Obtuse Observer

February 14, 2012

Taxes and Fair Share

Filed under: 2012 Budget,Fair Share,Taxation — Tags: , — Obtuse Observer @ 2:24 am

President Obama tells us everyone must pay their fair share.  I think he’s exactly right.  But I don’t think he means what he is saying*.  Everybody would include more than the roughly 53% of Americans who actually pay federal income taxes.  The President wants to make federal taxes more fair by eliminating deductions utilized by “the rich.”  He has never defined the term rich.  Although he often refers to millionaires, proposed tax changes have applied to those earning at most 25% of what millionaires earn.  To President Obama “fair share” means taxing a smaller group of tax payers from the shrinking pool of those who actually pay federal income taxes.  Increasing demands on fewer and fewer people does not conjure the word “fair” immediately to the mind of most sane people.

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What would be fair? 

1)  Take the entire Internal Revenue Code and burn it.

2)  If you have income you pay income tax; unless you are not part of everyone.  If you are not part of everyone you are no one.

3)  There will be two tax brackets.  15% and 25%

4)  Income brackets will be established by an “over/under” number and the number pegged to the rate of inflation. 

5)  There will be four deductions as follows:

  • Mortgage Interest: federal income tax policy should encourage home ownership.
  • Child Credit: federal income tax policy should encourage and support families.
  • State Income Taxes (or high state sales taxes where no income tax): federal income tax policy should not take a second bite from the apple.
  • Charitable Giving: federal income tax policy should encourage charitable giving.  Not only is it right and proper but helps relieve the burden on tax payer funded programs.

The problem with a simplified tax structure like this is that it eliminates thousands of pages of code and the need for hundreds of thousands of experts to interpret it, it eliminates the opportunities for politicians of every political stripe to embed arcane deductions aimed at preferred constituencies and it would eliminate the need for probably 99% of the IRS.  Sadly, while President Obama does not mean what he says, enough Congressmen agree with him to make it not matter.   And so, we will continue to hear a lot about this issue that says nothing, at best, and misleads more commonly.

 

*Just for clarity, because Obama is President and not Governor, Mayor etc, I presume he is talking about taxes within the control of the federal government; that is to say federal income taxes and so my comments address federal income taxes.  It is awful that I need to say that but with people like Warren Buffet intentionally confusing the issue it becomes necessary.

December 8, 2011

Rich OWS Supporters and Obama’s Vitriolic Rhetoric

Here is an interesting list of people who have apparently (not my list – happy to be corrected if anyone listed inaccurately) voiced support at one time or another with varying degrees of volume as well as their net worth: 

 

Recently there has been much vitriol and overbroad criticism leveled at “the rich” not least of which by our President and an author from North Dakota whom I used to respect.  Some one I was communicating with about this anger at “the rich” noted that these angry people really don’t hate the rich so much as they hate the rich who don’t give money to liberal causes or support liberal candidates.  What they really mean is that they hate Republicans, the monolithic party of greed according to that author, with money and regard anyone who is not rich that supports them is brain dead lackeys who fail to recognize that Obama is trying to take the rich guy’s money (“I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody”) and  and give it to more deserving people, that is, Democrats. 

They express a more angry, heated and emotion-only based version of an argument made by Thomas Frank in What’s The Matter With Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America.  He argues that non-rich supporters of GOP candidates vote against their own economic interests.  Obama and others say the same thing only they remove any semblance of civility, reason or fact.  (That “the rich” don’t pay their fair share of income and other taxes is absurd considering the federal income tax burden borne by the top 5% of American wage earners, roughly 60%of all federal income taxes paid in 2009).  However, with the President’s approval ratings below Jimmy Carter’s bitter demagogic behavior from him and his trickling supply of supporters is not shocking in the least.

Leon Cooperman, worth an estimated $1.8B, and former Obama supporter recently issued an open letter to President Obama expressing his concern for the political tone the President is setting (echoed by that author by the way).  I’m sure he will now be purged from the party for heresy and added to the list of nasty greedy rich people.  I excerpt two paragraphs from the full letter found here:

But what I can justifiably hold you accountable for is your and your minions’ role in setting the tenor of the rancorous debate now roiling us that smacks of what so many have characterized as “class warfare”. Whether this reflects your principled belief that the eternal divide between the haves and have-nots is at the root of all the evils that afflict our society or just a cynical, populist appeal to his base by a president struggling in the polls is of little importance. What does matter is that the divisive, polarizing tone of your rhetoric is cleaving a widening gulf, at this point as much visceral as philosophical, between the downtrodden and those best positioned to help them. It is a gulf that is at once counterproductive and freighted with dangerous historical precedents. And it is an approach to governing that owes more to desperate demagoguery than your Administration should feel comfortable with.

With due respect, Mr. President, it’s time for you to throttle-down the partisan rhetoric and appeal to people’s better instincts, not their worst. Rather than assume that the wealthy are a monolithic, selfish and unfeeling lot who must be subjugated by the force of the state, set a tone that encourages people of good will to meet in the middle. When you were a community organizer in Chicago, you learned the art of waging a guerilla campaign against a far superior force. But you’ve graduated from that milieu and now help to set the agenda for that superior force. You might do well at this point to eschew the polarizing vernacular of political militancy and become the transcendent leader you were elected to be. You are likely to be far more effective, and history is likely to treat you far more kindly for it.

It is odd how similar that author’s recent polemics (monolithic selfish wealth) mirror the very same rhetoric from President Obama that is lamented in this open letter.  It would be nice if Obama can change his tone and appeal to our better angels rather than demonize for short term political gain, but, like pretty much all of the change promised by President there appears little reason to hope for it.

 

December 4, 2011

Obama Rich “Fair Share”

Filed under: Barak Obama,Fair Share,The Rich — Tags: , , — Obtuse Observer @ 1:28 am

Google: obama rich “fair share”

I got 38,300,000 hits in a quarter of a second.

This is my gift to college dorm kids everywhere.  Your new drinking game.  Turn on the radio, the TV, read a newspaper, blog or bumper sticker and take a drink every time these three words appear in close proximity

You are welcome.

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