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January 7, 2003

Beside himself: CalPundit expostulates.
Marginal tax rates are no longer at 70% and there’s no special reason to think that the United States is suffering from too much taxation at the moment. But the Republican party has become like some kind of mutant cyborg whose programming has become defective: the only words left in their vocabulary are “tax cuts” and they are simply going to keep repeating them over and over like a Hari Krishna chant regardless of whether they make any sense in current circumstances. It just boggles the mind.
[06:56 PM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Beside himself::

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2003, 07:22 PM:

'the only words left in their vocabulary are "tax cuts"'

Now, now, let's be fair. Republicans are also capable of shouting "class warfare!" In fact, they say it a lot, every time someone points out the bias in their tax cut schemes.

And I'm sure, if you hung around once the press had left the room, that you'd hear them laughing their asses off.

Paul ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2003, 09:57 PM:

And you are forgetting the most potent and common epithet that Republicans utter, as if it equated with baby-eater or some such.


Kip ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2003, 10:05 PM:

Ahhh... good old leeches. Is there nothing they can't cure?

Kent Roller ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2003, 06:57 AM:

"..there's no special reason to think that the United States is suffering from too much taxation at the moment."

Here's a special reason why I'm suffering. A moment ago, I wrote a $5,000 check for this quarter's ESTIMATED income tax. Fr Lbrls wh dn't ndrstnd nmbrs, r 'wrkrs' wh nvr s 50% f thr pychck, that means paying tax on money I have not yet earned. In effect, loaning the government the cash I previously earned and already paid tax on. Shall I run the numbers on how much interest I lose because I can't put the 5k in a CD?

Culpundit goes on to say, "There is virtually nothing in [the Bush plan] that will provide a short term stimulus."

Here's your stimulus, Cl bb: If I don't work for the next four months, I'd be $5,000 richer right now. But come April, I'd be broke. Knowing that in the long run I'll be loaning the Government less of my money is somewhat better incentive to keep working.

"And on a long-term basis, the tax cuts are going to increase the federal deficit." Great! Dn't ny f y t thr n Lbdm gt t? Government doesn't have any money to begin with, so it will always be in debt. To us! It's OUR money!

Say it again. It's OUR money. Repeat it over and over again like a Hari Krishna chant. It's OUR money.

It's your money.

Th wy ClPndt rgs, y'd thnk h ws n wlfr nd dthl frd f m nt gvng hm my mny v th Gvrnmnt mddlmn.

Wll Cl, th chck's n th ml. njy t.

Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2003, 09:01 AM:

News for you, Mr. Roller, that's the way it works for everyone. We pay income tax based on what we made. Any overage is returned. No interest is paid on overage. Those on regular paychecks don't get to pay quaterly -- they hit us immediatly.

And, since you pay quarterly, you *could* be putting aside the equivalent of one-weeks tax into an interest bearing account, then, when you need to send off your 1040-ES, you withdraw it from that account. Meanwhile, you've gotten something we on weekly paychecks can't -- interest on the money used to pay your taxes.

And, you know, given you're pay $20K in tax, this gives you a taxable income after deductions of around $85K, assuming your filing single, and $100K assuming your married filing jointly. I've no idea what deductions you have -- you do have at least the minimum, which puts your income at least $90K per year, but I feel confident in saying the $252 dollars you'd make by buying 4 $5000 3 month CDs, compounded monthly, at 5%, aren't going to make a dramatic difference in your lifestyle, your retirement, or the amount of coffee you drink in a year.

So, please, rage on about how the evil tax system is costing you a whole 69 cents per day by not letting you collect interest!

Neel Krishnaswami ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2003, 10:09 AM:

A couple of years back, I ran a regression on rate of economic growth vs. the government expenditures as fraction of GDP for countries in the industrialized world. It looks like for every 10 percentage points you increase government spending, annual GDP growth falls 1%.[*] The difference between 2% and 3% growth may not sound like much, but compound interest means it matters a lot. It's the difference between incomes doubling ever 35 years, as opposed to every 23.

