Monday, August 15, 2011

Quote of the Day

"While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks... My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice."

-- Warren Buffett in a New York Times op-ed called "Stop Coddling the Super-Rich"

This is absolutely required reading -- and it should be circulated far and wide. The question is, at what point will the sociopathically obstinate Republicans listen? At last week's Fox News-hosted Clown Car Debate, every single GOP presidential candidate taking part raised his or her hand when asked the following question: "Say you had a deal, a real spending cuts deal, 10-to-1... spending cuts to tax increases... Who on this stage would walk away from that deal? Can you raise your hand if you feel so strongly about not raising taxes, you’d walk away on the 10-to-1 deal?" Once again, all eight candidates raised their hands.

I said it last week but it bears repeating over and over again: These people don't work for you. They're not the least bit interested in representing you. If you're not wealthy, or a major corporation, they couldn't give a crap about you.

And don't even get me started on the audacity of another squinty-eyed, hyper-Christian, pretend cowboy from Texas taking a run at the White House three years after the last one left -- and left the country in financial ruin.


howdidIgethere said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tristan Ohmacht said...

Warren Buffett has become to the Left what Donald Trump is to the Right.

A clown.

If I had a nickel for every time I've read "pay their fair share" on the Internet over the past couple of weeks, I'd be one of those guys those words are aimed at.

I just find it very difficult to fathom how the wealthy and our corporations are not paying their fair share when they're paying over 85% of our total federal taxes.

What's fair?


Or should the federal government increase spending dramatically and then subsequently increase taxes on the rich to pay for all the new giveaways?

Is that what people mean by "fair"?

I'm interested in hearing others' opinions on the subject.

Steven D Skelton said...

Couple of thoughts pop into my head.

1. The government needs revenue to function...we can all agree there. Our government has chosen to tax wages at the highest rate, investment next and finally wealth. Because of the recession, the country's wages have fallen. To keep tax receipts at the 21-23% of GDP necessary, something has to change. It is poor leadership to take a pledge to do nothing about this problem.

2. Shared sacrifice is bullshit. Let's keep in mind that the poor, and largely the middle class (with children) don't pay federal income tax. Many receive a larger "refund" than they paid in in the first place. I'm a self employed business owner, and I write checks to the federal government for about 30k per year.

Now, I'm not one of the "rich" that they are talking about hitting for more taxes, but I feel a bit of kinship. I would just like an acknowledgement that one man sending in more to the government and another man taking less from the government is not a "shared sacrifice."

Chez said...

I don't have time today to fully debate this, but a couple of points: First of all, Steven, I have no idea where you're getting that the middle-class aren't paying federal taxes -- or were you specifically talking about those among the middle-class with children? Either way, that's ludicrous. Equally absurd, Tristan, is the comparison between Buffett and Trump. Really? You honestly want to say something like that and stand by it?

I realize that this will likely be dismissed as politics rather than genuine math, but Robert Reich helps spell it out:

"Over the past three decades, the distribution of income in America has become wildly out of whack. Despite an economy that's twice as large as it was 30 years ago, the bottom 90 percent of Americans remain stuck in the mud. If they're employed, they're earning on average only about $280 more a year than 30 years ago, adjusted for inflation. That's less than a 1 percent gain over more than a third of a century.

Yet even as their share of the nation's total income has withered, the tax burden on average workers has grown. They're shelling out a far bigger chunk of incomes in payroll taxes, sales taxes and property taxes than 30 years ago.

It's just the opposite for the superrich.

Over the last three decades, the richest 1 percent's share of national income has doubled (from 10 percent in 1981 to well over 20 percent now). The share going to the richest one-tenth of 1 percent has tripled.

And they're doing better than ever. The median pay for top executives at 200 major companies was $9.6 million last year, topping pre-recession highs. Total compensation on Wall Street hit a record $135 billion. The heads of the top 25 hedge funds made almost $1 billion each.

