October 14, 2008

What's Your Bracket?

I used to have a sneaking suspicion that New Orleans center Tyson Chandler might be a jerk. I guess that was a mistaken impression; here's what he said on his blog about paying taxes:
...I can afford to pay more in taxes. But my parents, my grandparents, my cousins ... with what they make, they can't afford to cut back in their household with what they're trying to survive with…The upper class, we can take that hit…And we can afford to live nice lives.

I've lived in both situations… So, would I rather see my whole family struggle while I get a break, or have me not get a break while the rest of my family gets one? I'll take my entire family getting a break.
This viewpoint seems sensible, warm-hearted, and even patriotic. After all, the ancient Athenians considered it a civic privilege to pay taxes. Why? They cared about the future of their city-state. And that willingness to sacrifice to make one’s community better was the essence of patriotism. It was based on the belief that the community was, in a way, one's family.

Jody Wiser, the founder of Tax Fairness Oregon, agrees. In an Oregonian article, Wiser shared her belief that wealthy citizens need to pay more than they currently do. Wiser has nothing against rich folks… she is one! She says, "I deserve to be taxed, and if you give the wealthy a tax benefit, you're going to be giving it to me— and I don't need it.”

Wiser also knows that with her financial peers, it’s worth asking how their gains were gotten. For example, Wiser's family owned California farmland and the family made millions off of federal subsidies for “growing cotton in the desert," as she puts it. (The government subsidized this water-intensive, nonfood crop there because —wait for it— of the efforts of lobbyists.)

Anyway, patriotism may come down to how one defines the common good. What is our society's base denominator? Our family? Our state? There is no single answer, but I'm thinking anyone with a "country first" mentality would disagree with a statement like this:
Now you [Joe Biden] said recently that higher taxes or asking for higher taxes or paying higher taxes is patriotic. In the middle class of America which is where Todd and I have been all of our lives, that's not patriotic. Patriotic is saying, government, you know, you're not always the solution. In fact, too often you're the problem so, government, lessen the tax burden and on our families and get out of the way and let the private sector and our families grow and thrive and prosper.


David said...

Just for once I would love to have all of those 'rich' people put there money where their mouth is and just sit down and write a check to the IRS for whatever amount they feel they are under-taxed. That way those 'rich' people who feel they are over taxed can be rid of this accusation of guilt that is showered on them for having actually worked for what they have and for their sense of not wanting to give it to the black hole that is known as the Federal Government.

Wouldn't that make more sense than a federal mandate? Or would people do like most rich folks do (Democrat or Republican) and hire a bevy of accountants and tax lawyers to help them avoid paying taxes (even though the top 5 percent of the 'rich' already pay over 50 percent of all taxes, and the top 50 percent of wage earners pay 96 percent of all taxes)? Take the tax return of billioneiress Theresa Heinz Kerry who in 2004 reported having only paid about $4k in taxes. I think that was less than this non 'rich' person. I wonder if she's a Democrat or a Republican ... hmmmmm ;-)

Bart King said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bart King said...

This is a good topic; I'm listening to the presidential debate, and John McCain is talking about:
1.) How Senator Obama wants to spread "Joe the Plumber's" wealth around.
2.) How Senator Obama wants to initiate class warfare.

It's odd that the last two presidential elections have featured candidates (John Kerry in 2004 and McCain now) whose wives have financial resources that are vastly greater than their husbands'.

Party affiliations among the very rich (with the exception of exceptional people like Jody Wiser) may be immaterial, in that members of that socio-economic strata will attempt to elude paying any taxes they can on the principle that it's standard operating procedure for a businessperson.

But as that S.O.P. impoverishes the rest of us, isn't that the real class warfare? (I suppose it's really more like a class sabotage...)

David said...

First let me say that my initial comment had an unintended 'nasty' tone to it, so please forgive me.

So in friendly continuation ;-)

... that SOP still has the top 5 percent paying over 50 percent of all taxes, and blah, blah, blah, as I said. So imagine if all those who opine or say verbally that they would be wiling to pay more taxes would just pony up and write the check for their 'undertaxation' to the IRS. Wouldn't that really be helpful instead of engaging in the SOP?

And then we could eliminate the class warfare (and yes, that is what it is when you say you're going to take from the 'rich' for programs for the 'poor') that both of these candidates are doing, at some level (certainly more so from Obama, even in his own words to Joe the Plumber).

All of this fosters a cycle of governmental dependency that I think is very detrimental to our 'free' society, because, as the adage says in paraphrasology, 'there's no such thing as a free lunch'. When you get something from the government they will expect (and probably should) something in return. You want health care from US, then stop eating Twinkies and raw meat. You want education dollars from US, then you must teach AB&C, even if that contradicts your family's values. etc, etc.

Eminently sensible? Maybe. Freedom robbing? Certainly.

Some taxes, yes, but prohibitive taxes on those who actually are creating jobs, in businesses big or small, is counterintuitive by any thinking persons economic reasoning. What is the magic number? Who knows ... but when Reagan cut the tax on the 'rich' to 28 percent-ish, then the tax coffers grew like they'd never grown before, because the 'rich' didn't have to work so hard to avoid paying their taxes. Sadly, however, spending also went up and so Reagan left office with a deficit - but there's no denying that tax income for the feds grew with that massive tax rate cut for the 'rich'.

Bart King said...

Zounds, no need to apologize; I noticed no snarkiness that would offend.

Reading through along, I was stopped dead in my tracks by the wonderful employment of the word "paraphrasology."

I had to regroup and start over again. :)

There's a lot here, but with regard to, "So imagine if all those who opine or say verbally that they would be wiling to pay more taxes would just pony up and write the check for their 'undertaxation' to the IRS," we know that this will rarely happen. Sure, wealthy individuals with vigorous consciences (e.g., Jody Wiser) will do so, but I'm reluctant to consider what percentage of her tax bracket she represents. Perhaps I'd be pleasantly surprised...