Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Who pays and how much?

Virginia A. over at the Dems blog goes on a rant about, "2 Americas: The Rich vs. The Super Rich." This is the part that really struck me:

Of course she cited the well known Republican myth that the rich pay more taxes than everyone else. I attempted to bust this myth, explaining that the reason the
upper middle/lower wealthy classes pay high taxes is because the really rich are
paying very little (or nothing at all) in taxes and that corporations are evading their dues altogether.

But Virginia, i have a question for you.

If you believe that the wealthy should pay a larger percentage of taxes, shouldn’t you argue for the system of taxation that is most effective in achieving that goal? Here are two tables from a NRO article that come from the Congressional Budget Office. And, for the record, I went through and checked all the numbers, they are right. Aviod the temptation to dismiss my post because i cite a conservative magazine and just focus on the numbers from the CBO. The first column comes from the 2004 Income Category in Table 3 (2000 law) under “Effective Individual Income Tax Rate” (p. 19) and the third comes from the 2004 Income Category in Table 4 (current law) under “Change in Effective Individual Income Tax Rate” (p. 20) and the middle column is extrapolated by adding the first column to the third (2000 law + difference b/t 2000 Law and 2004 law = 2004 law).



So as many other people love to point out, Bush’s tax cuts give the wealthiest 1% the largest tax break. This point cannot be argued. But look at how the tax cuts effect the tax-burden, which is what we really care about. The data for the first column comes from the 2004 income category in Table 3 (2000 Law) under “Share of Individual Income Tax Liabilities” (p. 20) and the third column comes from table 4 (current law) under “Change in Share of Individual Income tax Liabilities” (p. 21). Again, the second column in the table below is extrapolated from the other two.



Now, I am not making a normative judgment on the tax cuts all, all I am saying is this: If you support, and more importantly, want a system of taxation that is proportionally supported more by the wealthy then by the poor, then what is your argument against the tax cuts for Effective Income Tax (all the other tax cuts aside) seeing how it increased the share of taxes paid by the Top Quintile by 3.8% and decreased it for all other groups?

37 comments:

Nigel Tufnel said...

You beat me to it Marco...and I had all these spiffy graphs and charts to refer too.

Anyway, I think that the data you took from the cbo pretty much clears up the idea that the tax burden falls on the poor and that Bush's tax cuts accelerated that (the data obviously shows the opposite happened). I wanted to comment on assertions made about corporate taxes. First, recent unexpected increased revenues in corporate taxes have been the reason for upward adjusted deficit totals over the past few months. That's available at some of the monthly budget tables which I'll link to in a line or two. As for corporations doing nothing however, that a pretty unfair argument considering that corporate tax has continued to take on a good chunk of the burden as time has went on. Here's a link to cbo data over tax revenue sources over the past 30 years or so http://cbo.gov/showdoc.cfm?index=1821&sequence=0#table3 . You'll notice that corporate revenue in 2004 made up almost 10 percent of total tax revenue, and was actually probably a little more than the amount of taxes the bottom 50% of the population pays in income taxes (the bulk obviously comign from social insurance and the top 50%). Furthermore, as I promised, corporate tax revenue continues to grow (though this is partially attributable to expansion) and is doing so at a rate which eclipses the growth in income tax revenue (which is pretty strong in itself) by a substantial amount http://cbo.gov/showdoc.cfm?index=6337&sequence=0 .

Finally according to the IRS, there is even more proof for Marco's argument that the income tax burden falls on those who earn more and continues to move in that direction. Looking at these tables http://www.irs.ustreas.gov/pub/irs-soi/01in01ts.xls what should strike one the most is the last table which shows what percentage of total tax a group is paying. 96+% is paid by the top 50% and 80+% by the top 25%. Extrapolating from 2001 this falls into line with the argument that the only way the top 20% could be paying >80% is by a movement in their direction which benefits the lower stratas. If that's not enough a quick look at Adjusted gross income floor on percentiles in current dollars shows that the floor for those higher tax brackets actually becomes lower (and substantially so as you go to higher incomes) until you reach outside of teh top 10% mark. Therefore, more people are qualifying as part of the 10% and top 1% tax brackets despite making less money. Conversely, the floors are increasing for lower brackets, thus essentially giving exceptions to more people. I don't know how you can honestly read into this and say the poor bear most of teh burden in taxes.