Yet, remarkably, tax rates on the very rich have plummeted. From the 1940s until 1980, the top income-tax rate on the highest earners in America was at least 70 percent. In the 1950s, it was 91 percent. Now it's 35 percent. Even if you include deductions and credits, the rich are paying a far lower share of their incomes in taxes than at any time since World War II.

The estate tax (which hits only the top 2 percent) also has been slashed. In 2000 it was 55 percent and kicked in after $1 million.

Today it's 35 percent and kicks in at $5 million. Capital gains - comprising most of the income of the superrich - were taxed at 35 percent in the late 1980s. Now they're taxed at 15 percent.

If the very rich were taxed at the same rates they were a half-century ago, they'd pay a whopping $350 billion more this year alone. That's trillions of dollars over the next decade -- enough to dramatically reduce the nation's long-term budget deficit."

No one's trying to punish success, but this country is facing a very serious economic crisis right now -- and it would be terrific if everyone whose vast fortunes are owed at least in part to the freedoms the United States provides stepped up and did everything within their means to help. Regardless, when looking at the big picture, it's obscene to make the argument that the current Republican model favors the vast middle-class over the wealthy -- or even places the two on the same level -- and it's been proven handily over the last couple of decades that trickle-down economics works out very well for the people at the top and not very well at all for those being trickled on.

Tristan Ohmacht said...

I understand you have to time for a debate, as this one especially could sink really deep.

But you posted a long, rambling opinionated statement made by a left-leaning political economist.

I posted a fact.


I ask again to you and everyone who claims the wealthy don't pay their fair share: How is 85% not fair?

I'm asking sincerely, as I believe this is a fact many progressives are missing or just don't realize.

Steven D Skelton said...


You say it's ludicrous, but I see it every day at my office.

We require tax returns for all of our clients. All it takes is a couple of kids and you can make up to 40-50k per year and pay zero in federal income taxes. You still pay FICA, but your FIT rate is zero. Have a couple more kids or a nice mortgage interest deduction, and that same person receives back more than was withheld. The best way to it though is to be complete deadbeat, underclass breeding machine. That will result in about 3k of free money every year, per kid, just from the IRS.

Being a non-custodial parent, you get fucked pretty hard in a lot of of which is that that lovely little daughter (love the new picture..did you take that) of yours is a tax goldmine for your ex.

Regarding Reich....his own numbers prove that even taxing the rich won't come close to solving our problem. His number, 350 billion, comes nowhere close to fixing our deficit of between 1000 billion and 1500 billion depending on who you listen to.

Chez said...

Tristan, first of all I'm not sure where you got the 85% figure; even if I take you at your word on that, it's interesting that your math is math and someone else's is a long, rambling screed from a left-leaning economist. Regardless, the very rich and even mildly rich in this country are now holding a grossly inequitable portion of our wealth thanks in part to public policy that has benefited them greatly, ergo it would make sense that they shoulder a hell of a lot more tax burden than the other 90% or so of America.

But here's the thing: When it comes to the so-called "tax burden" most people don't generally think of what's shared -- only what they themselves are paying out. You can dispute all you want that the tax burden on the rich has risen or remained steady over the past few decades -- certainly relative to other groups -- all you'd like, but you'll be wrong.

Here's a fact for you:

"The total effective federal tax rate for the top 0.01 percent of earners — that is, the top 1/10,000th of earners, a group that began at $8.6 million in annual income — was 31.5 percent in 2005. It was the lowest such tax rate since the mid-1980s. In 1979, the total federal rate for the top 0.01 percent was 42.9 percent. This data, from the Congressional Budget Office, exists only for 1979 to 2005. But other research suggests the rate on the very wealthy was higher before 1979.

These statistics are talking about the actual taxes people pay on average, not the marginal rates that apply to only some parts of their income.

So from 1979 to 2005 the average federal tax rate for the very highest-earning families fell 11.4 percentage points. For the bottom 80 percent of earners, the rate fell only 4 percentage points, and the drop was fairly equal across different sections of this bottom 80 percent."

