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February 26, 2009

Comments

//he's.. isolating the wealthy.//
// severing the rich from the lower-income classes.//
// Obama is ... for everyone but the top 5%//

The wealthy are bastards. Who needs them anyway? They're bloody leaches sucking away our vital fluids.

dave - i've been a bit obsessed with this topic, but i think i have a good reason. the inequality in this country is so extreme and ridiculous that it's going to take a very hard push just to fix it a little bit.

i don't think anyone going to be marching anywhere with pitchforks. but if a bit of class rhetoric can shift the balance a little bit, everything will be better (ESPECIALLY for the rich, who didn't do so bad after 1993 as i recall)

The good news is that it's pretty much official -- health care reform is ON this year

I think we should just tax internet trolls to pay for health care. I have yet to meet an internet troll who did not claim to have a fabulously successful business.

There would be plenty of money left over for volcano monitoring. And SUPERTRAINS!

Win win.

// i think i have a good reason//

Yes, of course. That's always the case isn't it.

When will Mr. Obama be sending us yellow stars to wear? The wealthy are the root of all evil. Rise up ye people and eat your bosses. Rise up and seize your due.

//ESPECIALLY for the rich,// Emphatic bastards. How DARE they excel. We will rise as a people as we devour those who excel! Strive ye people for mediocrity. Strive for ordinariness.

C'est la lutte finale/ Groupons-nous et demain/ L'Internationale/ Sera le genre humain.

Godwin!

So soon, too...

d'd'd': there are all sorts of reasons to favor this other than thinking that the wealthy are bastards, bloodsucking leeches, etc.

Take me, for instance. ([Henny Youngman] Please! [/Henny Youngman]) I was born and raised among -- not the really rich, but the pretty darn well off. I myself am not rich, having opted for academia, but when I agree with the line of thought publius is putting forward, I'm talking about people I grew up with. And some of Obama's suggestions impact me directly: e.g., I have never discussed their wills with my parents, but it is not unimaginable that I might be subject to the estate tax, at least if they don't raise the limit too much.

I'm also not really into self-hatred, or hatred of the people I grew up with.

I just think two things. First, that as publius said, the inequality in this country has just gotten too great. And this isn't something that just happened by itself, that government would have to interfere with; it's the result of government policy, which I think should be undone.

Second, especially in a time of real crisis, the idea that the people who really can afford to help more -- who are not senior citizens whose retirement savings have been decimated, or families trying to figure out how on earth to manage to send the kids to college, or people who wake up every day wondering what they'll do if they're laid off, but people who actually will do OK, even if a little less OK than before -- should not pitch in -- well, it sticks in my craw.

I got all sorts of advantages from the way I was brought up: a wonderful education, no family fights about money, travel abroad, you name it. Somehow, it sticks in my craw to complain about the likes of me being asked to pay a little more so that people who didn't can actually get health insurance they can count on.


he's trying to drive a stake through the heart of the Reagan coalition by isolating the wealthy.

I thought the best line of speech was sizing up Bush economics as giving the nation's wealth to the wealthy.

what hilzoy said. but the key point (to the extent you're going to engage us substantively) is that POLICY brought this state of affairs upon us.

More seriously...

I think, from a systems basis, there's something basically unhealthy about a system where what's circulating gets concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. This is not a very rigorous approach, but my intuition is that the trend of greater concentration of wealth in fewer hands is not good for the entire system. It needs buy in from all participants, and if wealth is concentrated in few hands, then there is less buy in and the system WILL collapse.

From another perspective, concentration of wealth seems to discourage class mobility. If there is less capital flowing downward, there is less ability to move upward, particularly among the most impoverished sectors. Again, this contributes to system instability. Moreover, it strikes harder at the unifying myths of American society--bettering ourselves through our own effort. Ignoring that sort of effect is very dangerous, and not just in the long term. (And...the flipside of class mobility for the impoverished is...class mobility for the wealthy...only that class mobility is downward. The wealthy should be at risk of failure, too, just as the poor).

I presented a project to the town manager today that will provide 80 units affordable to people earning 50% of the median income or less and 80 units affordable to moderate income persons as well as 40 market rate units. I will commit to subsidizing the rents on these 160 units for 30 years - essentially the rest of my life. The project will generate an increase in property tax revenues to the Town $920,000 per year. It is an amount big enough to finance the swim center the Town wants to build in the regional park. The commercial component of the mixed use project will bring essential services to the west side of town that are not currently available. It will reduce crosstown traffic by 30% and thereby save time, money, fuel and carbon for the local population. Sales taxes revenues to the Town will increase. The project is within 500 meters of commuter rail and adjacent to the Town square. It will contribute to a more vibrant town center by putting homes, foot traffic and eyes on the public space.

Approximately $100 million will be spent in the local economy on labor and materials during the 4 year construction period. There should be at least 100 construction jobs during that whole 4 years. On completion the commercial part of the project will support about 100 permanent employees.

I will build the roads, sewers, traffic signals, roundabouts, parks, community gardens and recreation centers. The town will grant me permission after twisting my arm for a new firetruck and soccer field in addition to the full fire district fees and park fees which are meant to pay for those things. The Town will take credit for the project. The county will not help. The state will not help. Obama will not help. now_what will not help.

I will take money out of my own pocket to supply equity for it. I will borrow for the rest. To borrow I will pledge all of my net worth to the bank - so that if the project fails I'll have nothing left of what i've spent my entire life earning. The town will require that I build more office space than I can lease because a consultant told them it would be good. When I ask them if they'll lease the excess space from me they'll say "of course not. why would we."

The project will suck money every month for the next four years. If all goes well, I might be able to start drawing money out in five years.

What a lovely neighborhood it will be that the 'town' creates
Later, in years to come, i'll sit in a cafe on the square and admire what a lovely neighborhood the 'town' created for it's citizens. And i'll listen to the progressive activists shouting slogans in the square "Eat the rich bastards." "5 percent is indecent!"

C'est la vie.

paraphrasing. Hopefully I've got the gist accurately //the idea that the people [like d'd'd'dave] who really can afford to help more --should not pitch in [because, as you can see from d'd'd'dave's 2:15a comment he just stands by and lets the town do all the work]-- well, it sticks in my craw.//

I wouldn't want your craw to be stuck.

Taking you exactly at your word, d'd'd'dave, I have to ask: why bother with such generosity to ingrates like your town government, or now_what, or me? Why put your vast wealth at risk, instead of retiring on it? Are you some kind of altruistic masochist?

Also for curiosity: is there some reason, selfish or otherwise, why you don't invest your money in some other jursdiction? Some impoverished former steel town, say, where the local government is so hard up that they'd give you tax breaks if not outright subsidies to build your project there?