Nigel Tufnel said...

Marco, I guess Virginia could make an argument that the social insurance taxes unduly place an extra burden on the poor (though matching contributions by employers should then work in the guise of a corporate tax and the bottom 50% probably don't pay more than 25% of total social insurance reciepts [a rough eyeball number]). In that sense however, I doubt that even when adding what is a proportional though somewhat regressive tax to total income tax levels that the numbers will change too substantially. Roughly eyeballing the numbers, (because i'm too lazy to use a calculator for a best estimate), taking into account the sources of social insurance, income tax and corporate tax reciepts it looks like the bottom 50% of tax payers probably pay less than 15% of all taxes.

marco said...

The evidence is pretty abundant; I think you clear up the issue of corporate taxes quite well too.

What I was going for in my post is that I think the progressive position should be for tax cuts (it has a nice ring to it too, “Progressives for Tax Cuts”). I chose to focus on Bush’s tax cuts because they are so salient in people’s minds but the same thing happened with Kennedy’s and Reagan’s. Not to mention that the opposite happens when taxes are raised.

I think the problem is that people forget what the goal of progressive taxation is – to make it so that people who are better off are paying a larger proportion of taxes. Now if soaking the rich achieved this goal I would understand why progressives support it, but it doesn’t.

Too often people equate soaking the rich as the goal of progressive taxation.

Anonymous said...

"The real basis for the U.S. tax code is the federal government taxes absolutely everything that it can, but responds to the abilities of powerful individuals and corporations to leave the system. This results in a maximum tax rate, not for the rich, but for the upper middle class, and a maximum tax rate, not for the nation's largest corporations, but for the medium sized ones.

An extremely obvious example of this is the corporate tax schedule. Corporations making over $18,333,333 pay 35% of their marginal taxable income to the federal government. Corporations making less money, for example $15,000,000, pay a larger fraction of their marginal income to the federal government, 38%.

The system is similar for individuals. I have the income of an average American taxpayer. On a marginal basis, I pay 25% of my income to the federal government, 6.75% to the state in which I live and 6.2% to the social security system and 1.45% to Medicare, putting me in about the 40% marginal tax bracket. Bill Gates' tax bracket is well below 15%. Bill Gates and most wealthy Americans make the majority of their money off of capital gains, not earned income.

The maximum long-term capital gains tax rate is 15% and this is only paid when stocks are sold. The net effect is Bill Gates', and other Billionaire's, wealth grows largely tax-free while people whose primary source of income is labor pay 40% or more of their income to the government in taxes."

http://www.mises.org/story/1796

marco said...

Just to make sure that people realize that the Mises article ends like this:

"Another solution, which I strongly favor, is lower taxes for everyone, especially the middle class. After all, the US currently has an higher individual tax rate than most every former communist society, including Russia and Vietnam. Surely we can do better."

Sounds good to me.

Nigel Tufnel said...

just a short reply to anonymous..

it's true that because the cuts in the capital gains tax (which were nearly identical to those proposed by Kennedy and Gingrich) are based upon an argument for equity, there is seemingly an advantage for those like bill gates who make most of their income of capital gains as opposed to labor derived income. However, when you get down to say your situation of a person or family earing 100000 you do have the benefit of writing off expenses. Depending on the interest on your house, car and other expenses you can in some cases bring your income tax rate down to about essentially 10-15%. Furthermore, for those who earn smaller amounts off of capital gains expenditures there are also even trade clauses and reinvestiment benefits which have been enacted by the recent tax cut legislation which are more readily used by those in the middle class and upper middle class than by the super rich. Overall, the rich will still be able to keep a boatload more money because of teh capital gains rate as opposed to say the income tax rate, but thats just one of the consequences of a theory of a concentration on equity and fairness on one time expenditures.

