretty obvious to me.

There're a whole lot more poor folks than rich folks, and this country is about three crummy TV seasons away from an American Bastille Day. Bread and Circuses can only take you so far before people start to remember that the reason we have a second amendment to the constitution has very little to do with hunting or the right to protect your home and family.

(authors aside - I think we're actually more likely to have a race or energy war before we have a class war, but still you can only keep the down trodden down so long)

posted by willnot at 7:08 PM on January 3, 2001

I really cannot understand why people think other people should pay for the services they rely upon, just because thay have more money. Why do people balk at the idea of a flat tax?

It's all in how you see the relationship between money and responsibility.

One could say that the government provides services to society at large, and that every citizen is thus equally responsible for paying for those services. This would be a sort of super-flat tax - take the national budget, divide it by the number of citizens, and write a check to the revenue agents for that amount.

The problem with this approach is that it bankrupts the poor and barely touches the rich. Instead, the flat-tax approach looks at income: the amount of load you are expected to bear is related directly to your ability to pay, as expressed in your annual income.

The progressive tax approach takes this a step farther by looking at ability to pay not only in terms of income but also in terms of expenses. For someone living on $25,000 a year, forking over 20% at tax time is a very big problem - the difference between living on $20,000 and $25,000 per year is dramatic and painful. But for someone living on $250,000, a 20% tax bill is not as big a deal - $50,000 is a lot of money, but having to live on a mere $200,000 a year is not exactly going to leave anyone starving.

This becomes even more obvious when you look beyond the upper-middle-class to the truly rich: continuing with our 20% flat tax, someone who makes $250,000,000 a year will have to fork over fifty million - but the remaining two hundred is still enough to live at an inconceivable level of luxury.

So instead we have progressive taxes. The people who have the least to spare, are forced to spare the least; instead of $5000, our hypothetical $25,000 person might have to give up one or two thousand. Still really tough, but less likely to bring on bankruptcy. Our $250 million plutocrat, assuming no creative tax shelters, has to pay a heftier $100 million or so - a lot of money, and maybe it's the difference between six vacation homes and ten, but it's still not going to come anywhere close to causing the kind of pain such a percentage would inflict on Joe Average.

If you want to look at it in terms of fairness instead of mere practicality, think about it like this: the amount of money one can earn by doing work is limited, because one person's work is (with certain exceptions) only worth a certain amount. To make any more money, you have to take advantage of the society around you. You might start a business, thereby taking advantage of a pool of educated workers, a highway & road system to get workers and customers to and from your office, a utility system to provide you with power, a police force to protect you from vandals or unscrupulous rivals. You might buy & let out property, thereby taking advantage of a standardized property ownership register, a police force to protect your boundaries from criminals and a military force to protect them from other countries. You might invest in someone else's business, thereby taking advantage of a stable, growing economy enabled by all the other people taking advantage of government-provided services.

The list goes on, but the only way to get an above-average income is to exploit the resources around you, and most of those resources are provided or enabled in some way by the government.

From this light, it makes perfect sense to charge wealthier people more at tax time: they are obviously taking greater advantage of the social services around them than are the less wealthy, and should bear a greater portion of the responsibility for maintaining the services which enable their wealth.

You don't have to agree, of course, but that's why *I* balk at the idea of a flat tax.


posted by Mars Saxman at 7:22 PM on January 3, 2001

You make some good points Mars, but you seem to be forgetting one thing. The government does not give us the right to own property, or to contract (start, run, or invest in a business). They are provided for universally (if you were a white male anyway, but now it's everyone) by our constitution, which set up a government to protect them. I would agree with you if the opportunities to do business or own land were only available to some, because people who do not benefit from the opportunity should not be forced to pay for it. Slaves did not pay taxes for just that reason. However, a person should not be overly penalized for taking advantage of an opportunity that have already paid, with their taxes, to secure.I really don't mind a progressive tax, like you said, 200,000 a year is not a big lifestyle cut from 250,000. I just have a problem with idiots who scream and yell that a tax cut will mostly benefit the rich. If the top 5 percent paid over 40 percent of the income tax last year, then a 100 percent refund would obviously give 40 percent of the money back to only 5 percent of the people. Duh. Obviously they're not talking about a 100 percent refund, but the math is the same. Anything else is our government playing Robin Hood.
posted by Nothing at 7:46 PM on January 3, 2001

Nothing, your comment about slaves was very, very confusing. The slaves did have to pay very much for things from which they could not benefit... Maybe I misunderstood.