What should also be considered is that the massive amount of wealth that a small percentage of this country has been able to accumulate, once again due at least partially to policy that favors the wealthy, means they should in fact be paying more in taxes. They should be footing a huge tax burden.

Chez said...

By the way, I still think you shot yourself in the foot at the very beginning with your comparison of Buffett to Trump, but that's nothing more than an opinion on your part and you're absolutely entitled to that.

Chez said...

And sorry for the typos and extra words in the above couple of comments -- I'm writing quickly today and vanishing as of now. Have a good one everybody.

Stephen said...

The greatest trick Chez ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. And like that, poof. He's gone.

Captain AssClown said...

If the Tristan Ohmacht Circus ever comes to my town I'm not going, no matter how tall the big top is and no matter how tasty the popcorn, because his clowns will be far too reasonable and sane for my taste.

Anonymous said...

Tristan, what income group are you using for your 85% figure? Without disclosing the income brackets, percentage of the population, and percentage of overall wages this group makes up, the 85% figure is somewhat meaningless.

If 85% of our tax revenue is coming from a group that makes >=85% of the total income of the country, it's a whole lot different than if that group only makes 10% of the total income.

It is unfortunate how easy it is to cherry-pick statistics for either side of the argument.

For example, on the other side of the argument, I can site the income tax figures for the top 400 wage earners.


You may take note on page 10 of 13 that in the most recent year tallied, 2008, the top 400 earners had an effective tax rate of 18.11%.

A group of 400 people who collectively made almost 275 million on average effectively paid a lower percentage of their income in taxes than I did, and I earn several thousand times less than that.

kanye said...

Buffet's piece reads as apologia, couched in patriotism, no less:

Don't hate me because I'm rich. I'd love to pay my fair share if only the government would ask me. Go troops!

If Warren Buffet believes that he should be paying more, then why doesn't he just do that?

Cut a check to the Treasury Department. They'll take the money; people have done this in the past and the USTD always cashes the check.

If you chart the BLS's income numbers, what you'll find is that over the last 30 years, the incomes of the bottom ten deciles, 0%-99% of the population inclusive, are dead flat. In other words, 99% of the people in this country haven't gotten a raise, or more correctly, accumulated any wealth, over the last 30 years.

Chart the income of the top 1%, however, and it's like looking at K2, in profile.

What Buffet so conveniently leaves out of his article is the reason that 99% of our incomes have remained flat over the last 30 years: because he and his ilk have been busy gobbling up the income that would have normally been distributed in a more equitable, democratic fashion.

This is S.O.P. for Warren Buffet: He spends 48 weeks/year living in San Fransisco and yet claims that he lives in Omaha; he spends 30 years exploiting the public's treasures, and then has the temerity to blame the government for allowing that exploitation, as if the option to change his behavior simply didn't exist.

The real tell in Buffet's piece is the following sentence: I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them.

These are the same people who spend $1,000 on a pair of gym shoes, five grand on a handbag, jet off to Paris for lunch and Rome for dinner; the same people who think nothing of buying collars for their dogs that cost more than the annual income of the average family of four.

I don't begrudge anyone their wealth or how they choose spend it, but in a country where 59 million people go to bed hungry every night; where half of all children will, at some point in their lives, be on food stamps; where schools are crumbling; where over 100,000 of its citizens die unnecessarily every single year, anyone with a nine or ten digit bank account who chooses to afford themselves these kind of indulgences certainly doesn't get to wear the mantle of "thankful American", and by no stretch of the imagination can they be considered decent.

Mart said...

Yes a very small percentage pay 85% of the Federal Income Tax. And yes, while giving huge cuts to the richest 10%; Bush and Obama threw a few bones at the voting middle class, so middle class federal family taxes have dropped significantly.

Under Obama's proposal if your net income after deductions is $300,000 your taxes go up less than $2,000. If you make more than that, what do you care? You should do your part while the Nation's soldiers fight for our freedom. (We spend almost as much on defense as the rest of the world combined.)

