Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Stupid Question: Why do People Care About Other Groups' Tax Rates

In my workgroup we have been discussing the tax plans of the different candidates. I ran across these excellent infographics from Democratic Underground

From a data visualization standpoint I think these charts do a good job showing how the plans affect different income levels. They do a better job than reading a textual description or hearing, as McCain puts it "[Obama] wants to raise your taxes!"

With the graphics, we can now see who McCain is speaking to, it's the top 1% of the nation's income levels. As of yet, I do not plan to be in that tier this fiscal year. I'm also not in the bottom tiers this year, the plans aren't that different for my household. 

If I were to vote purely on how the candidates' economic plans were to affect my family, it's a toss up. The difference between the two plans are very small at our level. To over half of Americans though, Obama's plan would be considerably better. 

If you're making less than $18,000 a year, $567 is half a month's pay. That money is very helpful. Under McCain's plan, they'd get a $19 cut while the top half of the population would enjoy a considerable tax cut. That's messed up. People with money will be fine. They may need to sacrifice a latte, but people who make very little are making much bigger sacrifices. Shouldn't they get a little help?

Here's the thing that really makes me WTF, I work with a guy who is in a similar income bracket as me, neither plan is dramatically different for him. His reaction to Obama's raising the taxes of people who earn more than $2.87 million was so strong that it sounded like he favored McCain's plan. Who cares about these people earning $3 million? I'm sure they're doing all they can to reduce their tax liabilities. They should be fine.

My question is why do people care about how much the top percentile is being taxed? Are there that many people who are delusional enough to think that we're going to break into that bracket this year? In the next 4 years?

Even if we do make that much is it really ethical to take a big tax cut while people who are struggling to pay for health care, food, and a place to live are getting between $19 and $113 in tax cuts? I would much rather see the people at the bottom get a tax break and see the few at the top pay more than to see huge breaks for the very few at the top and next to nothing for the many at the bottom.

How can anyone with a shred of decency or humility condone rewarding those who already have done a great job of rewarding themselves while there are people who are less fortunate that could use the help? Furthermore, how can someone who has absolutely no personal stake in rewarding the very rich favor that plan? I just don't get it.

5 comments:

Brian said...

Here is the reason I care: I work hard, I paid attention in school and I got a good job that pays well. The folks on the bottom of that scale didn't. If we were all gazelles those bottom dwellers would be looking pretty good to some lions.

Here is another reason: If I get taxed more for doing well then wouldn't I want to shelter some of my income so that I'm not taxed so much? My father once told me about a conversation he has with his accountant. The accountant told him he would have to either give money to a charity of his choice or to the government. He chose to give it to a school. So even if Horton makes 3 mill a year he just donates 1 mill to his favorite charity and lowers his taxable income. Since Horton has a good accountant he uses all the loop holes to pay as little as he can.

Reason 3: Horton sees that his company is evading the highest corporate tax in the world and thinks "why can't I do this too?" He then takes his investment income all off shore where he can KEEP MORE OF HIS MONEY.

Reason 4: Why should 1% of our population carry 40% of our tax burden? Why should people not paying taxes get any tax rebates? Another story I was once told was of the A+ student that thought the rich should give their money to the poor because they have so much. Her father asks her how she would feel if little Tommy, who's a D student, got some of her academic credit since she does so well and he does so poorly. Give her a B and Tommy a C. Well does that sound very fair? Nope, it really isn't fair to either of them.

Reason 5: Because Socialism is Un-American. Spreading the wealth around is nothing more than light weight socialism.

John said...

I guess it depends on what you believe in. If you believe the government's job is to take money from those who have it and give it to those that don't - then yeah why should you care (until the day it does impact you). Government as the equalizer. Socialism anyone?

Its funny... if I were to stop you during the day, threaten you're lively-hood, and force you to give me your money only to turn it around and give it to somebody who I determined needed it more - most people would call that stealing! However, if we get the government involved then its "OK" for some reason. The morality of it all is the same.

Strange...

Personally, I think charity by those that have to those that don't is a good thing. Honestly (and thankfully), its human nature. Forced charity (progressive taxes), on the other hand, is heading toward slavery...

Both candidates are trying to sell off sections of the tax code to get votes... which in the end is the saddest part.

I'm curious... how would you feel if the taxes did impact you? I'd bet the bottom-earners feel you have plenty of money to spare. ;-)

Paul Wiedel said...

@Brian
Tell us how you really feel.

@John
I agree that generous people with the means to help the less fortunate is a good thing. Unfortunately, I do not believe that there are ample people with both the means and the generosity to help.

My first job out of college would have put me in the lowest bracket.
I worked a 280 hour December and 60 hour weeks at that job. The millionaire owner of the company gave me a bonus of $50 less taxes for my efforts. So much for trying to hack it as a writer.

Having worked hard and made little gave me perspective. I know that there are people who are no less deserving than others who earn less money than others. That does not make them any less of a person.

Those who have more, can afford to pay more.

If I were asked by my country to pay more in taxes I would. My grandparents gave to the country through their service in WWII, a little bit of my earnings is the least that I can do.

Brian said...

There are somethings I feel strongly about defending. My freedom is one of them. An income tax is unconstitutional and an invasion of our right to personal property. Originally the income tax was meant to be only for the very rich and it was only meant to be temporary. Like all government programs it's scope has out grown it's original boundaries and it's here to stay.

I don't think it's the job of the government to hand out welfare. I believe that once people start getting hand outs they will start expecting those hand outs. I tend to think socialist ideas have already ruined our manufacturing industry and if we start down a Marxist agenda we will be doomed to the same fate of those other nations that went down that path.

John said...

Those who have more, can afford to pay more.

Very true. But should that be the reason they have too?

For me, its the principle behind it that concerns me.

Who decides who can afford what? Is it OK to take what was legally earned from someone when someone else decides they don't need it?

Anyway... interesting to get your perspective on things as always. :-)