As for marginal rates on corporate taxes, unless a company is right near the cutoffs, the general advantage in terms of percentages is offset, at least in the government's eyes, by the pure dollar difference in tax revenue.

Virginia said...

Who said I believe that the rich should pay more? Did you actually read what I wrote? My point was that the rich are paying a lower percentage than ANYONE else. A smart Democrat once told me that a flat tax would be a great idea because then rich people would actually pay taxes. Bush paid 18% in income taxes while Heinz-Kerry, who owns a corporation, paid only 13%. Even Bush himself said rich people know how to evade taxes, why don't you follow your Fuhrer.

marco said...

So are you for or against tax cuts?

Is it the percentage that matters or the nominal amount that is brought in?

And for the record this is the libertarian blog, not the college republican's, we have as much beef with Bush as you do.

Nigel Tufnel said...

Who said I believe that the rich should pay more? Did you actually read what I wrote? My point was that the rich are paying a lower percentage than ANYONE else. A smart Democrat once told me that a flat tax would be a great idea because then rich people would actually pay taxes. Bush paid 18% in income taxes while Heinz-Kerry, who owns a corporation, paid only 13%. Even Bush himself said rich people know how to evade taxes, why don't you follow your Fuhrer.


from your post on the dems blog:
The middle class pays 30%, Bush, who is rich pays 18% and Heinz-Kerry, the richest of the three and an owner of a corporation paid the lowest percent in taxes.


There's no need to resort to name calling Virginia. Let's objectively look at the facts though. We've debunked the claim that the burden falls on the poor regarding income taxes, as well as the claim that nobody pays corporate taxes (total corporate taxes paid [and that's not counting income tax paid by the ceo's and shareholders of those companies] is more than all of the taxes paid by the bottom 50%) because they're all corrupt crooks.

Now lets get to your claims, which I don't see any basis for. You claim that Theresa Heinz Kerry 'owns' a corporation and only paid 13%, that Bush only paid 18% and that the middle class pays 30% so i must obviously be a corrupt, stupid republican (marco's a libertarian, though i doubt you'll care in this matter) to not see that something is wrong.

First, you're making a very simplistic assumption which is incredibly silly, namely that the middle class does pay 30% in every case and that Bush or Theresa Heinz being 'rich' somehow invalidates any legitimate reason why they may pay only 13-18 percent. Now I'm assuming you have a family which pays income taxes. Your family may fit into a certain bracket, lets assume they make somthing around 100k. Now when you file your tax return you can file for exemptions based upon your expenses. Thus, the goverment gives you a break if you're paying interest on your mortgage, car, etc. Consequently, many of those in the 'middle class' can usually use expenses to reduce their income tax to essentially about 10-15%. As you go to lower bracket, expenses can reduce the numbers to even smaller percentages. Consequently, most of those from the bottom quintile to the middle quintile probably don't pay more than the capital gains tax rate.

Income tax is also only a tax on recurring income. That's why Bush probably only pays about 13% (I don't know what that number includes though- is that his actual rate on income tax after he filed or is it total he paid in taxes compared to his gross income?). His actual income is only about 400k a year and the interest he earns on money he has saved with an extra 50k or so of non taxable income to defray expenses related to his official duties. It's then not very hard to assume that his expenses are probably the reason why the total tax rate is so low considering that he hasn't made any declarations which recently which indicated a sale of some of his investments (thus incurring capital gains income). I assume you don't support taxing accumulated wealth (taxing interest on it does occur) as that's essentially stealing.

With Theresa Heinz the story is a little different. She certainly pays a much higher percentage on personal income tax but she probably generates more income through investments. Those then probably fall under the capital gains rate of 15%. The reason for this is because they are intended for One-Time expenditures and aren't a consistent, recurring source of revenue. Consequently, the capital gains tax doesn't work incrementally like income tax. Anonymous and my response to anonymous actually talk quite a bit about capital gains tax and I suggest you read that. That's why Theresa's payments probably don't seem that great. This all obviously probably avoids the corporate tax and matching social insurance that Theresa probably has to pay, but then again, I doubt you'd be interested in that.

