Progressive and Regressive Taxes and Marginal Tax rates

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 6th, 2014

Economics 101

(Originally published July 9th, 2012)

The Beatles fled Britain to Escape a Confiscatory Top Marginal Tax Rate of 95%

George Harrison wrote Taxman.  The song appeared on the 1966 Beatles album Revolver.  It was an angry protest song.  For George Harrison was furious when he learned what exactly the progressive tax system was in Britain.  In the song the British taxman is laying down the tax law.

Let me tell you how it will be
There’s one for you, nineteen for me
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

Should five per cent appear too small
Be thankful I don’t take it all
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah I’m the taxman

That’s one for you, Mr. Harrison.  And nineteen for us.  The government.  Meaning that for every £20 the Beatles earned they got to keep only £1.  This is a 95% top marginal tax rate.  A supertax on the super rich imposed by Harold Wilson’s Labour government.  So if the Beatles earned £1 million because of their incredible talent and hard work touring in concert, working on new albums in the studio and making movies, of that £1 million they got to keep only about £50,000.  While the government got £950,000.  If they earned £10 million they got to keep about £500,000.  While the government got £9,500,000.  As you can see 5% is a very small percentage.  Which is why George Harrison got so angry.  The harder they worked the less of their earnings they were able to keep.

Is this fair?  George didn’t think so.  Nor did his fellow Beatles.  For they fled Britain.  Moved to another country.  Becoming tax exiles.  For they were little more than court minstrels.  Who the government forced to entertain them.  Earning a lot of money so they could take it away.  To help pay for an explosion in social spending Harold Wilson unleashed on Britain.  Socializing the UK like never before.  And all those social benefits required a lot of taxes.  Hence the progressive tax system.  And marginal tax rates.  Where the super rich, like the Beatles, paid confiscatory tax rates of 95%.

The Top Marginal Tax Rate was around 70% under President Carter and around 28% under President Reagan

As social spending took off in the Sixties and Seventies governments thought they could just increase tax rates to generate greater amounts of tax revenue.  For governments looked at the economy as being static.  That whatever they did would result in their desired outcome without influencing the behavior of those paying these higher tax rates.  But the economy is not static.  It’s dynamic.  And changes in the tax rates do influence taxpayer behavior.  Just ask the Beatles.  And every other tax exile escaping the confiscatory tax rates of their government.  Because of this dynamic behavior of the taxpayers excessively high tax rates rarely brings in the tax revenue governments expect them to.

Even when it comes to sin taxes government still believes that the economy is static.  Even though they publicly state that taxes on alcohol and tobacco are to dissuade people from consuming alcohol and tobacco.  (The U.S. funded children’s health care with cigarette taxes clearly showing the government did not believe these taxes would stop people from smoking).  Perhaps some in government look at sin taxes as a way to discourage harmful habits.  But the taxman sees something altogether different when they look at sin taxes.  Addiction.  Knowing that few people will give up these items no matter how much they tax them.  And that means tax revenue.  But unlike the progressive income tax this tax is a regressive tax.  Those who can least afford to pay higher taxes pay a higher percentage of their income to pay these taxes.  For sin taxes increase prices.  And higher prices make smaller paychecks buy less.  Leaving less money for groceries and other essentials.

Most income taxes, on the other hand, are progressive.  Your income is broken up into brackets.  The lowest bracket has the lowest income tax rate.  Often times the lowest income bracket pays no income taxes.  The next bracket up has a small income tax rate.  The next bracket up has a larger income tax rate.  And so on.  Until you get to the high income threshold.  Where all income at and above this rate has the highest income tax rate.  This top marginal tax rate was around 70% under President Carter.  Around 28% under President Reagan.  And 95% under Harold Wilson’s Labour government in Britain.  An exceptionally high rate that led to great efforts to avoid paying income taxes.  Or simply encouraged people to renounce their citizenship and move to a more tax-friendly country.

