Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Short Citizen's Guide to Kooks, Demagogues, and Right-Wingers On Tax Day

I found this on Huffington Post and thought it worth posting after seeing the tea-baggers at the Fox News sponsored events yesterday. The best part of this whole thing has been watching Keith Olbermann make fun of them on Countdown (MSNBC) for the last few nights.
A Short Citizen's Guide to Kooks, Demagogues, and Right-Wingers On Tax Day
by Robert Reich
No one likes to pay taxes, so tax day typically attracts a range of right-wing Republicans, kooks, and demagogues, all of whom tell us how awful we have it. Here's a short citizen's guide (that is, a citizen's guide that's short rather than a guide for short citizens) responding to the predictable charges:
1. "Americans pay too much in taxes." Wrong: The United States has the lowest taxes of all developed nations.
2. "The rich pay too much! The top ten percent of income earners pay over 72 percent of all income taxes!" Misleading: The main reason the rich pay such a large percent is they've become so much richer than the bottom 90 percent in recent years. If you look at what they pay as individuals -- the percent of their incomes over and above the highest rate below them -- you'll see a steady decline over the years. When Republican Dwight Eisenhower was president, the marginal rate on the highest earners was 91 percent (after deductions and tax credits, closer to 50 percent); by 1980 it was still up there, at 70 percent (an effective rate of closer to 45 percent); under Bill Clinton, it was 38 percent (an effective rate closer to 28 percent).
Look at the after-tax earnings of families and you'll see what's really going on. Between 1980 and 2000, the after-tax earnings of families at the top rose more than 150 percent, while the after-tax earnings of families in the middle rose about 10 percent. The Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 raised the after-tax incomes of most Americans by a bit over 1 percent -- but raised the after-tax incomes of millionaires by 4.4 percent.
3. "The bottom 60 percent pay only 3.3 percent of the taxes!" Misleading again. Most Americans are paying more in sales taxes than they ever have. Property taxes have also been rising at a steady clip. And Social Security taxes have also risen (thanks to the Greenspan Commission), while earnings over about $100,000 aren't subject to Social Security taxes. So-called "sin" taxes (mostly beer and cigarettes) have also skyrocketed. All of these taxes take a bigger bite out of the paychecks of people with lower incomes than they do people with higher incomes.
4. "Obama is raising your taxes!" Wrong. Obama is cutting taxes for 95 percent of Americans, by about $400 per person a year -- not a whopping tax cut, to be sure, but not a tax increase by any stretch. Only the top 2 percent will have a tax increase, but even this tax increase is modest. Basically, they go back to the rates they were paying under Bill Clinton (their deductions will be limited to 28 percent, which is only fair). And they won't start paying this until 2011 anyway.
5. "The huge debts we're wracking up will cause your taxes to rise!" Wrong again. When it comes to the national debt, as I've said before, the relevant statistic is the ratio of debt to the gross domestic product. The only sure way to bring that debt down and make it manageable in future years is to get the economy growing again -- which requires that, in the short term, the government spend a lot of money (because consumers and businesses won't). In the long term, the biggest source of concern is rising health-care costs. And that's something Obama and Congress are aiming to tackle.
6. "We have a patriotic duty to stand up against Washington taxes!" Just the opposite. We have a patriotic duty to pay taxes. As multi-billionaire Warren Buffett put it, "If you stick me down in the middle of Bangladesh or Peru or someplace, you'll find out how much this talent is going to product in the wrong kind of soil. I will be struggling thirty years later." President Teddy Roosevelt made the case in 1906 when he argued in favor of continuing the inheritance tax. "The man of great wealth owes a particular obligation to the state because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government."
An acquaintance from law school, now a partner in one of Washington's biggest and wealthiest law firms, explained to me one day over lunch how he and his partners use tax rules to create offsetting taxable gains and losses, and then allocate the gains to the firm's foreign partners who don't pay taxes in the United States. That way, they keep the losses here and shelter their income abroad. I noticed he had an American flag lapel pin. "You're supporting our troops," I said, referring to his pin. "Yup," he replied, entirely missing my point.
True patriotism isn't cheap. It's about taking on a fair share of the burden of keeping America going. Originally posted on Talking Points Memo


Anonymous said...

Under Bush, the deficit initially rose, then started dropping until 2008, after the Democrats had Congressional control of the budget.

Then Obama comes into office, and proceeds to not only exceed in one year every year of Bush's debt, but that of every President before him.

In addition, new tax after new tax is coming on and show no signs of stopping. And the money is going out with little debate, accountability, or visible effect.

The "message" was distorted by the media. The media got their "message" and proceeded to portray it as a disorganized mish-mosh of "right-wingers" who didn't know what they were talking about and deliberately chose to air the voices and opinions of anyone they could find who couldn't articulate well what their opinion was.

They spent an inordinate amount of their time deriding and demeaning. The media looked for the worst signs they could find to splash across national television. And THIS was only when the media did anything at all

Near as I can tell, “rightwing extremeist” protesters even managed to clean up afterwards, rather than leaving the streets littered with garbage as is the usual case with leftwing protests.

No wonder the mainstream media didn’t pay any attention. It was just too damn orderly and civilized.

Anonymous said...

quite interesting post. I would love to follow you on twitter.