Pay for the Privileged

“He mocks the people, who proposes that the government shall protect the rich, and that they in turn will care for the laboring poor.” –Grover Cleveland
I remember a line from somewhere, questioning the need for anything that is not beautiful, useful, or joyful. And maybe this sounds mean, but for me, rich people do not measure up by any of those standards. Not even close. Shit, not by light-years — they are the very models of miserable, useless, and ugly!
And if you don’t already know it, we pay extra so they can sail through life, and sneer at us as they pass. Again, I must be mean, but I don’t seem to care much for all this stuff. Either we need a better grade of rich folks, or we need to get rid of them entirely.


We All Pay Higher Tax Rates Than The Rich: A Lesson In Class Warfare
Daily Kos * Wed Jan 14, 2015 at 01:07 PM PST
Not that this should be entirely shocking but this should end the debate about who is getting fleeced and who carries the burden in society. And it’s useful to have this handy to dispatch to the usual class warfare deniers.
Into my mailbox came two exhaustive pieces of research–you know, those weird things that use FACTS (how quaint)–about who pays taxes. The first is a national study, the second focuses on New York (I know, I’m provincial).
First to the exhaustive state-by-state study Who Pays? by the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy
Key piece in intro:
block quote
Economists have widely discredited trickle-down economic theories espoused for more than three decades, but that hasn’t stopped new generations of supply-side theorists from repackaging those philosophies and pushing for lower state tax rates for wealthy individuals, businesses and corporations. In fact, recent years have brought tax proposals and changes in multiple states that would overwhelmingly benefit the highest income households under the guise of stimulating economic growth. This report doesn’t seek to rebut ideological claims; rather it is an in-depth analysis of all taxes that all people pay at the state and local level.
This study assesses the fairness of each state’s tax system by measuring state and local taxes paid by non-elderly taxpayers in different income groups in 2015 as shares of income for every state and the District of Columbia. The report provides valuable comparisons among the states, showing which states have done the best — and the worst — job of providing a modicum of fairness in their overall tax systems. The Tax Inequality Index (Appendix B) measures the effects of each state’s tax system on income inequality and is used to rank the states from the most regressive to the least regressive.
The bottom line is that every state fails the basic test of tax fairness. The District of Columbia is the only tax system that requires its best-off citizens to pay as much of their incomes in state and local taxes as the very poorest taxpayers, but middle-income taxpayers in DC pay far more than the top one percent. In other words, every single state and local tax system is regressive and even the states that do better than others have much room for improvement.
[emphasis added]
block quote end
So, that is the top-line message. And, along with the war against wages in the workplace (principally, the attacks against unions), this is THE TOOL used to prosecute broad class warfare: whatever services are left in society after the political establishment slashes and burns our basic social network (often in the name of the stupid obsession over “deficit reduction”) are paid for disproportionately by the very workers getting hammered in their pocketbooks at work.
Take an ugly bow:
block quote
Ten states —Washington, Florida, Texas, South Dakota, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Arizona, Kansas, and Indiana— are particularly regressive. These “Terrible Ten” states tax their poorest residents— those in the bottom 20 percent of the income scale — at rates up to seven times higher than the wealthy. Middle-income families in these states pay a rate up to three times higher as a share of their income as the wealthiest families.
block quote end
It is worth noting that a majority of the states have been largely run by Republicans governors and/or barely Democratic governors and/or legislatures run by Republicans. And, so, one can assume that, as the statehouse picture has gotten even darker in the wake of the last election, that more states will vie for a place among the “Terrible Ten”.
What makes a state so terrible?:
block quote
• Four of the ten states do not levy a personal income tax — Florida, South Dakota, Texas, and Washington. An additional state, Tennessee, only applies its personal income tax to interest and dividend income.
•Five states do levy personal income taxes, but have structured them in a way that makes them much less progressive than in other states. Pennsylvania , Illinois and Indiana use a flat rate which taxes the income of the wealthiest family at the same marginal rate as the poorest wage earner. Arizona has a graduated rate structure, however there is little difference between the bottom marginal rate and top marginal rate. Kansas’ graduated rate structure only has two brackets, applying the top rate starting at $30,000 for married
• Six of the ten most regressive tax systems — those of Washington, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Arizona and Florida — rely very heavily on regressive sales and excise taxes. These states derive roughly half to two-thirds of their tax revenue from these taxes, compared to the national average of 34 percent in fiscal year 2011-2012.