--TP

publius and hilzoy
in an effort to engage you substantively. I think that the greatest portion of the increase in inequality over the last 15 years is not due to tax breaks for the wealthy. It is due to the erosion in wages that has resulted form the rise of china, india, brazil and other such places who have grown by supplying world class trade goods at cheaper wages than american workers. Is it a policy issue? Yes. But it is not a tax policy issue. It is not a union issue. It is an overall national competitiveness issue. Should there be trade barriers to cure it? I think not. But that is for the policy makers to decide.

I think wage discrepencies vis a vis the world are the root of the rising inequality. The wealthy are not to blame. I believe, as Publius has clearly expressed in this post, Obama is not working from altruistic motives. He is working from a desire to cement political power. He sees the wealthy as a handy scapegoat and he is using them. Progressives like Publius are cheering him on with full knowledge. I'm a little more sympathetic to Hilzoy. I think she's led a sheltered life ensconced in academia for generations. I think she believes policy makers are gods and the rich are idle leeches.

C'est la vie.

I'll spend my life doing what is right whether you guys believe it or not. People like you will benefit from my life more than I will benefit from yours. But you will tell yourselves, and your children, and your students the opposite until you go to your graves in old age.

They have town managers in Singapore, Dave?

typo correction: on 2:15a post it should be 240 market rate units not 40. The entire project is 400 units plus commercial space.

//They have town managers in Singapore, Dave?//

Yes. Have you heard of the Lee family?

There are statistics available regarding pre and post tax income inequality.

If people cared, they could know.

If they didn't care, they could just say whatever supported their biases.

So that's who you took your proposal to?

Hint: if you want to bring up a substantive point, preceding it with an anecdote that is more fiction than fact is not an optimal strategy. Credibility is the coin of the realm. Just saying.

Tony P
//Taking you exactly at your word, d'd'd'dave, I have to ask: why bother with such generosity to ingrates like your town government, or now_what, or me? Why put your vast wealth at risk, instead of retiring on it? Are you some kind of altruistic masochist?//

I do it because I love to build things that please people and improve their lives. It gives me pleasure to see people enjoying neighborhoods I've built. I didn't do it to get rich. I started out doing what I love. I did it well and the money came. More money allows me to do what I love in a bigger and better way. Simple as that.

//Also for curiosity: is there some reason, selfish or otherwise, why you don't invest your money in some other jursdiction? Some impoverished former steel town, say, where the local government is so hard up that they'd give you tax breaks if not outright subsidies to build your project there?//

Real estate is a local business. It takes hands-on management to do a project well and keep it nice. You've all seen projects owned by absentee landlords: The details are shabby, maintenance is behind, commercial spaces stay empty a month or two longer than they should. There is no pleasure in doing schlocky work. It is embarrassing. So I don't want to do it.

Also, if I built a project out of town or in the rust -belt somewhere I couldn't come home every day to spend time with my family. Unless of course I used a private plane. In the first place, that is dangerous. In the second place: private plane users are currently seen as the lowest of the low: fat cat, carbon wasters who spew greenhouse gasses.

LJ
//So that's who you took your proposal to?

Hint: if you want to bring up a substantive point, preceding it with an anecdote that is more fiction than fact is not an optimal strategy. Credibility is the coin of the realm. Just saying.//

WTF? Are you a 15 year-old? You seem to think that any real-life story is bogus or inapplicable to true policy theory. Does policy transcend reality? But you fall all over yourself admiring a story about iraqi widows - stories like that are the height of truth. Is pain the only truth? Everyone lies unless they speak of pain?

//There are statistics available regarding pre and post tax income inequality.

If people cared, they could know.

If they didn't care, they could just say whatever supported their biases.//

Yes. We know that income equality can be engineered through taxation. The point I am making is that the 'disease' is international wage competition. Engineering income equality via tax policy is a mitigation not a cure. It is akin to getting a wheel chair for a person with a broken leg. It is not as good as fixing the leg.

You're changing your story now. Changing it with every post actually. Maybe you're just talking to hear yourself talk. That can be fun.

The point I am making

You're not making any points.

Hint: if you want to bring up a substantive point, preceding it with an anecdote that is more fiction than fact is not an optimal strategy. Credibility is the coin of the realm. Just saying.

right, I thought I was reading a composite of every Business Times article in the U.S.

But he really just wants to tells us how unfair life has been to him:

so that if the project fails I'll have nothing left of what i've spent my entire life earning.

life has given him nothing he has not earned.


C'est la lutte finale/ Groupons-nous et demain/ L'Internationale/ Sera le genre humain.

Ah ! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira /
Quand l’aristocrate protestera /
Le bon citoyen au nez lui rira /
Sans avoir l’âme troublée /
Toujours le plus fort sera.

It gives me pleasure to see people enjoying neighborhoods I've built.

To what degree would your pleasure be diminished if you made less money at it, either before or after taxes?

--TP

Tony P. has put his finger on the heart of the matter. d'd'd'dave wouldn't be making this investment if he wasn't planning to make money from it. The project he is planning sounds great, and, to the extent that he met or exceeded any local requirements governing low income housing, he is to be commended. But beyond that, I have little sympathy for his position.

//
I will take money out of my own pocket to supply equity for it. I will borrow for the rest. To borrow I will pledge all of my net worth to the bank - so that if the project fails I'll have nothing left of what i've spent my entire life earning.
...
People like you will benefit from my life more than I will benefit from yours.

//

I was a United States Marine and during my enlistment I bet my life that I could help keep this country safe without getting killed.

d'd'd'dave, you were able to amass your wealth partly due to the fact that there were people who made sure that you weren't at the mercy of those who would take it away from you (and I mean everyone, from the police to the military, not just myself.) So whether you want to base your grumbling about being made to pay your fair share on what either the risks you take (yours being taken mostly for your own benefit), or what benefit your life was to others (and unless you are doing this development in silicon valley, I ain't getting squat out of it), you might want think about the degree to which your accomplishments were achievable due to the benefits you get from the 300 million of us who take our own risks every day that you never even know about.

You seem to think that any real-life story is bogus or inapplicable to true policy theory.

No, dave/frank. I think your stories are bogus. I mean, you claimed here that you over $500,000 during the last two years, and that taking that as of your income over two years, you should be making around 1.5 million a year. So we are supposed to believe that you are writing us between dealing with your real estate empire because, I don't know, if you convince the commentariat here, it's a much better investment of your time? Pull the other leg, dave/frank.

I mean, you first showed up here as frank and began to lecture everyone about your tax problems. When you got shredded by the people here who actually know about taxes, you stormed off, promising never to darken our guest towels again. (word to the wise: no one uses backslashes to quote. Except you).