The percentage of federal revenue collected to the GDP is the lowest in sixty years.

After the rich blew up the World's economy we bailed them out with over $20 trillion and let them collect bonuses and no new taxes.

They now ditch America for growth in Asia. They get tax breaks to move factories to Asia. They get free trade agreements that gut domestic manufacturing, eliminate a source of revenue (tariffs) and drive down domestic wages. They would rather promise China we will pay off their Treasury Bonds; and steal the money from those of us who purchased trillions worth of bonds through their Social Security taxes. (It is not broke, Reagan and Greenspan raised taxes on boomers thirty years ago; they just don't want to give us our money back.)

And now, as demonstrated by the "rich pay too damn much" comments, they sic different segments of the middle class and poor against one another. The lie that 47% pay no taxes is brilliant, as folks will wonder who the bastards are that are getting away with paying nothing. They take away defined benefits and retirement health care from the private sector, and replace it by stuffing money in their pockets through 401K fees and dumping patients onto Medicare. Then they sic these private sector folks against the unions that still have some of these benefits.

Capt Clown said...

This is a topic that allows people to negate their own supposed viewpoints in the same paragraph.

Either that, or I'm not sure KANYE knows the definition of Begrudge:

KANYE: "I don't begrudge anyone their wealth or how they choose spend it... ...anyone with a nine or ten digit bank account who chooses to afford themselves these kind of indulgences certainly doesn't get to wear the mantle of "thankful American", and by no stretch of the imagination can they be considered decent."


Riles said...

The notion that Buffett or other individual rich people should write a check to the gov't is baseless. They are abdicating a change for equal taxation across the board. One man's check isn't going to solve the problem. But billions more in tax revenue from bringing the effective tax rate to a level playing ground will help.

John Foley said...

"I don't begrudge anyone their wealth or how they choose spend it, but if they spend their money in a way that I don't approve of they lose the right to call themselves human beings."

Fixed it for you, Kanye.

kanye said...

I have to admit, Capt Clown, you’ve got me wondering. “Begrudge” is a word that I’ve used since childhood. Maybe I have allowed its meaning to become distorted over time. Let me pluck Webster’s off the shelf and take a look:

Begrudge: 1: to give or concede reluctantly 2a: to look upon with reluctance or disapproval b: to take little pleasure in: to be annoyed by 3: to envy the pleasure or enjoyment of--

Nope…that’s exactly what I thought it meant.

Your pronouncement that my argument negates itself is based upon the presumption that I don’t condone this type of behavior.

I live in a country where individuals have the right to accumulate massive amounts of wealth, and to spend that wealth however they see fit. I live in a society where the accumulation and enjoyment of massive wealth is not only tolerated, but quite often, lauded.

I possess the means to leave this country, but I remain. I could withdraw from society, but instead I choose to participate. By my actions, by my very life, I condone this behavior.; not begrudgingly, but willingly.

What I don’t condone is the purposeful obfuscation on the part of the ultra-wealthy in misrepresenting the motivations (avarice, greed, gluttony) that lie at the foundation of their behavior, or their feigned ignorance as to the societal results of engaging in that behavior. They are Hungry Ghosts, insatiable in their appetites, and it’s that very act of sating those appetites that has led to our current circumstances. Warren Buffet tells us that the problem is that “they” don’t give enough back, when the real problem is that “they” take too much.

And when you view that behavior in context, contrast it against the lacking, the need and the suffering that exists in this country, there’s no way that their actions can be described as those of thankful Americans or decent people.

It’s not the act that I begrudge; it’s the dishonesty. If their going to do it, then at least have the balls to own it.

A fine line? Sure, but still a line. “One mind, opposing thoughts.”…You know the quote.

If I had to guess,…and I don’t, but I will…I’d guess that you read what I wrote as emotional outpouring: It’s not. It’s a clinical assessment, and that you didn’t understand that speaks solely to the inelegance of my writing.

I’ll try to do better next time, Capt.