What does this mean pragmatically? Note that under the Clinton administration, unemployment among the poor fell more than at any time in the last 30 years, and that's directly attributable to the fact that a very fast-growing economy was desperately hungry for workers. And even during this current recession it looks like many of them are keeping the jobs -- the increase in workforce participation isn't transient. Growth is the best welfare. So, more tax cuts! And then some more!

[*] This absolutely isn't serious econometrics, but it provides a somewhat useful sanity check.

Daryl McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2003, 10:39 AM:

Kent Roller says: "Say it again. It's OUR money. Repeat it over and over again like a Hari Krishna chant. It's OUR money."

It's also our government, and we have a responsibility to fund it. In the last two years we haven't been fulfilling that responsibility---we've been paying less than it cost to run the government. Of course, we can plead hardship---it's been a recession, things have been tight, we'll make up for it in better times. But how does it make sense for those that are not experiencing hardship to claim we are overtaxed in a time of budget deficits?

Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2003, 01:42 PM:

Neel, I'm sorry to disagree with you, but a "useful sanity check" would be a simply stated set of observations and a conclusion that were also "serious econometrics." What you have here is a hard conclusion regarding the best economic medicine based on an unsupported correlation and an axiom that employment always increases with economic growth. I suspect that you'd reject as quackery a medical treatment plan based on such a slender scientific foundation. As Kip says, "...good old leeches..."

And in the context of current events, as noted by Calpundit in the first place, what sense do tax relief for stock dividends make? Dividends haven't figured in most people's investment strategies in years, and nobody's skittish about the stock market because of taxation: they're skittish because of outright theft by the officers of companies like Enron and because of the recent equivalent of the South Sea Bubble that was enacted for Internet stocks. Any old-money types out there who held their ground on old-fashioned blue chips will be greatly helped by this tax cut. Of course, the effects will quickly trickle down to their polo ponies, groundskeepers, and bankers.

And how exactly do you figure in the part of apparent GDP growth that was actually due to an artificially high rate of internal consumption fuelled by the burning capital keeping the hot air in the Internet Bubble? Or for that matter, the high rate of temporary build-out employment during the real growth of the Internet? It wasn't a single employer deal, but lots of companies had to hire hands and eyes to build infrastructure that is now either switched off or alive in a low-headcount maintenance mode.

Sure, let's cut taxes. Let's cut taxes on wages, starting at the bottom end. That will mean that ordinary people will have more of a chance to pay down their credit card debts and will buy more goods at retail. Which will mean that retailers will be able to hire more staff, and in general the wage rate for people from assembly line workers to software engineers to managers (as new hires, at least) can relax a bit, increasing profitability without decreasing prices.

But if you want short-term action, make money available to lesser governments and keep Federal taxes where they are or increase them. Most of us pogey-eaters are postponing our tax payments anyway, and some of us would have jobs in human services, teaching, or waiting table for folks in those jobs if the states could afford it.

Low-end wages are always in circulation, and the owners at the top and the government get to skim them anyway. Cutting taxes has only two guaranteed effects: some people will either pay less tax or expend less effort to pay the same amount of tax. If you want real growth, fuelled by individual consumers and small businesses, either spend money or cut taxes so that it's easier to start a small business or have discretionary income at the bottom end of the employment scale.

I do appreciate being given more weeks of unemployment benefit -- though it would have been nicer not to have been used as a political hockey puck by the Republicans so that they could have the legislation credit to themselves. I don't consider that an economic stimulus so much as a way to avoid further recession as guys like me put their houses on the market at desperation prices. That would be all this country would need right now: collapse of the housing prices bubble.

Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2003, 01:43 PM:

Teresa, that is pretty darn fancy, very funny, and very effective!

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2003, 02:59 PM:

Thank you, Bob.

Allow me to explain, for the benefit of anyone who didn't grasp the import of Patrick's New Year's Day message, what just happened to Mr. Roller's post.

The vowels have been removed from a few excessively uncivil remarks he made. If his entire message had been uncivil, all its vowels would be gone; but since the remarks weren't integral to it, I was able to let the rest of his text stand.