Now you are back with even more specious anecdotes (welfare family buying the big screen TV, your drug-dealing renter, and now your munificent urban renewal scheme) and you want to be taken seriously? Even you yourself give up the fact that you are BSing because after your d^d^d^davetown story, you feel compelled to start your next comment off with "in an effort to engage you substantively." Dr. Freud to the red courtesy phone, Dr. Freud to the red courtesy phone.

My advice, clear out your caches and come back under a new identity. Learn to use html tags and dump that ///backslash quote/// tic. And then engage us honestly instead of making up stories and pretending they are real to try and make your point. If you have to hang your point on a story, clearly label it as a hypothetical. But this 'I'm an incredibly wealthy guy whose only outlet to complain about politics is to slum with a bunch of blog commentators' got old a long time ago.

When will Mr. Obama be sending us yellow stars to wear?

[...]

WTF? Are you a 15 year-old?

No. I'm sorry, but no. I call parody troll. And a pretty damn amusing one, I must add. Hats off, ddd...I needed a chuckle this morning.

TripleD-Dave – Generally I agree with you. I’m not at all happy with Obama’s “eat the rich” rhetoric.

OTOH, my sister has received about $1M in medical care over the last few years that clearly saved her life. I’m not doing too badly, but I don’t have that kind of scratch. No one in my family does. Medicaid paid for it. SSI helped with other expenses. Even with that it was still an incredible financial burden on the whole family.

She was only eligible for that because she was already disabled. Had she been “normal” she would have died due to lack of medical care.

I hate taxes as much as anyone, more than most here. But I’ll pay for this. If it’s going to save someone else’s sister Obama can tax me a bit more. He claimed the other night he would not – but he should. I owe it.

Steve, I understand. I'm a homeowner. For every local school budget increase which will necessitate an increase in my properties taxes. I went to public schools, my friends have taught within public schools. I know exactly what they deal with.

I vote yes. Once for my friends, though none are in my district. Once for my history, and the gifts that it has granted me. And once for my future, because the future will not depend on just my skill set, but the skill set of those around me.

It isn't that we love taxes (and I'm speaking rhetorically here), it is that we love the benefits that community efforts bring more than we love the numbers in our bank accounts, we love the good that losing a little can bring to the many. Yes, there's a balance. But everything is a point on finding the golden rule of moderation.

How DARE they excel.

Personally I have no problem with the fact that you, dave, are wealthy. Assuming you are, it sounds like you are.

It sounds like you have worked very hard, put much of your own personal wealth at risk, and built a good business. From what you've said here, it sounds like employ a lot of people, treat them well, and give them a chance to do well for themselves.

I think all of that is great, and you deserve, and should enjoy, everything you've earned. It's actually not that easy to do what you've done.

I also want to say thanks for the charitable contributions you've made, which you mentioned elsewhere.

A couple of things.

First, 'excel' is kind of a weird word to use. Lots of people excel in lots of ways. Business people who excel are rewarded with wealth, other folks who excel at other things may be rewarded in other ways. It's good to be good at what you do, but it brings its own reward. It doesn't earn you any special treatment.

Second, a lot of wealthy people are not wealthy due to any particular excellence on their part. Some inherit it, some get lucky, some gain wealth without creating any particular value for anyone else. Some work in absurdly overcompensated professions. And, some earn every penny.

Third, the level of tax increase that is being discussed in Congress, as opposed to on blogs, is just not going to cripple anybody, nor is it going to prevent any sane person from continuing to invest and create value with their capital.

As an aside, I think your point about wage erosion as a source of income inequality is apt. I'd only add that a lot of increased revenue gained by outsourcing labor has ended up flowing to wealthy Americans in the form of dividends and capital gains. So, its kind of a two-fer.

When will Mr. Obama be sending us yellow stars to wear?

Okay, seriously, how has this guy not been banned yet?

I think she's led a sheltered life ensconced in academia for generations. I think she believes policy makers are gods and the rich are idle leeches.

Not for nothng dave, but this, among other things you've said here, are extraordinarily rude.

hilzoy is an academic. An accomplished academic. Her folks, likewise. Brilliant, accomplished people.

Think that's an easy thing? You couldn't do it.

It's great that you've built a good business. Enjoy it.

Other people have done excellent things as well. Things you could never do.

If you want respect, perhaps you should show some respect. Building a successful business does not entitle you to be an @sshole.

And yeah, the 'yellow stars' thing was freaking over the line. People were made to wear yellow stars so they could be isolated for systematic discrimination and eventually murder.

Obama's looking to ding you 3 or 4 points on your income above a quarter of a million bucks. In return we might just be able to make decent health care available to a few million people.

Get over yourself.

Building 160 units out of 400 at below market rates in California in this market? That's 40% of your product. What city are you in? No city could impose that requirement and survive a regulatory taking challenge.

There are developers who specialize in low-income product; I've even represented a few in the Inland Empire. It's a tremendously complicated business involving redevelopment agencies, federal funding, tax credits and the like.

I've also read that you, 4dave, develop mobile home parks. That's a whole separate business with its own complex set of rules.

I have a sneaking suspicion that there's a lot more going on here than you've let on.

OCSteve: I hate taxes as much as anyone, more than most here. But I’ll pay for this. If it’s going to save someone else’s sister Obama can tax me a bit more. He claimed the other night he would not – but he should. I owe it.

Ah, Steve de Stogumber. Bless.

Russell, I actually don't believe d'd'd'dave is anything but an online performance artist - a troll, I suppose, but in good moods I find him a funny troll. When I'm mellowed out, and all. I don't think he's rich and I very much doubt he has anything to do with housing projects.

No matter who is running health care there is still not enough for everyone. We do not have enough of the best MRI scanners or CT scanners to give everyone the best. Even if we were to order enough of today's best MRI scanners by the time they are delivered there would be a new better MRI, and not enough to give everyone the best.
Here is a question, right now the poor are the most likely to smoke, and the most likely to develop lung cancer because of it. So, do we as a nation pay for lung cancer treatment and support the stupid practice of smoking, or cut off funding for lung cancer for smokers, and preferentially damage the poor?
Colon cancer related to obesity?
Type 2 diabetes?
Health problems related to drug use?
Damages from participating in risky behavior like dirt biking?
How do we hit this in the tax code without hurting anybodies constituencies?

d'd'd'dave 'generously' decides to develop something hoping to make millions out of it and then whines when people notice that his opportunity to make millions comes because there is already a city and functioning government there for him to exploit.

The rich are different from us, they are shameless.

Engineering income equality via tax policy is a mitigation not a cure.