Now as for your juvenile potshots, which aren't supported by nearly as much evidence as we've provided, its possible that Bush and Theresa Heinz do pay less as a percent in some ways than some members of the middle class (though you're probably ignoring matching social insurance, corporate tax and other smaller taxes), but overall we've given tons of data which indicates otherwise (that the rich pay far more of total govermnet revenue, that those on the lower end are paying lower and lower percentages) with regards to personal income tax. Pulling out roughshot analysis of how Bush and Theresa Heinz may pay a smaller percentage according to numbers without dong an ounce of research isn't very convincing when we have every bit of government data saying the opposite.

If on the other hand you're suggesting that we should catch those who evade taxes illegally, I agree. Then again, if you're making unsubstantiated claims against Bush and Theresa Heinz, that's not very fair. Meanwhile, you should probably take a look at the prior posts as we've already discussed your points thoroughly and even some you didn't list.

marco said...

My question centers on the fact that while it may be true that the rich pay a lower percentage, that may actually contribute to them paying a higher percentage of total tax revenues because of the increases in the nominal amount they pay.

This is way i suggest that supporting tax cuts may be the progressive thing to do in that it increases the percent of the tax burden paid by the wealthy.

Nigel Tufnel said...

Marco...you're about that close to saying 'supply side' and 'demand side'...heh.

Virginia said...

So you all assume that Democrats want the rich to pay more taxes because we are mean and envious. Well being from a fairly well off family, why would I advocate higher taxes for myself? One of the goals of the Democratic Party is to have a fair economic system, so that billionaire CEO's who pay their employees a poverty wage can pay the tax system which gives them food stamps and health insurance because they are too greedy to do so. None of you know what poverty is but to have it in America is a disgrace, and one of the reasons we have poverty is because of Greedy CEO's like the Wall Mart Family. Shouldn't these CEO's pay for the benefits they are receiving in this country, such as the opportunity to exploit their workers, pollute the environment and give people cancer, have the opportunity to enjoy the freedom of this country, the post office, the fire department, etc? Sarcasm aside, I think taxes are a pittance to pay for the lifestyle middle class and many wealthy Americans, including myself, live. However, unlike the middle and upper classes who are forced to pay taxes since they are employed by others, CEO's and other top individuals don't need to be employed and no employer fills out W2 forms for them. They make the rules, they buy Tom Delay and everyone else off (Democrats included...as in the Bankruptcy Bill), and they avoid paying taxes. Why is it fair that some people pay taxes while those who are better off can get away with it? Do you believe that a few people should own all the money and everyone else should be their slaves because that's where Bush's policies are taking us. The Times article and tax information is a wake up call that even the upper middle class and the relatively wealthy are not safe from this consolidation of wealth, i.e. the rich are taking control of all the capital. So you say that Bush's tax cuts force the rich to pay more in taxes, well obviously, because they're taking control of more money, get it? The more money someone has the more they pay in taxes, they can evade some of it, but not all of it. So if you are asking me am I happy that the wealthy are paying more taxes? No I don't give a damn how much they are paying and no it would not make me happy if they owned all the money in this country and then had to carry the entire tax burden. But apparently that's what you want. Who do you think deserves more money, a teacher, a police officer, a firefighter, or someone who has billions of dollars, has his stock broker invest it wisely and has managers run his businesses while he evades his taxes and lounges on the beach all day long? Don't tell me people like those don't exist because I have a ton of relatively wealthy relatives who do exactly that, and they own corner stores, not huge corporations. They pay their employees, who are too uneducated to know better, off the books so they aren't forced to give them benefits and so they can exploit them. Meanwhile, they lounge in their summer houses and pay no taxes because they do all their business in cash and are way richer than my mother and father who are working 8 in the morning to 10 at night (and paying their taxes). My mom is a doctor and my dad is a physicist so I'm assuring you that they make a lot of money and it is not envy which drives me, it's compassion.