But about benefiting... The opportunities to do business or own land *are* only available to some. You cannot own land if you don't have enough money.

And Mars, thanks for that viewpoint, as I've never thought of it that way before. I'm not sure that I agree, but I'll think about it.
posted by whatnotever at 8:26 PM on January 3, 2001

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

posted by capt.crackpipe at 9:23 PM on January 3, 2001

You cannot own land if you don't have enough money.

Actually, for a good chunk of America's history, you could do just that -- head out west, settle the first unclaimed chunk of land you ran across, and it was yours. Of course, today there are very few pieces of land left in the world that aren't already owned by someone.

The presumed beauty of America, of course, is that supposedly you can get money even if you don't have any. I have to say America has worked well for my parents: my father was born in rural Southern Ohio (a stone's throw from being a West Virginian) to a poor farm family in the middle of the Great Depression and has had a heart condition all his life. My mother grew up in a dysfunctional family (apathetic father, domineering mother) in an industrial town in northern Ohio and wasn't any better off than my father. ("Marry him," her mother urged, "I hear those Kindalls have money!" Unfortunately, she heard wrong...)

Today, they're both retired; they own their home and they have enough money to live comfortably the rest of their lives without being a financial burden on their children. Speaking of whom, my sister and I are doing pretty well too; our parents gave us both pretty good educations. If I learned anything from my parents, it's this: if you want something, you can't sit around waiting for someone to give it to you; you get off your ass and go get it. I don't see it's any different now than it was in 1932 when my father was born.
posted by kindall at 9:27 PM on January 3, 2001

That rich 5% now pays about 47% of all income taxes. from the "raise" link.

Other fun facts:

The richest 5% owns 70% of the wealth.
The poorest 40% owns less than 1% of the wealth

AFTER THE FEAST, the working man get's what's left.

Of course, I don't believe in taxing the rich either. I agree with mathowie's (somewhat inflamatory) statement about shooting them.

posted by lagado at 9:36 PM on January 3, 2001

"You know I am a juggler, and I never let my right hand know what my left hand does. I'm perfectly willing to mislead and tell untruths" FDR, May 1941
Not the quote I wanted, and I am not sure of the context, but it sums up how I think FDR operated.
I am glad to see Mars again, I have wondered where he has been. I don't have time to spill out my gut reaction to what you have written, but I can display the ribs of my argument. That 5% do benefit from the society that surrounds them, but society lives off the wealth created by the few. I understand and agree if you tilt against the rigged game, and horrible business practices, but I do not agree that the richest owe the poorest merely because they are rich. If we are not all responsible for the cost of government, then those who pay the least have no reason not to desire an end to it's cancerous growth. Why work hard to make something , only to have to turn it over to a mob. It is not only the rich who benefit from society, the people you referred to as resources do as well. A flat percentage of income would still hit the wealthy harder. Did anyone ever get the chance to vote on this progressive taxation plan? The whole thing stinks of utopian desire. I don't believe utopias are possible, but I do think we can manage to pull our own weight.
lagado: I have seen the numbers you present before. By themselves they don't damn anyone. If you want to say that 5% have 70% of the wealth because they stripmined the 3rd world I would listen. The wealth as a concept is not intrinsically evil. I work 3 jobs, when I could afford to live off the salary of one. If you argue that those 5% use their wealth to fuck with the rules and bribe people to get contracts, I would listen and agree. I think the numbers I posted are ugly because 1. Not all the 5%'S have money that I would consider dirty, and 2. the shame belongs to the parasite, not the host.
Your illustration shows that being the working man is not very glamorous, this I already knew.
Despite all your anti-gun talk, I always knew you had some murderous desire, this is why I don't think you should be allowed to own a gun. Maybe a good reason for the rest to hold onto them though. My level of cattiness tells me I should get to bed, and lucky me, I am done with my work for tonight. I get to keep around 66% of what I made, which means I worked for all of you (Americans) for 2 of the last 6 hours.
posted by thirteen at 10:35 PM on January 3, 2001

The richest 5% owns 70% of the wealth. The poorest 40% owns less than 1% of the wealth.