When the Critical Mass of People turn from Taxpayers to Benefit Recipients it will Herald the End of the Republic

Progressive taxes are supposed to be fair.  By transferring the tax burden onto those who can most afford to pay these taxes.  But the more progressive the tax rates are the less tax revenue they generate.  What typically happens is you have a growing amount of low-income earners paying no income taxes but consuming the lion’s share of government benefits.  The super rich shelter their higher incomes and pay far less in taxes than those high marginal tax rates call for.  They still pay a lot, paying the majority of income taxes.  But it’s still not enough.  So the middle class gets soaked, too.  They pay less than the rich but the tax bite out of their paychecks hurts a lot more than it does for the rich.  Because the middle class has to make sacrifices in their lives whenever their tax rates go up.

As social spending increases governments will use class warfare to increase taxes on the rich.  And they will redefine the rich to include parts of the middle class.  To make ‘the rich’ pay their ‘fair’ share.  And they will increase their tax rates.  But it won’t generate much tax revenue.  For no matter how much they tax the rich governments with high levels of spending on social programs all run deficits.  Because there just aren’t enough rich people to tax.  Which is why the government taxes everything under the sun to help pay for their excessive spending.

If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
If you get too cold, I’ll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.

Don’t ask me what I want it for
If you don’t want to pay some more
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

Now my advice for those who die
Declare the pennies on your eyes
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman
And you’re working for no one but me.

This is where excessive government spending leads to.  Excessive taxation.  And confiscatory tax rates.  Taking as much from the wealth creators as possible to fund the welfare state.  And as progressive tax systems fail to generate the desired tax revenue they will turn to every other tax they can.  Until there is no more wealth to tax.  Or to confiscate.  When the wealth creators finally say enough is enough.  And refuse to create any more wealth for the government to tax or to confiscate.  Leaving the government unable to meet their spending obligations.  As the critical mass of people turn from taxpayers to benefit recipients.  Heralding the end of the republic.

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Defying Economic Sense the 1% now support Higher Tax Rates on their Income

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 29th, 2012

Week in Review

Now everyone is ganging up on the Republicans.  In the fiscal cliff showdown.  The Republicans want some deficit reduction coming from spending cuts.  They have modified their position to allow some higher tax rates.  But they want those spending cuts.  Which the Democrats simply refuse.  They want all deficit reduction to come from higher tax rates.  Now even the 1% are saying to tax them more.  At least, according to a new poll (see Majority of Rich Want Themselves Taxed More: Poll by Robert Frank, CNBC, posted 12/24/2012 on Yahoo! Finance).

American Express Publishing and The Harrison Group found that 67 percent of the top one percent of American earners support higher income taxes. Their support has grown since the election. This summer, 62 percent of them supported higher taxes.

Some might say the rich are hoping to tax people richer – or poorer — than themselves. The top one percent consist of people making more than $450,000 a year. But the survey clearly shows most One Percenters favor taxing themselves. More than half say that they support taxing those making $500,000 or more…

“There is an absolute willingness for the vast majority of the One Percent to take a tax increase,” said Jim Taylor, Vice Chairman Harrison Group. “What the Republicans think is not necessarily what their constituents think.”

Ask yourself this.  Why are super rich movie, television and music stars staunch supporters of the Democrat Party?  Is it because in their music studies they minored in economics?  No.  I don’t think so.  I would even go so far as to posit that they cannot differentiate between classical economics, the Austrian school of economics, the Chicago school of economics and the Keynesian school of economics.  Though they are staunch supporters of the last one.  Because the Democrats embrace Keynesian economics as it enables big government spending.  So why are super rich movie, television and music stars staunch supporters of the Democrat Party?   So they can escape the bitter attacks on wealth business owners face.

These superstars live lives like Roman Emperors.  All without having a real job.  So they have no understanding of economic fundamentals.  Or the first thing about scraping the cash together to make a payroll.  But they do know that if they support and campaign for Democrat candidates they can enjoy their obscene wealth without someone attacking them for living like Roman Emperors.  Could it be the reason why the superrich 1% are coming out in favor of higher tax rates on themselves?  Perhaps.  For there is no good economic reason to do so.