I'm not a huge fan of doing that, either, but fortunately tax policy can be set by any number of other priorities.

To me, people who can just barely afford to feed themselves and their family should not see their taxes go up just because you and I have some idealistic notion of "fairness". People should be wanting to move themselves into a position to pay more taxes, because when they do that, they're at the point where they're actually in a position to accumulate wealth. To me, this is pretty much a no-brainer: you've made it when you're paying enough taxes to bitch about it. You've REALLY made it when you make so much money that your effective tax rate actually goes down, and you can afford to pay other people to bitch about your taxes for you.

We could talk about punitive levels of taxation, but even if Obama bumps up the upper-bracket rate by 5%, we're not even close to punitive. And as has been shown here once or a dozen times, the folks in the upper brackets are paying less taxes, percentage-wise, than you and I are.

Which is why I'm for making all income look pretty much the same as any other income, as far as the IRS is concerned. So: let's not have one rate that applies to all investment income, let's just treat investment income as income, subject to the same rules as any other income. That's not going to generate an enormous increase in revenue, but it will tend to put equity back in the tax code.

And, sure, you can uncap social security. I'd seen a lot of discussion several years back to the effect that removing the income cap would be a neutral effect to SS, because you pays back out what you takes in, but Phil has pointed out (elsewhere) that some respected economists think it'd actually help SS. I'm now at the point where I'd have to see the figures to believe any claim at all about the net benefits/detriments to SS by taking the cap off, but doing so would tend to restore equity, so I have no objections.

Just think of it as your tithe, if that helps.

Now, as I said, publius and I disagree on the surface of the inequality question. I absolutely reject any notion of reparations, fixing past inequities, etc at my own personal expense. But, here's the thing: you absolutely don't want to enact tax policy that penalizes the poor disproportionately, and in a great many ways we're doing that. Let's fix that, and see what happens to income inequality. I'd guess the effect would be anything but sudden, and even in the long term, rather undramatic. But as I said, I'm ok with that. If the poor folks can use that to lever themselves above the bare-subsistence level, win.

Ah yes Chad, blame the victims. If we spend all of our policy capital on preventing the undeserving, we will become petty, and mean spirited.

OCSteve: Where does Obama suggest we "eat the rich"? If he doesn't say that, why do you say that he does? A slight increase in marginal tax rates is not class warfare. It's a needed adjustment based upon current realities.

What's "audacious" about this? It's been SOP for the Democratic party ever since the 'progressive' income tax was invented: Jack up taxes on the minority, so you can convert the majority into net tax beneficiaries, to buy their votes in favor of jacking up taxes on the minority.

It's about as "audacious" as clunking somebody over the head with a rock, and going through their pockets. About as original, too.

slarti for president.

oh, wait, we just got a new president...

slarti for secretary of the treasury. whoever sets tax policy.

whoever sets tax policy.

Hmmm, thinking back to my Schoolhouse Rock days, it occurs to me that this is actually "Congress".

Not a one-man job.

Thanks anyway for a good post, slarti.

Jack up taxes on the minority, so you can convert the majority into net tax beneficiaries, to buy their votes in favor of jacking up taxes on the minority.

Another nefarious plot revealed!

No flies on you, Brett.

D'd'Dave - We could always roll back the tax code about 50-80 years, to when all income over $250,000/year was taxed at 95%(to be clear, the income up to that point was taxed much lower).

You are approaching this as if the current tax rates have always been this way. The tax rates on the upper-most income brackets have definitely decreased from that high rate.

//There are developers who specialize in low-income product; I've even represented a few in the Inland Empire. It's a tremendously complicated business involving redevelopment agencies, federal funding, tax credits and the like.

I've also read that you, 4dave, develop mobile home parks. That's a whole separate business with its own complex set of rules.

I have a sneaking suspicion that there's a lot more going on here than you've let on.//

I don't develop mobile home parks. I bought a 25 acre mobile home park in the heart of my town. I paid everyone to go away. Now I am redeveloping it. Closing a mobile home park - now there is a complicated matter.

People who specialize in affordable product are generally not-for-profit companies who have no equity. They must apply to every agency under the sun to scratch together enough to make a go of each project. [The hidden secret is that their projects cost 35% more per unit to build because they churn away alot of money during the complicated fund raising process.]

There are advantages to putting affordable units in a project. In California measure 1818 and SB 435 provide all kinds of shortcuts for getting a project through the approval process in a hurry. With 20% VLI you can also fund a project with multi-family revenue bonds. The interest rates on credit enhanced daily low floaters is currently below 1%.

Inland empire? I broke ground last month on a senior facility in Palm Desert about a block from the Eisenhower hospital. Check it out. I did one in Chino Hills maybe six years ago and Murrieta about 10 years ago.

[Yes, Tony P, I've done the 'build out of town' thing. I don't like it, but I've done it. I haven't had to travel much myself in recent years. My guys do it.)

Second russell's comment. Slarti, I doubt I have ever agreed more with something you have written.

Regarding 4dDave, I think we should look at his statements at face value, for at least the time being.

Number one, he claims he is building all this stuff. Wrong, people he has hired are doing this. It may seem trivial, but it really isn't. People talk about us wanting to take money away from the wealthy (even though it is a relative small amount), money they have earned.

The problem is how one defines "earned." There is merit in doing all the things 4dDave talks about doing, and it should not be diminshed. But when anyone talks about how much she or he has earned, when most of the money is actually created through the work of others, there can be a disconnect.

4dDave talks about wage depression being in large part due to lower wages overseas. Yet at the same time, US corporations, up until the last 18 months or so, were reporting significant increases in profits, yet individual earnings (except for the top 2%) were stagnant or actually decreasing.

It is not, therefore, as if companies could not afford to increase wages, they just chose not to. And by keeping individual earnings stagnant they decreased, in a way, spending which impacted the economy. They also contributed (I am not saying caused) some of the problems with people being unable to afford mortgage payments.

And to go back to russell's point above, much of the income "earned" by the wealthy is through capital gains, which is taxed at absurdly low levels and for which the "earner" has done little or nothing to agin said income.

You want audacious?

Bailout

$750 billion more for banks? Kind of makes $690 billion over ten years for health care look like chicken feed.

I think that concern for rich people is unwarranted. They're going to be very well taken care of, even by Obama and his crew.

Yes, I was rude to Hilzoy. She has always been the model of decency and respectful discourse.

Hilzoy, I apologize. I was over the top and inaccurate.

What we don't know, Nathan, is what effective tax rates people actually paid back then. Before the computer age, it was probably a lot easier to hide money, particularly before Uncle Sam started putting a hawk eye on cash transactions above a certain amount.