The problem with "facts" like these is that it only takes one or two people on either end to completely blow the curve. Cut off Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, and a few others (most of whose wealth is just on paper anyway, and could conceivably vanish tomorrow), and the "disparity" becomes far less horrible.

posted by aaron at 11:26 PM on January 3, 2001

All this talk of taxation didn't really broach the subject I was getting at in the post: the rich have power the poor do not, and crooked politicians conspire to create more wealth for them. This is in direct contention with basic justice and democracy.

Moreover, I don't understand how anyone could vote for a man who is a front for big business. Media occasionally sends out warning signs. Whether one chooses to ignore them is up to the individual, but that igonorance effectively gave the corporate agenda another four years of unmitigated power.

13: "You know I am a juggler, and I never let my right hand know what my left hand does," Roosevelt confessed in May 1942. "I may be entirely inconsistent, and furthermore I am perfectly willing to mislead and tell untruths if it will help win the war." ...one of the central operating principles of his protean executive style, a style that transformed the presidency, and the nation: a willingness to delay decisions, change his mind, keep his options open, avoid commitments, or even deceive people in the relentless pursuit of noble objectives.

Not unlike damn near every politician ever. FDR was just ballsy enought to admit it.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 12:25 AM on January 4, 2001

Cap'n: I appreciate the context, but I think in the end it can be condensed down to "the end justifies the means" which I don't agree with. Personally, inconsistency is so horrible to me, that when I encounter it within my self I am disappointed beyond words. As a concept it should never be embraced.
I do agree with your second line about politicians. The quote I was looking for was from an FDR documentary, where he told someone his thoughts about his dislike of aspects of the constitution as he was being sworn into office. I think he was a rogue.
posted by thirteen at 7:32 AM on January 4, 2001

crooked politicians conspire to create more wealth for them.
If we are talking about this, then we as one, burning with righteous anger. I do not like a crooked game.
posted by thirteen at 7:36 AM on January 4, 2001

Some people here may be in the top 5 percent. It takes an adjusted gross income of $108,048. (Adjusted gross income is calculated by subtracting authorized deductions from yearly gross income.)

I've always been a believer in a progressive tax system. The people who derive the most financial benefit from the opportunities they had in this society should pay more money to support it. It's better on the poor, and I think it's better for the overall stability of society.

The wealthiest one percent are thriving under the present system without Bush's planned giveaway. Their percentage of the country's wealth has gone up for five successive years, reaching 17.4 percent in 1997, the last year statistics were available.
posted by rcade at 8:05 AM on January 4, 2001

aaron, you seem to be saying "if we remove the problem, there's no problem." Yes, if we get rid of the insanely rich people, there is less disparity. But the problem *is* the insanely rich people...

Also, it's only one end you can cut things off from to change things. Take out the 10 poorest people, and ... nothing changes, there are plenty more to take their place.
posted by whatnotever at 8:36 AM on January 4, 2001

The people who derive the most financial benefit from the opportunities they had in this society should pay more money to support it.

They are also the people who create the most jobs and drive the most economic growth. I won't go so far as to say that should absolve them of any other responsibilities but it certainly ought to count for something -- yet it never seems to be acknowledged. Arguments center on the wealth the wealthy have acquired control of, and ignore the fact that they routinely relinquish control of that wealth to invest in new companies, or put it in the bank which loans it out for people going to college or building new homes or starting new businesses.
posted by kindall at 9:09 AM on January 4, 2001

... yet it never seems to be acknowledged.