If his message had been grossly offensive, or a drive-by trollposting, it would have been deleted. If he thinks he's been done wrong by, he's welcome to send me a letter about it; and if I even halfway see his point, I'll restore his text.

Some fine points:

1. Is that a formal policy?

Yes, insofar as I intend to do anything that can be characterized as "formal".

2. Does this mean it's now forbidden to have arguments in Electrolite's comment threads?

Not at all. Arguments are fine, including vigorous ones, as long as you maintain a civil tone.

3. Who made you Empress of the Universe?

In this one instance, Patrick did.

4. Isn't this censorship?

No. Censorship is when a government stifles speech.

5. Why didn't you disemvowel Roller's remarks about [foo] and [bar], which in my nonexistent opinion are Just Plain Wrong?

Because I only zap stuff that's uncivil. The rest I leave to you.

6. Confess! You're only doing this because you don't agree with Kent's right-wing politics.

Nope-a-roonie. In fact, the first person whose comments got disemvowelled -- that was in one of Making Light's comment threads -- was a thoroughgoing leftie.

7. Does that mean you can get away with saying anything here, as long as you say it well enough?

No. But that's not far off the mark.

Michael Rawdon ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2003, 05:10 PM:

I keep waiting for the Bushians to cut taxes by 10% across the board, so that the price of everything will go up 10%.

But, of course, they're not interested in cutting taxes across the board...

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2003, 05:28 PM:

"It's YOUR money"

Pity this is wrong.

Money is not a characteristic of the universe; money is a side effect of having governments.

It helps a lot if the government is honest and just and reliable, so that people have confidence in the complex web of trust and mutal obligation that goes into creating money, and you get *good* money that doesn't inflate, devalue, or otherwise evaporate on you.

It does *not* help when people start pushing for legislative or tax measures on the basis that the money just exists, the way gravity just exists, and of course belongs to them, earned as a side effect of their virtuous effort, since, well, they're wrong.

Money *creates* interdependence by existing; claims otherwise are lies or errors, often in the service of shifting economic burdens on to someone else who is less virtuous.

Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2003, 05:48 PM:

FWIW: I don't really see much short-term incentive in the Democrats proposing a $300 cash rebate to all taxpayers, either. That's basically the useless-for-investment sum of money that was refunded to most taxpayers in Bush's first rebate.

I suppose they considered it political suicide, in the current climate, to propose *no* tax rebate at all, but I'd much prefer that they took their $300 per taxpayer and worked out a way to sink it into something that might *really* be an incentive for the country's economy.

(Personally, I believe the best possible incentive for the nation's economy would be an injunction against Bush blowing 20 billion dollars --and more later -- on a war with Iraq, then more billions on a useless anti-missile program. But I suppose that's not possible.)

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2003, 07:44 AM:

Teresa, Hail Empress of the Universe, Scourge of Offensiveness, Defender of Civility!

...which in my nonexistent opinion...Nope-a-roonie... can anyone deny that you deserve, on the strength of your language alone, to be Empress? A fig on them that speak against it!

Seriously, I laughed out loud, even while marvelling at the clarity of the policy.

I hope to avoid disemvowelment myself, of course. I'll just have to not write about "ths drty lyng Rpblcn scmbgs" (meaning Trnt Ltt and Dby etc, not my IMO-deluded friends) - not such a terrible burden, really...

Wow, no topic-related stuff in this post at all...I'll stop now.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2003, 08:06 AM:

Thank you, Christopher. Naturally, I think you're right -- and perceptive, too!

Kent Roller ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2003, 08:55 AM:

Dear M. Olsen,

I can't argue with your investment advice. I do take issue with some of the assumptions you attempt to make about me personally. For instance, that an extra $252 a year won't enable me to enjoy a better brand of coffee, when if fact, it's precisely the difference between Yuban and Kona Sunrise per annum. The larger point is that it is no one's business but my own what I find valuable. You, or the government, suggesting that I be okay foregoing any sum of money is repugnant on the grounds that it violates my privacy. I can't find the Supreme Court Justice's name that said this, nor the exact wording, but "taxation is less a means of gaining revenue, but more a means of monitoring the citizenry."