Being that I myself am not making a lot of money so perhaps I don't understand the prospect of paying high taxes, I asked my dad how he feels about it. He said that we all benefit from a clean environment, from a healthy, educated population, for a better quality of life which results from social services like teachers, and schools, and parks, and other things that his taxes pay for, so although he is not thrilled about paying the taxes, he understand exactly why they are necessary. I am not a communist, but I believe that people should earn a living wage, that they should earn what they work for and frankly I think that investors and CEO's are not always the most deserving because they often exploit their employees while they live lives in luxury. And don't give me the crap about them having earned it through hard work. If you want to see hard work go into a restaurant and look at the kitchen workers who work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week and ask yourself why they don't deserve a decent education for their kids or healthcare from their employers, or enough money to feed their children. Apparently you don't live in the same world as I do because you don't see poverty around you. And why do yuo think republicans want to get rid of the estate tax on the super wealthy? Because they understand that many people do not earn their living through hard work, they inherit it. Does Paris Hilton deserve her wealth more than a firefighter or a soldier who is getting paid 14,000 a year to die in Iraq?

I am not a Communist. I don't care how rich Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are, as long as others aren't starving while they work 80 hours a week, like one of my cousins does. She's a security guard who works 7 days, 12 hour shifts, doesn't have health insurance and lives in a one bedroom apartment in the ghetto with her mom who also used to work 80 hours a week. Doesn't she deserve the American Dream? How many generations is it going to take until they "make it?"

So am I happy that rich people pay more in taxes? No, because it means they have all the money.

Since the 50's the American labor force has doubled as women have gone into the workforce. Has the quality of life for American doubled? No. The average income for Americans (when calculated for inflation) has stayed the same while the incomes of the wealthy have multiplied. And since the 80's the income gap has skyrocketed. The only time that the middle class income has risen was during Clinton's years. So if American families are working and producing twice as much, why are they living worse than they were in the 50's when only one parent worked.

I admire a lot about Libertarians, but all of you need to wake up from your perceived knowledge of economics and realize that people are getting poorer and poorer and it's not because they are not working hard enough. Even my father's fiend, who is a republican admitted that poor people work a lot harder than the middle class so please, wake up.

If you want to call me a socialist, etc, go ahead. At least I can live with a clear conscience.

And don't bother with any useless comments which completely ignore my point. I'm going abroad for three weeks and I will be working full time when I get back so I really don't have time for this. I need to go pay Bush taxes so that my friends can die in Iraq while he slashes the Tobacco undustries fines.

This is not a contest about who can be quicker and meaner, because you have already won that contest. Until we have rational outsiders judge this, I am done arguing.

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't these CEO's pay for the benefits they are receiving in this country, such as the opportunity to exploit their workers, pollute the environment and give people cancer, have the opportunity to enjoy the freedom of this country, the post office, the fire department, etc?

Fucking evildoing entrepreneurs.
Sing it sistahhhh!

None of you know what poverty is but to have it in America is a disgrace, and one of the reasons we have poverty is because of Greedy CEO's like the Wall Mart Family.

You bastards! You killed Kenny!

Sarcasm aside, I think taxes are a pittance to pay for the lifestyle middle class and many wealthy Americans, including myself, live.

Yeah! And I think taxes are a pittance to pay for having a "Please Touch Museum" in Philadelphia! Ungrateful bastard libertarian republicans...

Why is it fair that some people pay taxes while those who are better off can get away with it?

It's not fair. Give me an F...
Give me an L...
Give me an A...
Give me a T...
Give me another T...
Give me another A...
Give me an X...
What's that spell?

But apparently that's what you want. Who do you think deserves more money, a teacher, a police officer, a firefighter, or someone who has billions of dollars, has his stock broker invest it wisely and has managers run his businesses while he evades his taxes and lounges on the beach all day long?

Yeah, what'd a pencil-pushin' stock broker ever do for the world? The stock market's a scam...what is it good for besides efficiently channeling capital into successful, sustainable businesses and killing off most bad ideas before they get too far? Who the fuck cares about capital, man, we just need jaaaaahbz...jah bless the jobless..Fuckin' no-show ceo motherfuckers...down with the MAN!