I'd actually be fine with just collecting more tax from those folks in the upper fractional-percentile, before upping their upper-bracket rate. The more of your income you make from investment income, the more the upper-bracket rate doesn't affect you at all.

Unfortunately, fiddling with the upper-bracket rate is much easier than revamping the tax code, and so is probably going to happen first. And once that happens, the tax code will probably continue to accrue badness like a coral reef accumulates new polyps.

I'd also be perfectly ok with throwing out or modifiying things like child tax credits and the like. We just broke into the upper couple of perctentiles of household income over the last five years or so (completely due to the fact that we both work), and as nice as that kind of thing is, we simply don't need it.

Pare down the tax code. Make it simpler. Make it more equitable. I think all of these are possible, simultaneously.

oyster tea
//OCSteve: Where does Obama suggest we "eat the rich"? If he doesn't say that, why do you say that he does?//

OCSteve was responding to me and quoting me.

Dave, you still haven't explained how returning to the tax rates of the Clinton era is an intolerable burden that will prevent you from doing the good you do and that is comparable to eating the rich or subjecting them to a holocaust.

And as others have said, you're not building all these homes by yourself, and if you'd been born in Somalia you wouldn't be in anything like your current position, despite your sterling personal qualities. We're living in a society here!

Thanks for the kind words, russell and John. I'm just kind of working things out.

I bought a 25 acre mobile home park in the heart of my town. I paid everyone to go away. Now I am redeveloping it. Closing a mobile home park - now there is a complicated matter.

http://slacktivist.typepad.com/.shared/image.html?/photos/uncategorized/2008/03/14/mobile.jpg> href="http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2008/03/development.html">

As long as one party owns the home and another party owns the land underneath it, conflicts of fundamental human and property rights will be unavoidable. So, then, change the rules of the game. The solution to a situation in which the land and the home are owned by different people is to create a situation in which the land and the home are not owned by different people. The solution is to create a situation in which those millions of Americans living in trailer parks become the owners of those trailer parks. Fred Clark, being hopeful

More at Slacktivist: class warfare

you'd been born in Somalia you wouldn't be in anything like your current position

Ditto, if he'd been born a zebra. But neither thing happened, so we're kind of relegated to arguing the actual topic at hand.

Since the debate has begun, I'd like to repeat the call to take medical insurance off the human resources desk.

I don't much care how, but its currently a lose lose system for employer and employee.

They just don't belong anywhere near our health records.

Where does Obama suggest we "eat the rich"? If he doesn't say that, why do you say that he does? A slight increase in marginal tax rates is not class warfare.

I was quoting Dave, but everything Obama has proposed is based on taxing the wealthy to pay for it, letting the rest of us off the hook. He has personally been demonizing CEOs, not just lately, but all through the campaign (how many times did he use the line about the country having a moral deficit because CEOs make more in X time then some workers make in X time). Main Street vs. Wall Street, “shameful” bonuses, etc. Of course that is class warfare (IMO anyway).

It’s a little easier for the country to swallow the massive deficit when you assure them that only “the rich” will have to take a hit to pay for it.

I don’t make anywhere near $250k and I just said up thread I’m willing to pay more in taxes to fund healthcare. 5% would be a little rough right now, but 2-3%? Call it a health-care tax and assure me it’s going to fund healthcare and not some boondoggle and I won’t even gripe about it (much).

Since the debate has begun, I'd like to repeat the call to take medical insurance off the human resources desk.

I don't much care how, but its currently a lose lose system for employer and employee.

Yah. I would think that this would be QUITE relevant to the discussion, doncha think?

Ditto, if he'd been born a zebra. But neither thing happened, so we're kind of relegated to arguing the actual topic at hand.

There was nothing "off topic" about that comment. The point is that what any of us are able to earn depends a great deal on the social and economic environments in which we exist and those environments are constructed and funded by the wealth and efforts of lots and lots of other people.

Fwiw: the only reason I brought up my background is that it seems like a data point that's relevant to the question: what motivates people who support Obama? Is it hatred of the rich? In my case, no.

I've never seen the point of wanting rich people to have less, per se. I've always wished that everyone else could have had, for instance, the wonderful education I had, not that I didn't have it.

On the other hand, someone needs to be taxed. And we've been giving huge tax breaks to the wealthiest people in our country for a long time. I think this is bad for the country -- we need a prosperous middle class, and something resembling equality of opportunity -- but also baffling on grounds of fairness.

Jes
I agree with your first 'fred clark' link. I think that is the way to go. In fact it did happen with another mobile home park in my community. The interesting thing about it is that it almost didn't happen because almost half of the residents resisted. The financing and repair needs was going to cause a relatively small bump in rent for them so they resisted.

The only problem with the 'war on wealth' is that 'the rich' aren't actually rich enough to pay for all of the spending. Once the disparity between rhetoric and accounting start to become apparent, the definition of who constitute 'the rich' will undergo revision.

Right now, the party line is that couples making more than $250,000 should pay more taxes. Last year, Joe Biden said it was $150,000. I'd be willing to bet that Ramblin' Joe Biden wasn't just talking out of his ear. After the 2010 election cycle, I think you will hear $125,000 return as the doubleplusgood definition of 'the rich'.

If $125,000 becomes the new $250,000, I think you can also expect a heated Presidential battle in 2012, as moderates and Independents begin to balk at the increasing costs of implementing all of the Progressives' plans.

This entire discussion is really problematic. Why do we give the time of day to people who still, childishly, insist that taxes are an illegitimate form of popular action ("eat the rich", force the rich to pay for the rest of us, creating interest groups where none existed before?) and, further, that a return to historical levels of progressive taxation would be identical to the utter destruction of the wealthiest classes? Its absurd. Obviously, based on historical precedent, much higher rates of taxation on the wealthiest portion of society didn't harm their standard of living at all then, and wouldn't now. Nor did it prevent them from earning more money, or spending their money freely, or spending heavily on charity, or inventing anything (to the extent that they did invent anything). The wealthy, like the rest of us, have the choice of fleeing this country if they don't like the goods, services, and politics their votes buy them. I suggest they do so, if they can, just as they have in the past suggested that people like me leave our country if we don't like its policies. Tax policy isn't really unlike other policies, is it? We arrive at it through a democratic process in which the laws fairly apply to everyone *in a certain income bracket.* Don't want to be in that income bracket? Give your money away, or earn more. Both are equally available options according to the Ayn Randians.

aimai

IWS - Slippery slope arguments are usually better kept as supporting arguments. They aren't convincing as primary arguments because they should be preceded by arguments that show what causes the slippage.

So to make a better case, you'd want to start out by supporting the idea that "'the rich' aren't actually rich enough to pay for all of the spending". Charts and graphs would help. Once you've established that, you'll have a few angles for going after the slippery slope.