Dear M. McCullough,

The American form of government is supposed to be responsible to the people, not the other way around. You appear to have it so backwardly lodged in your mind that you feel justified passing judgement on the definition of hardship. As Eric deduced, I earn a good living. But neither you nor anyone else has any idea what kind of hardship I'm experiencing. Let's say, for example, I have testicular cancer and I can't father my own child. That's hard. (Actually, it's not!) Am I then exempt from any responsibility to the government despite the figure in my bank account? The point is that there is no hardship-o-meter you can waive over people to discover who's most responsible to your form of government.

Bob Webber might have just such a device as the hardship-o-meter, because he can tell who's "ordinary" and who's not. Again, it's this classification of people based on need v.s. ability. I'm citing Atlas Shrugged - "To each according to his need, from each according to his ability." States are going bankrupt in the same fashion as depicted in Ayn Rand's book. The nation morally bankrupt likewise.

Dear M. Nielsen Hayden,

Thank you for the invitation to email you my defense, but because you put me on display and paraded me around the Village square, I'll make my case public too. I don't want my original text restored. I'm tickled by the way you chose to exercise your power. It's funny to me how your regular safe visitors can now snicker and gloat at the poor dumb conservative.

But okay, you say you disemvowled some lines on the grounds they were rude, not because you disagree with me. Let's take a closer look.

On March 12, 2002, Patrick posted in response to me ...

[And then there's this: "The struggle for or against power is a game." Here's my question: Do you say this to everyone who's been mugged? Or are you just being a clueless git especially for us?]

Was that not uncivil? Was that not a personal attack? Frankly, I enjoyed Patrick's butt kick. I was not offended. But haven't comments like that set the tone of this forum since the inception of the comment feature? There's a double standard in here, whch hv ntcd s vr cmmn f th lbrl mnd st.

Granted that a truly malicious individual caused Patrick to remove the comment feature (which I dearly missed) and now you must police the rhetoric.

Yet, in this very thread, there are thinly veiled insults and insider jabs. One example by M. Olsen: "News for you, Mr. Roller.." The opening cliche9 is meant to imply I'm misinformed. M. Olsen started with a derogatory and condescending tone.

Another example is M. Webber applauding the deletions. What's fancy about recognizing vowels? What's funny about it? The new words didn't spell out any jokes. And what does "effective" mean? Effective at making me sound more civil, effective at minding everyone to behave, or effective at making me look ridiculous? I think the latter. There was an attack on my ideas disguise as well intentioned appropriateness.

Why were those posts not disemvolwed? Well, obviously this drama would make no sense if they were.

More importantly, there is no clear line between disrespect and satire. Any line you draw is destined to be arbitrary and subjective and will make you look petty to those of strong character but a hero to those who share your sentiments.

gn, n th lbrl wy f thnkng, thr r n rls, jst shftng sntmnts, lk wh rll nds thr mn.

Final argument. What happened to me is in contradiction to most of the quotes on Patrick's home page.

The defense rests.

Neel Krishnaswami ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2003, 09:10 AM:

Hi Bob, Im responding to Kevin Drum's suggestion that we keep tax rates high. However, a quick look at the data doesn't support the notion that it's a good idea. By all means, we should consult serious economists to see what they think, too. And it's true that most of them are scratching their heads in confusion at the Bush tax plan.

Unfortunately, we don't live in a world in which policies are designed by economists: we live in one in which they are designed by Congress. Bush's motive is pretty clearly to reward some key constituencies. He's got a tax break to small business, dividend tax cuts for the Fortune 500, and a tax credit for families for the social conservatives. Just as clearly, the Congressional Democrats are intent on preventing permanent tax cuts so that they won't face a future choice between cutting spending (and offending the public sector unions) and raising taxes (and offending the general public). Now, given a choice between a permanent poorly-designed tax cut plan and a temporary poorly-designed tax cut plan, I'll go with the permanent one.