block quote end
Bernie Sanders, take a proud bow for your state:
block quote
Vermont’s tax system is among the least regressive in the nation because it has a highly progressive income tax and low sales and excise taxes. Vermont’s tax system is also made less unfair by the size of the state’s refundable Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) — 32 percent of the federal credit.
block quote end
Why is this bad economically?:
block quote
The vast majority of states allow their very best-off residents to pay much lower effective tax rates than their middle- and low-income families must pay — so when the richest taxpayers grow even richer, these exploding incomes hardly make a ripple in state tax collections. And when the same states see incomes stagnate or even decline at the bottom of the income distribution it has a palpable, devastating effect on state revenue. A recent Standard & Poor’s report found that the more income growth goes to the wealthy and
incomes stagnate or decline at the bottom, the slower a state’s revenue grows, especially if the state relies more heavily on taxes that disproportionately fall on low- and middle-income households. Hitching your state’s funding of investments to those with a shrinking share income is not a path to a sustainable, growing revenue stream.
Moreover, shrinking revenues and overreliance on regressive taxes prevent states from investing in the priorities that will bolster the prospects of low- and middle-income residents: education, workforce development, infrastructure improvements, and adequate healthcare. State tax structures that rely on trickle-down theories of economic growth, balance budgets on the backs of working families rather than asking the wealthy to do more, and fail to improve the wellbeing of the majority of that state’s residents will fail to be competitive in the long run. Shortsighted tax cuts can be a long-term drag on development.
[emphasis added]
block quote end
The above two paragraphs seem obvious to the rational person. It is a measure of ideological blindness that such an obvious economic point is ignored, willfully, and, thus, it means all this rhetoric about competitiveness is, well, rhetoric.
It’s worth reading the rest. Here’s a pretty cool feature: you can go here and check out your own state.
I also got a great report from the Fiscal Policy Institute Report just on New York.
I’ll just highlight, for the sake of brevity, just two pieces.
On New York’s income tax burden on regular people:
block quote
Looked at another way, the top one percent in the city—tax filers with incomes over
$600,000—received 35 percent of all income in 2011 but paid only 27 percent of local taxes. The first four income quintiles—the “bottom 80 percent” with incomes under $71,000—paid a greater share of city taxes than their share of income. This disparity reflects the regressivity of sales and property taxes and the fact that rental properties
(lower-income households are much more likely to rent) bear a much higher effective property tax than do owner-occupied housing.
block quote end
The biggest contribution to the national argument comes when FPI blows up–again–the canard that higher taxes on business and the wealthy drive away jobs and rich people. Nonsense:
block quote
In his recent review of the literature on the relationship of state and local taxes to interstate migration, state tax policy expert Michael Mazerov noted:
“The vast majority of academic research using sophisticated statistical techniques concludes that differences in state tax systems and levels do not have a significant impact on interstate migration. Seven economists (or groups of economists) have published studies on state taxes and migration in peer review economics journals since 2000. Six of the seven studies concluded that taxes do not drive interstate moves. Eight additional studies… that were not published in academic journals have been released in the same period; six of the eight found either that state income taxes had no effect on migration or that the effect was small and inconsistent.”
Based on his extensive review of the latest literature and his own analysis of IRS data on
interstate migration, Mazerov concluded:
“Differences in tax levels among states have little to no effect on whether and where people move, contrary to claims by some conservative economists and elected officials. For decades, Americans have been moving away from the Northeast, the industrial Midwest, and the Great Plains to most of the southern and southwestern states regardless of overall tax levels or the presence of anincome tax in any of these states. They’ve moved in large part for employment opportunities in the Sunbelt states and, secondarily, for less expensive housing, and, for many retirees, a warmer, snow free climate.”
[emphasis added]
block quote end


About l. l. frederick

I'm pretty ordinary, so I find any number of things in the world interesting, among them: books, music, flowers, food, social justice, politics and (sometimes!) people. As for my writing, I've decided that I can be subtle and tasteful when our only problems are esthetic ones. Or when I'm dead, whichever comes first. In the meantime, read at your own risk.
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12 Responses to Pay for the Privileged

  1. “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” – Warren Buffett 2006.

    In 2015, with the mechanisms of money in firm control of both political parties and the populace disengaging from democracy, can we conclude that this Class War is now over?