The thing is, no one has proposed that the rich pay for all the spending. There are still taxes on everyone else. There are savings from Iraq. There's cap and trade. Etc., etc.

All anyone is suggesting is an attempt to make the tax system slightly fairer. And yet, oddly, this is supposed to reveal a hidden desire to eat the rich.

Question: if you can read hatred of some class of people off tax policy this easily, should I conclude that Republicans hate the poor, and our children, who will be paying for the Bush tax cuts for ages? Or does it only work for Democrats?

i am a NH swing voter.

when candidate Obama said "spread the wealth around" to JTP, i assumed Obama meant opportunity. during the non SOTU i felt an unsettling twinge, when i heard that i would receive a tax cut while my boss and friend would be asked to pay for a lot of overdue social changes. later during the speech, i felt relieved when Obama discussed cutting whole programs to help pay as well. i liked that. the reptilian brain is unpredictable, otherwise, what hilzoy said.


back to lurking
listening to J Tillman

The point is that what any of us are able to earn depends a great deal on the social and economic environments in which we exist and those environments are constructed and funded by the wealth and efforts of lots and lots of other people

True, but pointless. We are who we are; we couldn't ever be anything else. Arguing that there's somehow an alternative to having been anything other than what you have been seems a lot like mental masturbation to me.

Sure, we'd all do well to get the entire context of our lives, but I don't think it's crucial to every single conversation that everyone does that. And at some point, it's useful to grow up and own your own life, and not have to roll credits on the entire history of mankind just to have a conversation about taxes.

I hate taxes as much as anyone, more than most here. But I’ll pay for this. If it’s going to save someone else’s sister Obama can tax me a bit more. He claimed the other night he would not – but he should. I owe it.

OCSteve, I'm not sure if you realize it, but this exact, specific sentiment is a fundamentally liberal outlook on the proper role of taxation for government services.

I don't like taxes myself. I'd love to have that money in my pocket; it's a nontrivial sum and I could use it. But I accept taxes as the price of civilization, and--more to the point--I'm willing to have a little bit less if that's the price for everyone in the country to have health care and a proper safety net.

I know you're hardly a wild-eyed liberal, but I'd like you to spend some time thinking through the logical implications of the line of reasoning that led you to your position on universal health care. See whether and how it applies to other services and safety nets, and the need for them. I'd honestly be surprised if you hadn't had thoughts along that line before, but I'd be interested to hear where they led you.

should I conclude that Republicans hate the poor, and our children, who will be paying for the Bush tax cuts for ages

You wouldn't be the first, if you did that. But for you in particular, we have higher expectations.

Jes
Your second link, class warfare, likens the govt to the employer who pays everyone equally and says 'can't I do what I want with my own money?'

But as I have pointed out repeatedly the govt doesn't pay everyone equally with it's own money. It takes from some and gives to others. It is unequal. e.g: Obama wants 5% to fund a health program for the 95%.

Jesus' parable in Luke 16:1-13 is more apt. In it a servant realizes he will soon lose his job so he uses his masters money to make friends for himself who might help him when he loses his job.

I'm not against health care for poor people. When this bill passes I will pay my taxes. The thing that I continually rant about is the progressive notion it is 'fair'. It is NOT fair. It is just what the majority has chosen to do.

i felt an unsettling twinge, when i heard that i would receive a tax cut while my boss and friend would be asked to pay for a lot of overdue social changes.

What unsettled you? It sounds like you (and Dave) somehow have the idea that the current set of tax rates was handed down on Mount Sinai and any deviation from it is an outrageous break with tradition and call to class warfare. Where does that come from? What is your basis for saying that 35% is the perfect top tax rate, as opposed to 36% or 39%?

"Unfortunately, fiddling with the upper-bracket rate is much easier than revamping the tax code, and so is probably going to happen first."

Slarti, I don't have a link, but I heard on the radio while driving in to work that one of the things Obama is looking at to increase revenue is looking at some of the loopholes regarding deductions and what not, rather than actually raising the taxes.

Since the higher level income people can 1) afford the people who can dig those up and 2) generally have more ways to try to hide their income via deductiosn or exemptions, this would generally hit them the hardest.

At the same time, it might be closer to what you are talking about.

True, but pointless. We are who we are; we couldn't ever be anything else. Arguing that there's somehow an alternative to having been anything other than what you have been seems a lot like mental masturbation to me.

Would that include arguing that people could have made choices other than the ones they made?

Maybe you're right, maybe it's pointless to talk about such things. We should just say that poverty (i.e., hunger, poor health, low opportunity) is the number one cause of human suffering, and enact whatever policies are necessary to eradicate it.

what aimai said.

It is perfectly, totally, false that "Obama wants to take money from five percent to pay for health care for 95 percent." People in this country who have health insurance are *already paying for their health insurance* through co-pays and through outright costs passed on from their employers. If we, as a country, choose to turn to the government and ask the government to take on the role of collecting our health care co-pays and ask the government to take on the role of the insurer/HMO it has literally nothing to do with the taxation of the rich. We are simply choosing to transfer our business from the free market to a government monopoly on health care. And if we further choose to tax *ourselves* in order to include people who are, for one reason or another, temporarily or permanently unemployed, children, and the elderly who should deny us that right? If we tax the rich as well, why not? Did the rich opt out of having children, the elderly, neighbors, and duties to society? Surely they can vote their consciences--too bad if there aren't enough of them to block legislation approved by the rest of the citizenry.

I hasten to add that I am, probably, among the "rich." DH and I live on a paycheck, but my family has money. An estate tax will hit us hard. But that doesn't mean I don't think that a serious estate tax is a bad idea. I don't. Just like I don't think that building roads, schools, hospitals, national defence etc... are not my problem because they benefit other people and not just me.

Can we please, please, please let the "I've got mine jack" fantasists remove themselves to afghanistan or sudan or anywhere else where the low tax/no services nirvana they long for actually exists?

aimai

hilzoy

// oddly, this is supposed to reveal a hidden desire to eat the rich.//

My eat the rich comments were specifically directed at the point Publius made in the post that Obama is purposely isolating the rich for political gains.

You can read the interchange at 1:22a, 1:29a, and 1:41a.

Any quoting of 'eat the rich' later in the thread is out of context.

The thing that I continually rant about is the progressive notion it is 'fair'. It is NOT fair.

You're right, it would be so much fairer if people were continually discriminated against for their entire lives because their parents were badly off.

Each little troll that rants,
Each little pest that whines,
He made their glowing pants,
He made their tiny lines.

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them, high or lowly,
And ordered their estate.

Any quoting of 'eat the rich' later in the thread is out of context.

