Obtuse Observer

December 14, 2011

The Rich?

Filed under: 1%,Gold Homer,Income Tax,The Rich,Warren Buffett — Tags: , , , , — Obtuse Observer @ 8:39 am

Having recently read the snide partisan ramblings of an author asserting that the Republicans, the party of greed and the rich don’t'cha know, have created a toxic political atmosphere, bamboozled millions into voting for them against their own best interests (which were of course best served by Democrats – though apparently civility demanded that he only mention the parties by transparent allusion) through the use of divisive tactics focusing on race, class and hate filled rhetoric I had to stand back in awe at the magnitude of irony on full display.  In this caustic, fully partisan rant soaked full of sweeping and overbroad generalizations on facebook casting scorn on “the rich”; the author regarded challenges to and dissent from his proclamations from on high as the hallmark of incivility and badgering.  It was something to behold.  I kinda enjoy bringing it up because it amuses me but it actually serves as a decent example of exactly what we (any of us) shouldn’t do.

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Perhaps a couple comments.   For my part, I’ll use the top 1% of wage earners as the standard for “the rich” because it is easy to identify. 

When one fills one’s rhetoric with references to “the rich” without ever bothering to define what is meant by “the rich” is a very clear example of demagoguery, that is, using a device of argument to create “us” and “them” which is to say that it is specifically the practice of divineness.  Neither party is above it.  Thinking so requires self-delusion.

“The rich” do not have secret meetings and decide the fate of the world and place elected officials to do their bidding – though individual rich people do.  There is a big difference between those two points of fact.  Beware politicians and talking heads who ignore this distinction.

“The rich” are as politically divided as the not rich.  George Soros is rich – he is not a Republican nor a Conservative.  Mr. Soros has spent a great deal of money on politics in order to influence election results (perfectly legal – donations to campaign funds etc).  He’s by no means an isolated example; nor are rich Republicans.  It is stupid to believe that either side of the political spectrum has a monopoly of membership by “the rich.”  Believing so is an expression of frustration that the other side is winning (whether they actually are or are not).

“The rich” is a remarkably fluid group whose membership changes often.  Those who enter don’t stay long.  This means many more than 1% of wage earners have occupied that bracket at one time or another.

“The rich” do not control everything but many of them are attracted to power and as such are attracted to politics.  See the Soros example above.

We tax income not wealth.  Taxing a person’s wealth would be a “taking” for legal purposes – can’t do it.  Income taxes would be too but for the 18th Amendment authorizing them.  Pay attention to politicians sliding too easily from one notion to the other without bothering to make that distinction clear.

47% of Americans pay no federal income taxes.  That those 47% pay payroll taxes does not distinguish them from the other 53% who also pay those taxes.  Beware when Warren Buffet holds that distinction up as reason that some people (he never actually tells us) should pay even more in federal income taxes.

The top 5% of federal income tax payers paid 60% of income taxes collected.  Good, bad or ugly it is true.  When deciding if “the rich” have paid their fair share it is appropriate to keep actual facts in mind.

 

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