If you want to see hard work go into a restaurant and look at the kitchen workers who work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week and ask yourself why they don't deserve a decent education for their kids or healthcare from their employers, or enough money to feed their children.

Virginia Virginia Virginia..you keep hittin' the nail on the head, lady...Ain't you people read Nickle and Dimed yet? Poor people just get fuuuucked. The only way to help them is to tax the rich. HOW COME YOU PEOPLE CAN'T UNDERSTAND THAT?? Welfare reform was a fucking disaster. Dead babies in the streets, peoples' cousins working their asses off..Just redistribute the goddamn wealth already!! JUST REDISTRIBUTE IT!!

And why do yuo think republicans want to get rid of the estate tax on the super wealthy?

And why do you republiconeolibercontrarians insist on letting poor people keep their social security money when the government could keep it safe for them? They'd have to spend all kinds of time putting it in their savings account, yadayada..

They pay their employees, who are too uneducated to know better, off the books so they aren't forced to give them benefits and so they can exploit them.

Hell yeah, the dems stand up for the retarded people of the world. And illegal immigrants, motherfuckers, so back the fuck up or the ACLU will be here in ten minutes to fuck up your whole neoprecambrianlibertarianconneorepublican party.

So if American families are working and producing twice as much, why are they living worse than they were in the 50's when only one parent worked.

Its so hard it makes me want to cry. And raise taxes. So we can enjoy leisurely, French lives and only work 35 hours a week. We should adopt their system. Then maybe we could make sure more than 10% of our population wouldn't even be working at all. Mmmmm I love the smell of taxes in the morning.

The only time that the middle class income has risen was during Clinton's years.

As Snoop Dogg says, "They call me Bill Clinton for all the head I got.."

Even my father's fiend, who is a republican admitted that poor people work a lot harder than the middle class so please, wake up.

Work harder, not smarter!

She's a security guard who works 7 days, 12 hour shifts, doesn't have health insurance and lives in a one bedroom apartment in the ghetto with her mom who also used to work 80 hours a week. Doesn't she deserve the American Dream? How many generations is it going to take until they "make it?"

Don't know - we can't seem to redistribute the wealth fast enough.

I am not a Communist.
Me neither, wink wink.

I admire a lot about Libertarians, but all of you need to wake up from your perceived knowledge of economics and realize that people are getting poorer and poorer and it's not because they are not working hard enough.

Hell yeah Virginia. These selfish bastards throw so many stats out, so much data, but where are they now that you've posted some badass anecdotes? They've fallen SILENT!

Until we have rational outsiders judge this, I am done arguing.

Can we do it like American Idol? Maybe we can borrow their phone lines during the off-season and see what happens. Or we could have another election and maybe THEN people will realize how bad republiclassicalibertarianeonatals are.

I'm going abroad for three weeks and I will be working full time when I get back so I really don't have time for this.

And I'm taking my ball and going home. :P

marco said...

that was fantastic... thank you anonymous commenter

Victor Cocchia said...

Virginia

In your rant you stated that no one here knows what poverty is. Hmmm, interesting that you know the economic situation that everyone at Columbia has grown up in. Again you make assumptions when you shouldnt. As well, by saying this you therefore make the associated claim that no one who has ever lived in poverty could ever vote Republican. Wrong again

You make some interesting claims about how the tax system needs to be reformed so that the Rich pay their share. As you have seen the Rich pay more than there share. We have to stop penalizing people for being successful. It comes to a point where it is unfair to keep asking people to pay and pay and pay. If a person works hard and is fortunate and makes 10 million dollars one year, why do we need to take $5 million of it. Im sorry, 15% is 1.5 million dollars. There is no reason someone should pay more than that. Its absurd.

As has been shown here the Rich pay more than their fair share of taxes, and to ask them for more is again, absurd.

Anonymous said...

"CEO's and other top individuals don't need to be employed and no employer fills out W2 forms for them." -- Virginia

Since when are CEO's not employed? And since when do their companies not fill out tax forms for them?

With lines like that, how can anyone take this girl seriously...

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