Yeah, people. Make sure you're referencing the hyperbolic and sarcastic argument that doesn't track the facts presented in the post rather than some other argument.

I've been following this thread with great interest.

Just wanted to say "thanks" to Aimai--that last post was fantastic.

Jes

//You're right, it would be so much fairer if people were continually discriminated against for their entire lives because their parents were badly off.//

Non sequitur.

Yes, god made me. And I try to give back abundantly. I believe that because I have done so more or less earnestly, he has blessed me with a bigger pile to give back abundantly. My cup runneth over, so to speak.

God made you. You can give back abundantly. If God had wanted you to give abundantly from my pile he would've given my pile to you in the first place. Why are you working so hard to give abundantly from my pile instead of your own? I think you should look unto your own house.

He's not isolating the wealthy althouh he may be driving a stake through the heart of the GOP. I'm what you would call wealthy by the normal metrics but buying health insurance for two healthy early sixty year olds at 2400 bucks a month is not a check I like signing. Before I retired I was running a fairly large business and I've been telling people for 20 years that universal healthcare would come at the point that companies couldn't carry on bearing the costs any longer and had reached the limit in the amount they could push onto their employees. We have reached that tipping point. As to the solution I suspect in the short term it's going to look very like the MA state scheme which has proved more costly than expected but has been very successful in enrolment so that most people in the state are now covered. The Republicans problem is they don't have a viable plan that provides universal coverage, eases the burden on business, and provides access at reasonable cost for even those with the dreaded pre existing conditions. McCain's plan had more holes than swiss cheese and didn't begin to address the cost of a package for a normal family of four at about $13,000 let alone access and universality, which is why he could never explain it. The other important distinction to be made is between "paying" and "delivering". Basically delivering is going to remain principally in the private sector while paying is going to be more of a blend of private and public because of the offering of a low cost alternative from Medicare or similar. This is going to happen, it should happen, it's going make a hell of difference in all sorts of areas from labor mobility to making the drug industry competitive. Ultimately, conservatives will come to terms with it just like they did Social Security, Medicare, Votes for women, and Desegregation.

//Yeah, people. Make sure you're referencing the hyperbolic and sarcastic argument that doesn't track the facts presented in the post rather than some other argument.//

Ha. Exactly.

As if I'm the only hyperbolic one.

Slarti - I don't think that comment is at all pointless and it's not about imagining hypotheticals. It's about showing that all of this personal excellence that results in wealth is not personal excellence in isolation. Talk of personal excellence takes away all of the context for that success. It erases all of the connections with the other people that worked and are working to build that context and minimizes any need to acknowledge anything but personal effort.

It's a fantasy, and it leads people to undervalue the contributions of a lot of people who are presumed not to be excelling because they aren't making as much money.

KC is just re-drawing attention to those connections that magically seem to disappear whenever someone tries to link personal virtue and income.

Why is anyone still engaging DDD?

I thought LJ pointed out some fairly damning evidence early on that not only is he not engaging us in good faith, but that his personal stories are fabricated. It occurs to me that DNFTT applies here.

KC

Where does that come from?

where indeed? that was my point of sorts, that voter gut reactions are often unknowable to themselves. i thought i caught a whiff of gamesmanship, and so apparently did publius.

What is your basis for saying ...

none, i have no basis, and furthermore i never made an argument about what rates should be at all... i am merely reminding the conversation that there exist those voters like me, under informed, undereducated and unaffiliated, and like it or not, we decide elections.

True, but pointless. We are who we are; we couldn't ever be anything else. Arguing that there's somehow an alternative to having been anything other than what you have been seems a lot like mental masturbation to me.

No I would say that your point is far less useful then the point john miller raised. When someone talks about what they earn in a way that seems to ignore the conditions that helped to create that wealth it is not "mental masturbation" to point that out. It is a simple hypothetical that points out that the issue of wealth is a complex one. Unless you are prepared to argue that all hypothetical scenarios are off topic then your point that "we are who we are" is entirely meaningless in the context of this conversation.

No I would say that your point is far less useful then the point john miller raised.

Sorry. I meant the point that KcinDC raised.

If God had wanted you to give abundantly from my pile he would've given my pile to you in the first place.

Oh . . . nonsense!

You did not earn your pile by your efforts alone. If you had been born a Nigerien goatherder, would you have that pile today? I think not.

As for God, look at that image on the dollar bill. It's Washington, right? Therefore, render unto God what is God's, and render unto Washington what is Washington's.

//Why is anyone still engaging DDD?

I thought LJ pointed out some fairly damning evidence early on that not only is he not engaging us in good faith, but that his personal stories are fabricated. It occurs to me that DNFTT applies here.//

Hmmmm? Has anyone ever responded to Catsy? DNFTT in action?

Couple-three thoughts:

1. Single payer is coming. Businesses are going to demand it. I don't like it, but there it is, so my view is improve whatever system is proposed.

2. 250k/year is not a lot of money for a family of 4 in a place like Chicago -- particularly if you're self employed and have to pay both sides of the SS tax already.

3. Why are we deciding who is "rich" based on income? Folks who earn a lot of income tend to be folks who worked hard to get where they are and are continuing to work hard .... your doctors, lawyers, and somesuch. Shouldn't soak-the-rich ire be reserved for folks who have substantial assets and don't work?

By the way, I'm not suggesting that going after assets would be a sound tax strategy, only that assets are a better measure of wealth than income.


I'm not against health care for poor people. When this bill passes I will pay my taxes. The thing that I continually rant about is the progressive notion it is 'fair'. It is NOT fair. It is just what the majority has chosen to do.

d'd'd'dave,

I can't speak for all progressives, but to me the rationale behind the fairness of progressive taxation (as distinct from its utility for other reasons such as stabilizing the body politic so as to avoid public upheaval and violence, e.g. the French and Russian Revolutions) comes from looking at money as a means to an end, which is to purchase the goods and services which enhance people's lives and provide them with the opportunity to experience happiness (or avoid misery).

Measured using this frame (an instrumental view of money), what is the marginal utility of income? Does it vary depending on how much you already have? It seems intuitively obvious to me that very broadly speaking the marginal utility of income decreases as one climbs the income curve, as subsistence needs (which tend to be rather urgent in nature) are displaced by consumption for the purposes of social competition.

This is blatantly obvious at the extreme ends of the income curve. For a person who is destitute, a 20 percent decrease in income may be the difference between life and death. For a billionaire, it has little effect on their personal consumption and is mostly a number on a spreadsheet, the loss of bragging rights vs. other billionaires, and a smaller inheritance to be passed on to heirs and/or a smaller philanthropic legacy. In my value system one of those things is conspicuously more painful and distressing than the other, and I'm guessing that we can agree on that point.