Why? Let's look at what the correct policy should be. The first thing to realize is that the economy in the 1990s was not false growth. The rate of labor productivity growth was very high, and in order for employment to be stable GDP has to grow at least as fast as the rate of labor productivity. In fact, you can see our current economic problems as arising from some amazingly good fundamentals: labor productivity is growing at 5%/year right now. The fact that the economy is growing at 3.5%/year means that hours worked is dropping at 1.5%/yar, consequently causing an increase in unemployment.

Long-term, fast productivity growth is great news, but the short term is a real problem, and is the sort of situation that would call for a classical Keynesian fiscal response: run deficits now in order to push growth up to at least the rate of productivity growth. However, my confidence in the ability of the US government to run such a plan is very low. This is because a Keynesian fiscal policy requires running surpluses in good times to match the deficits during recessions. Looking back at 2000, when we had a surplus Congress was pledging fiscal responsibility and writing 10% annual spending increases into the budget. Since Congress will spend all the money available to it, I want permanent tax cuts so that future Congresses will face a much tougher budgetary constraint, so that when the next recession hits we will have some flexibility. So I'll take a less-stimulative permanent tax cut over a more-stimulative temporary cut.

Phil Dennison ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2003, 09:18 AM:

It's also our government, and we have a responsibility to fund it. In the last two years we haven't been fulfilling that responsibility---we've been paying less than it cost to run the government.

I suppose we could always make it less expensive to run the government, but neither Republicans nor Democrats seem to find that idea particularly appealing. Indeed, it seems as if both are always rushing headlong to find ways to make it more expensive.

Money is not a characteristic of the universe; money is a side effect of having governments.

I would propose that the exact opposite is true. Money is simply a way of storing value, and value certainly exists independent of governments. Value is a function of human wants and needs, and will continue to exist whether governments do or not.

Kristjan ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2003, 10:09 AM:

Well, money only have the value that people belive they have, so if there is no Goverment to back up the money, why should anyone belive they have any worth?

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2003, 11:28 AM:

Money is not a way of storing value; money is an accounting system, and it doesn't have to have any relation to reality at all. (the system eventually comes apart if it doesn't, but there's nothing about money qua money that requires this connection.)

Value is also utterly contextual; you are unlikely to value the chance to die gloriously in the forefront of a cavalry charge, but people have spent lots of money and effort arranging that opportunity for themselves.

I think this debate gets a lot clearer if it's rephrased as being about access to choice; do the constraints on access to choice which stem from the change in policy apply generally to the population? Whose rate of change in access to choice is going in which direction?

The current US administration is advancing policies which increase the access to choice of the very rich more quickly than anyone else.

I think that's objectionable, and a departure from the long standing US policy that people ought to benefit from the economy in about the same degree, whether rich or poor.

(Oh, and 'conservative'? No one who takes Rand seriously can possibly be properly regarded as a conservative; Rand's proposed social policies are at best extremely radical.)

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2003, 12:56 PM:

Kent, I'm sorry about your ear.

I explained what I'd done to your post because that was the first time I'd intervened since I took on moderating Patrick's comments sections. My intent was to minimize confusion. I can't believe you or the other participants here would have been happier if I hadn't explained at all.

I think you must have been disproportionately embarrassed if you're describing yourself as having been put on display and paraded around the village square. You might feel better if you went back and re-read my remarks. There's not much in them about you. Mostly they're about policy.

You also misread Bob Webber's reaction. It was kinder than you're imagining. Bob, who's a regular in my own weblog, was appreciating the fact that I managed to disemvowel your few discrete objectionable phrases while leaving the rest of your text intact, instead of just zapping the whole message.

No one's snickering and gloating over what happened to you. Or if they are, it has nothing to do with your being a conservative. Have you not noticed that you're far from being the most conservative person who hangs out here? Your fault was personal, not political.