What kind of acknowledgement are you looking for? As a class of people, rich Americans have the government in their back pocket -- most of the complexities in the tax system were initiated for their benefit, politicians are dependent on them for donations to a level unprecedented in U.S. history, corporate executive salaries are obscenely high, and the next president wants to chop their taxes 44 percent and kill the death tax so their kids can squander the money instead of charities getting it. Isn't that enough of a thank you?
posted by rcade at 10:08 AM on January 4, 2001

corporate executive salaries are obscenely high

What does this have to do with the government? Besides, you didn't adress kindall's point that it takes wealth to create opportunities. If no one was rich, who would invest in small businesses? How much money could banks loan to individuals if all their assets were four-digit personal savings accounts?
posted by daveadams at 10:53 AM on January 4, 2001

If no one was rich ...

A belief in a progressive tax system means I advocate the elimination of all rich people?
posted by rcade at 11:01 AM on January 4, 2001

I'm all for reforming the tax system so it is simpler and has fewer loopholes (which as rcade notes primarily benefit the rich). While I am not convinced there is any net benefit to society for them to pay more than the rest of the populace, I certainly agree that as long as there is an income tax there is no reason at all for them to pay less than everyone else. Give everyone a standard deduction based on the number of dependents, take a flat percentage of everything else. Capital gains should be treated as income; I've never understood why they are not.

As to whether a belief in a progressive tax system means that you advocate the elimination of all rich people, well, that depends on how progressive. Cetainly there is less reason to work harder and take more investment risks as the level of taxation increases.
posted by kindall at 11:19 AM on January 4, 2001

Cetainly there is less reason to work harder and take more investment risks as the level of taxation increases.

I don't believe that money is the only motivation for success - the Game of Business itself can be inherently pleasurable. If this weren't so, most people would quit their jobs and move to Malibu the day their bank account hit eight figures. Instead, many keep on playing.

posted by Mars Saxman at 12:35 PM on January 4, 2001

There are two taxes I do support, which if properly directed would alleviate my fears, along with the libertins in the thread.

The progressive consumption tax and the Toobin tax.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 1:25 PM on January 4, 2001

You want to use taxation to control peoples behavior rather than just to pay for public expenses? Let's put it to a vote.
BTW, about the progressive consumption page... Worst headline ever!
Not to mention the scandalous misuse of graven images of my beloved bees.
posted by thirteen at 2:07 PM on January 4, 2001

True, the game can be inherently pleasurable. But most people play the game for a combination of reasons and I'm pretty sure "accumulation of wealth" is on everyone's list somewhere. Reduce the efficacy of this motivation and a certain number of people will drop out. Eliminate the possibilty entirely and I think the vast majority of the sort of people who play the game wouldn't find it worth playing any longer.
posted by kindall at 2:25 PM on January 4, 2001

From the page on the progressive consumption tax: For most consumer goods, evidence suggests that consuming more doesn’t make us any happier.

People always say that, but I have found it to be untrue. But then, 75% of the (non-survival) things I buy are technology-related. Of course I'm made happy by surrounding myself with reminders that I'm living in a science-fiction world. Who wouldn't be? The more evidence I have, the happier I get. I find any argument that begins with such a counterfactual statement to be highly suspect.

The Tobin tax is an interesting idea particularly for its claim to reduce the volitility of currency markets. I provisionally like the idea, not least because I don't have any plan or desire to trade currencies and so would not be affected by the tax. A tax that only has to be paid by other people is always superior to one that affects me.
posted by kindall at 2:35 PM on January 4, 2001

I am really surprised Johnb isn't here yet. He loves taxes, especially these. :)
I am slowly coming to appreciate emoticons.
posted by thirteen at 4:43 PM on January 4, 2001

Emoticons are weaselly, but sometimes I find it hard to communicate without them. I could have done with a couple of winkies in my last post, but I try not to use them in "serious" discussions.
posted by kindall at 8:48 PM on January 4, 2001

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