I think that perhaps where this consensus breaks down is over the issue of what the marginal utility of income is for the upper middle class (which is where IMHO most of the political fighting over progressive taxation comes from - you just don't hear too many complaints coming from the likes of Warren Buffett and George Soros).

Do you have opinions one way or the other on this? Is there a reason why the loss of 200k to a person making 1 million per year is more or less distressing than the loss of 20k to a person making 100k per year? Is there a reason why marginal utility would decline with increasing income at the extremes but not in the middle? I ask because it seems to me that arguments for or against the fairness of progressive taxation hinge on this issue.

Shouldn't soak-the-rich ire be reserved for folks who have substantial assets and don't work?

Good point. That's why it's ridiculous that capital gains are taxed at a lower rate than income gained through work.

"IWS - Slippery slope arguments are usually better kept as supporting arguments. They aren't convincing as primary arguments because they should be preceded by arguments that show what causes the slippage.

So to make a better case, you'd want to start out by supporting the idea that "'the rich' aren't actually rich enough to pay for all of the spending". Charts and graphs would help. Once you've established that, you'll have a few angles for going after the slippery slope."

According IRS records for 2006 (the most recent year for which they have published records), tax filers making above $200,000 in the United States paid $522,050,059,000 in Federal Income taxes. That is approximately 62.35% of all Federal Income taxes paid. An increase of 4.6% (from 35% marginal rate to 39.6%) would generate an additional $24,014,302,714.

Additional tax increase is being implemented by reducing, by approximately 20%, allowable deductions. In 2006, the total taxable income for the $200,000+ group of tax payers was $2,055,711,912,000. If you allow that the full 20% reduction were to apply, that would only increase taxable income by roughly $411 billion. That extra $411 billion would result in an extra $162.8 billion dollars of tax revenues, assuming that the full marginal tax rate of 39.6% applies to it.

So, even by lowering the tax threshold to $200,000, the increased annual taxes would only be $186 billion. The President is promising hundreds of billions in new spending AND cutting the budget deficit by half. You cannot simultaneously spend more AND cut the budget deficit WITHOUT increasing taxes. The tax increase proposals on 'the rich' (as 'the rich' are currently defined) simply won't generate the necessary revenues to meet those promises.

I hope is able to do everything he is promising, but the numbers don't appear to add up.

As to the assertion that "All anyone is suggesting is an attempt to make the tax system slightly fairer", all I can say is that in 2006, there were 3,853,795 tax returns filed in the $200,000+ tax groups. That is approximately 9% of all taxable returns. That same 9% of filers paid 62.35% of all income taxes in 2006. I'm afraid I don't understand what definition of "fair" is being used. Perhaps someone could point me in the direction the dictionary from which that definition is being pulled.

250k/year is not a lot of money for a family of 4 in a place like Chicago -- particularly if you're self employed and have to pay both sides of the SS tax already.

Its all relative of course, but 250k is an awful lot more than most people earn in Chicago or anywhere else. If the point is that even a small tax hike will not necessarily be painless for such a family then I think that is certainly a reasonable point. But I am quite sure that 250k is several multiple times larger than the median household income in Chicago. By most definitions of "a lot of money," that would certainly count.

"Measured using this frame (an instrumental view of money), what is the marginal utility of income?"

IOW, it assumes that the correct theory of morality is utilitarianism, and act utilitarianism at that. And in so doing, rules out any serious consideration of "rights" as constraints on action.

Just once, I'd like to see some recognition by liberals that act utilitarianism being the one, true theory of morality is NOT a given.

That same 9% of filers paid 62.35% of all income taxes in 2006. I'm afraid I don't understand what definition of "fair" is being used.

Those numbers don't mean much without saying what percentage of all income those filers earned.

"Just once, I'd like to see some recognition by liberals that act utilitarianism being the one, true theory of morality is NOT a given."

Wouldn't the fact that LeftTurn referred to the instrumental view as a "frame" clearly indicate that he/she doesn't consider that view to be a given?

If that doesn't seem clear, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge that act utilitarianism is not a given.

In 2006, the total taxable income for the $200,000+ group of tax payers was $2,055,711,912,000.

Well that would seem to indicate that you could tax that group at 100% - confiscate *all* their income, and it would only account for about 1/5 of our current debt. (10,843,355,058,860.91)

Now that is frightening.

If you had been born a Nigerien goatherder, would you have that pile today? I think not

Yes, of course. Who doesn't get this, please raise your hands. We all have more income and pay more taxes than Nigerian goatherders. We as an entire country have it, nearly to a man, woman and child, better than Nigerian goatherders. Who we have to thank for that, though, are mostly dead people.

Maybe there's something I don't get about this argument, if you can even call it an argument, but it doesn't seem to actually make a point. If the point is that we're fortunate to be where we are, WHO IS ARGUING COUNTER TO THAT?

I'm not saying that this is something that Must Not Ever Be Mentioned, I'm wondering why it keeps getting brought up as if it were some sort of counterargument. What's it countering?


As usual our friend from ABQ nails the point. If happiness is log(money), then a progressive tax system is a flat tax system.

I wanted to expand on something else:

" ... It's about showing that all of this personal excellence that results in wealth is not personal excellence in isolation..."

Yes. I read Atlas Shrugged a long time back, but only recently did it occur to me - Why is the businessman Atlas? Why isn't the scientist or engineer Atlas? Why isn't the blue-collar guy working a 12-hr shift and doing a great job an 'Atlas'?

I suspect society would grind to a Soviet-like halt if employees in general only did as much as they had to, to avoid getting fired.

I think there are a lot of heroes out there.

Brett: your word is my command! I'm a Kantian. I think that utilitarianism, act- or otherwise, is wrong. I have thought so ever since my first intro ethics course.

Good thing that confiscating 100 percent of the taxes of those people isn't in the plan. But too bad that we ran up all that debt under Bush without having any plan at all. The debt exists. And will continue to exist. Until we pay it off, or retire it. Right now the repbublican party has no plans to do so. Not adding to the debt isn't the same thing as dealing with it responsibly. Not adding to the debt at this particular moment is simply analagous to a robber taking all the money from the house and then turning around and lecturing the homeowner when they have to take a payday loan to cover expenses.

And I agree with david kilmer "I acknwoledge that act utilitarianism is not a given." In fact, I'm not even interested in it. My morality is independent of utilitarianism. I think we should tax all the citizens in this country according to their ability to pay because its *more moral* to do so. I think citizens who refuse to pay their taxes, or who fradulently and maliciously hide their assets, aren't citizens and should lose voting rights and residence rights. Because that's the moral approach.

aimai

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