Here's where I have trouble maintaining tone: I didn't appreciate having you accuse me of lying when I said I'd reacted to your tone and your manners, not your content. I was telling the truth, and that matters far more to me than your belief or disbelief.

I don't like lying under any circumstances. I certainly wouldn't do it for so small a cause as your post.

Myke ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2003, 01:26 PM:

Kent, just so you know, you're not the only conservative on here.

But I have to disagree with you regarding the taxation of the wealthy. You are *supposed* to be proportinately taxed. The top 1% (in terms of income levels) provide 37% of total federal income tax. Over 80% of income taxes are paid out by the top 25% of income (these stats are being taken from the Tax Foundation. http://www.taxfoundation.org/home.html).

That's the way it SHOULD work. You make more money, you pay more taxes. I agree that Mr. Olsen shouldn't take umbrage with the fact that you enjoy a relatively high income. That's your business, I assume you work for your money. However, it is not exactly a secret in this country that higher incomes pay more taxes.

Many fiscal conservatives (including myself, and my politics are right of Ann Coulter's. OK, OK. That's hyperbole) are against UNECESSARY taxation, but it doesn't mean we're against paying our fair share.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2003, 03:04 PM:

Wow, I thought "From each according to ability, to each according to need" was MARX. Everybody laugh at the ignorant liberal. I still think it's a good idea, though I might define all those terms differently than Kent (or Rand, or Marx).

I also think it's reasonable that those who benefit most from the structure of society should do most to help the society maintain itself - especially to the gain of those who suffer by the society's rules. In our culture, benefit and suffering are reduced to economics (Kent is quite right when he says there's no way to figure out who's REALLY suffering), so that means the people who acquire the most wealth should pay the biggest share of the upkeep.

Note that I said "acquire the most wealth" rather than "have the highest income." We haven't figured out a way of taxing wealth yet, but in my view it's the ideal.

BTW, Kent, Teresa is capable of defending herself, but I'd just like to add my voice to those telling you you misread her intent. Anyone who wrote "for you conservatives who are no good with numbers" would find it become "fr y cnsrvtvs wh r n gd wth nmbrs." Go read the old posts by someone whose name is now Phllp Shrpshr if you don't believe me. Also, by not disemvowelling your entire post (as she did Shrpshr), she's telling us all that IHO all the REST of your post is perfectly civil.

Also, far as I could tell her changes didn't block any of your ideas from coming across, nor did the fact that they were there keep me from reading the rest of your post.

Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2003, 03:21 PM:

Phil said: "I suppose we could always make it less expensive to run the government, but neither Republicans nor Democrats seem to find that idea particularly appealing. Indeed, it seems as if both are always rushing headlong to find ways to make it more expensive."

In fact, Al Gore spent several years during his tenure as Vice President working on projects to reduce government overhead. This was the "Reinventing Government" project, which lead to reduction of the federal workforce by 300,000 and a savings of over $100 billion.

But that's not what you're talking about; what you're talking about is having the government spend less money by doing fewer things. In 1997 (the most recent year I've crunched the numbers for), more than 80% of the federal budget went to four things--defense, Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid, and interest payments on the Federal debt (about 1.2 trillion of the 1.5 trillion total federal outlay). Let's say you want to cut federal spending by 20%. We can't cut debt payments; do you recommend serious cuts in the other Big Expenses, or just eliminating every single other thing the government does including law enforcement, disaster relief, nuclear weapons cleanup, immigration enforcement, and on and on?

You can play with the numbers yourself at Nathan Newman's National Budget Simulator if you're interested.

MG ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2003, 06:51 PM:

Every year, taxes (federal, SS, medicare, property, state income, city income, and sales)consume between 60% and 70% of my family budget. Meaning that every time a family member or I spend a dollar, the government spends about $2 dollars of my family's money.

We provide for our own housing, clothing, food, shelter, entertainment and even make charitable contributions with 30-40% of our budget. For the remaining 60-70% I get politicians sending me mail bragging about how they gave my money to other people.

a different chris ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2003, 07:41 PM:

Graydon: I love your posts, especially the first because its just small enough that I can envision tattoo'ing it onto the forehead of every AngryWhiteGuy who spouts that stupid "it's your money" nonsense. I'd do it mirror-image so they can read it every morning whilst shaving.