    • Robert, I hope to hell not! But short of a deus ex machina (not gonna happen!) or enough of us getting fed up and standing up for ourselves, it’s not looking good. We don’t even have a proper name for ourselves these days — “working class” has been turned into a dirty word, where it’s not just an anachronism. And as my stepdaughter says, no one in America is “poor” now — we’re all “temporarily embarrassed millionaires”. Sure we are. If we won’t even understand our common status and problems, where does that leave us? Commodities to be exploited. Bah! But you know all this. Any ideas for getting through the armor of denial and self-deception to get people ready to say, “This is not good enough!” and mean it? Thanks for your comment — and for adding the Buffett quote, which I’ve used and abused so much I skipped it this time out. – Linda

      • “temporarily embarrassed millionaires” – that’s good!

        Unfortunately, I’ve tried everything I could imagine and then some to motivate people into taking action. Not only did nothing work, but the more I tried the more resistance I met. It seems we are aboard a runaway freight train that’s picking up speed. A crash, I’m afraid, is inevitable. I’ll keep fighting because that’s the only thing I know how to do, but I’ve never been this pessimistic in my life.

        • Robert, At times, I think meeting resistance is a good sign, showing that people are at least not utterly indifferent and inert. Other times, it feels more like trying to reason the deranged out of some fixed delusion — dangerous and unlikely to help. I often think of Thomas Paine’s words –

          “To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.”

          So … maybe we have to be the EMT’s of social justice? Even if that means doing CPR on folks who are too far gone once in a while. Maybe there are better ways, but we do what we can. If lies are so persuasive, surely truth has great power too! Let us persevere, in solidarity and stubbornness, when that’s what we have to give, and thank you for your comments, always. – Linda.

  2. Jeff Nguyen says:

    I just finished reading Matt Taibbi’s new book, The Divide. It’s a great read.

  3. Historically I think taxes were always used to soak the poor to benefit the king and the nobility. The only exception was a brief period in the US between the mid-thirties and 1970. That period’s gone now – unless the working class is willing to mobilize to dislodge the parasites from power.

    • After all, it takes a lot to feed our pernicious parasites! Seems like they might just blimp and bloat up from all that ravenous greed, and explode sometime. But what uncharitable wishful thinking. Thanks for your comment, as ever. – Linda

  4. tubularsock says:

    “. . . when they put you in the ground you might as well be broke.” Perhaps the great equalizer. No one in American society today has much class at all is Tubularsock’s point of view.

    Oh my, let Tubularsock have another bit of sherry from the Bavarian cut-crystal and just sit on his stack of money in the underground bunker ……….. fucking peasants!

    • Tubularsock, So it’s not a great song. Blame it on my ingrained peasant heritage.

      Thanks — I think — for your comment. Especially since, ahem, you are reinforcing my complaints here. Class is as class does! Watch you don’t choke on that sherry. – Linda

  5. I appreciate your honesty, Linda, and the great commentary you inspired. (I have to admit I share your class perceptions, reinforced by my experiences both as a college student and faculty member.) And I love the Paine quote – it reminds me of the days when I had to work with conservative boards of directors. One moment they would make sense, and then they would suddenly begin to spout absolutely nonsensical conservative rhetoric. I used to call it “truncated reasoning capability,” but “temporarily embarrassed millionaires” works better!

    • Carol, My whole family are like this! Perfectly decent, hard-working, generous people … but when I least expect it, they burst out with something utterly bizarre that sounds … just like right-wing bullshit. My mom, with a tiny house and little more, is deathly afraid of our terrible, no-good proto-communist estate tax. She has enough to live on thanks to Social Security, and because she worked where there was a strong union. She gets all available assistance from services for the elderly. And she’s being kept alive only because she has Medicare and so forth. But she still rants against the hideous prospect of socialized medicine. With no least sign she’s aware of one drop of irony or inconsistency!

      I always thought Hitler’s boast that, “By the skillful and sustained use of propaganda, one can make a people see even heaven as hell, or an extremely wretched life as paradise.” was hyperbole. Now, I rather fear it may be understatement. It still seems impossible that people can be fooled forever, especially when so many of the lies are so huge, and so damned obvious. But I guess we’ll see.

      Sorry, you started me on yet another rant, and I need to pace myself. Thanks so much for your kind comment. – Linda

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