Kent: I pay well more than you do in quarterly estimates and I don't hardly even notice it. I don't understand why it's such a burden for you, maybe you need to work up a budget?

MG: You must be pretty poor. I say that because the top marginal income tax rate is 35%. The FICA (ss/med) is 7.5%- unless you are like me, and pay both halves which is 15%. But FICA and the top margin don't really overlap, so it's ridiculous to claim, as some try to do, that you have a marginal federal tax rate of 50%. And that's marginal, not total. (We won't even get into the fact that I get to shield 15% of my income for retirement, that is, I essentially get to discount my marginal tax rate by another 15%).

To cut a long story short: when all is said and done, most middle class people send between 15% and 25% of their taxes to the feds. (And hey! the government's share of GDP is usually about 20%. Makes you wonder if the rich are really paying for as much of it as they claim.)

So for you to pay 60% means to me that you are spending nearly 40% of your income on local taxes. MOVE!!! My home- PA is a "high-tax" state and the income tax is who's shaking you down for the rest of the money? Boss Tweed?

I'm guessing it's property taxes. Again: MOVE.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2003, 08:26 PM:

OtherChris, things are still calming down around here.

Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2003, 05:59 PM:

Neel, if the current administration weren't so determined to burn money but acquiring debt to prosecute wars and partisan politics (cf. flying George W. Bush around the country to support Republican candidates), I'd be inclined to agree that a tax cut would be called for. As a reducer of overall friction in the market to let it recover, maybe it's even called for now, and if so I've already noted that I think it should be aimed at eliminating or greatly reducing taxes for the lowest earners in the country.

I disagree with you about the absence of serious econometric thought from the formulation of government policies. The Federal government its aspects both as Congress and as Executive employs scads of them, and the politicians aren't generally the ones writing the final versions of the legislation any more than the various flavours of specialist can avoid. The main economic stimulus from this administration will be through DoD contracts, same as always, helping my and Mr Roller's income bracket with that Keynesian Hot Beef Injection rather than poor folks.

Et, oui, M. Roller, I do have a hardship-o-meter: its calibration is kind of rough, and it doesn't do well with the discontents of the bourgeoisie, but it's pretty effective. Here it is: people who can't afford enough to eat or clean, warm housing or basic healthcare are suffering from worse hardship than those forced to brew Yuban, no matter the sensitivity of the latters' palates.

But Neel, back to you. Your original comment was in the context of the CalPundit comment that the only thing an all-Republican government could come up with would be tax cuts. Not permanent tax cuts, even -- because no such thing as a permanent tax cut is possible, for one thing. By entering a comment supporting tax cuts you appeared to be implicitly supporting the current administration's recent policy decisions. You aligned yourself with the "Hari Krishna chant" mentioned in the section Patrick quoted. From your follow-ups, I gather that this wasn't exactly what you intended?

Kent Roller ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2003, 07:22 AM:

Thank you, Bob. Back to CalPundit's quote which Patrick thought worth our attention.

I would have saved myself a lot of vein gesturing throughout this thread if I had just agreed with CalPundit in part.

Indeed, the United States is not suffering from too much taxation AT THE MOMENT. It's been suffering from too much taxation for the last FORTY FIVE YEARS. I'm talking about taxation for the purpose of social programs.

The kind of programs that pit American's against each other. I invoked Rand only to save words painting that picture.

This thread is a microcosm of the volley of resentments spurred by Bush's plan. The have nots resent the haves, as if the rich breath too much air and don't return enough carbon dioxide.

I use an atmospheric analogy, because the Liberal philosophy of money is that it just exists in finite amounts, then battle to make sure it's divied up fairly.

I favor the conservative philosophy of money, that it can be created in infinite quantities as long as individuals are not punished in proportion to their ambition for generating value.

CalPundit and many other Liberal commentators are missing the point of the Bush plan, which really is as simple as the comparisons I just made. Simplicity is repulsive to Liberals who are intellectually gifted, which throws their reactive aim, which is why Bush keeps getting his way and Republicans control government at the moment.

Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2003, 02:01 PM:

If you're going to invoke Ayn Rand, you really have to cast the main beneficiaries of the dividend tax relief as villains in the piece, conspiring to line their own pockets by theft and deceit. Anybody who's making dividends from investments in the steel industry, which the Bush administration gave price supports with tariffs against imported iron and steel, is even getting a second dishonest bite at the expense of the health of the economy and the nation as a whole.

I don't see why you feel a need to ascribe any prejudice against the "haves" to your opponents. In my good years I've been a "have" about as much as you, I expect, and other than the inconvenience of large Saab repair bills at a time when I'm short on cash and cash flow I'm not doing all that badly now. What I resent about the Bush tax cuts is that they are a pay-off to Republican supporters from the public purse. I resent the blatant crookedness of the actions of the current administration, and frankly I am at a loss figuring out how anybody who understood and agreed with Rand could be satisfied with their performance.

Dishonesty in the service of selfishness is still a vice.

Michael Rawdon ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2003, 02:03 AM:

Inasmuch as I think welfare and social security are among the greatest inventions in the history of humanity, you can probably imagine how much I agree with Kent's most recent post.

Non-social government programs don't pit Americans against one another? Apparently the whole country was fully behind the Vietnam war, then.

"The have nots resent the haves, as if the rich breath too much air and don't return enough carbon dioxide." I love statements like this, dripping with their own brand of resentment: Resentment that some faction of society might be able to implement a form of government-based social responsibility different from their own ideal. "If it's not the way we'd do it, then they must be doing it out of spite/malice/pure, unmitigated evil," is how I read accusations like that.

Yes, Bush's tax plan really is as simple as it appears. And his true skill shows through in how well he's obfuscated its goals: To provide big payouts to the well-heeled, and to cripple the ability of the not-so-well-heeled to make the well-heeled undertake their responsibilities for the society whose very existence has allowed them to become wealthy.

Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2003, 11:45 PM:
Indeed, the United States is not suffering from too much taxation AT THE MOMENT. It's been suffering from too much taxation for the last FORTY FIVE YEARS. I'm talking about taxation for the purpose of social programs.

If you totally eliminated all social welfare spending, we would still be running a deficit. It's not that big a part of the budget. The biggies are the military, Social Security, Medicare, and interest on the debt. Any proposal to cut overall government spending must deeply cut at least one of those. Good luck.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2003, 11:14 AM:

Did somebody say something about lbrls nt ndrstndng nmbrs?

Michael Rawdon ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2003, 02:14 PM:

Alan: Aren't social security and medicare themselves "social welfare" programs? They certainly look like it to me.

I inferred that they were among the programs to which Kent was objecting.

Tom ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2003, 08:29 AM:

Here's a heretical thought for the egalitarians in the comments above - taxes should be cut because the money belongs to individuals, not the state, and that our wealth is not be seized because it happens to violate often arbrary notions of "fairness".

The supply-side argument that tax cuts boost growth and hence revenues is still a good one, even though they are being cut from the relatively-low rates inherited from Ronald Reagan rather than the Peanut Farmer.

Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2003, 10:35 AM:

Well, Tom Hedley, I would hardly call that thought "heretical." At best I would say that it is informed [sic] by a completely different understanding of the role and use of government and taxes than the one I hold. Arguing such a point with a person who believed in it as a matter of faith, even a hypothetical intelligent person capable of careful reading and reasonable argument, is probably quite futile.

On the other hand, I think that you and others like you would be surprised at the pleasure with which "egalitarians" like me would receive news that the people with the lowest incomes in the USA were to be relieved of paying any taxes at all. I can support tax cuts, even in these difficult economic times, for the poor.

If you can come up with a non-arbitrary reason why it's certain to be better to give tax cuts to the rich, please fill us all in.