Raising taxes on them will not make a dent in the deficit.  In fact, if you added all the federal income taxes those earning $200,000 or more paid in 2010 (see Table 3.  Number of Individual Income Tax Returns, Income, Exemptions and Deductions, Tax, and Average Tax, by Size of Adjusted Gross Income, Tax Years 2001-2010) it comes to approximately $489 billion.  If you divide that number by the highest marginal tax rate (at high income levels most income is taxed at the highest marginal tax rate) that comes to about $1.397 trillion.  Which is just over the average Obama annual deficit of $1.324 trillion.  So if you confiscated 100% of all earning from those earning $200,000 or more it will pay for one year’s deficit.  So taxing the rich a few more percentage points will do NOTHING to reduce the deficit.  The deficit is just too big.  And there are just too few rich people.  No, the only way to reduce the deficit by higher taxes only is to hit the middle class with a huge tax increase.  Or you could cut spending.  Which would require no new middle class tax.  Like the Republicans want.

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FT150: “The Left wants to extend tax hikes down to those earning $250,000 because there are just too few rich people to tax.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 29th, 2012

Fundamental Truth

If you Confiscated ALL Income from those Earning a Million+ it would be Less than HALF of the Average Obama Deficit

The fiscal cliff yadda yadda yadda the Democrats want to raise taxes and the Republicans’ mothers are whores.  That about summarizes the fiscal cliff negotiations.  The Democrats want to raise taxes.  The Republicans don’t because there is nothing that will kill off an economic recovery quicker than raising taxes.  And the Democrats are mean.  Calling the Republicans a lot of names.  And saying things about them that aren’t very nice.  So once again let’s look at the numbers to see what they say about federal income taxes.  The following numbers come from the IRS (see Table 3.  Number of Individual Income Tax Returns, Income, Exemptions and Deductions, Tax, and Average Tax, by Size of Adjusted Gross Income, Tax Years 2001-2010).

The Democrats keep saying that the Republicans want tax cuts for the rich paid for by the poor.  But according to these numbers that’s just not happening.  People who earned $15,000 or less paid 0.0% of all federal income taxes.  People who earned $30,000 or less paid less than 1% of all federal income taxes.  It’s the meaty center that paid the taxes.  Those who earned from $75,000 to $1 million submitted approximately 20.5% of all federal tax returns while they paid approximately 62.9% of all federal income taxes.

Now how about those rich people?  Those earning $1 million or more submitted approximately 0.19% of all tax returns.  Less than a quarter of one percent.  And yet they paid approximately 21.9% of all income taxes.  Is that fair?  At these high levels of income people pay basically the top marginal tax rate as only a very small fraction of their earnings falls outside this top rate.  So if we divide the total taxes paid by this 0.18% ($207 billion) by 0.35 (the 2010 top marginal tax rate) you get a total income of $590 billion.  So if you confiscated ALL of their earnings it would be less than HALF of the average Obama deficit ($1.324 trillion).  Meaning that it is IMPOSSIBLE to reduce the deficit with any tax rate on those earning $1 million or more.

The Rich may be paying Lower Tax Rates but they’re paying Far More Tax Dollars than most of Us

All right, so it won’t reduce the deficit.  But the Democrats say we must do this to be fair.  Meaning those earning more should pay more even if it’s only symbolic.  To punish success.  As if they’re not being punished already for their success.  We’ve all heard about Warren Buffet’s secretary paying a larger tax rate than he pays.  But talking percentages isn’t the same as talking dollars.  Because a small percentage on a much larger earnings amount will produce more tax revenue than a higher tax rate on a smaller earnings amount.  So let’s look at dollar amounts to see if the rich are paying their fair share.  Or whether we’re punishing them enough for their success.

The rich paid a smaller percentage of their earnings in taxes but paid far more in actual dollar amounts.  Which is the only thing that allows government to pay for things.  Dollars.  Let’s assume Warren Buffet’s secretary falls into the income range $50,000 to $75,000.  Who paid on average $4,310.92 in federal income taxes.  Now compare this to what rich people paid in income taxes.  Those earning from $1 million to $1.5 million paid on average $306,779 in federal income taxes.  Or more than 71 times what someone earning $50,000 to $75,000 paid.  Those earning $1,500,000 to $2,000,000 paid 102 times more than that lower income earner.  Those earning $2,000,000 to $5,000,000 paid 179 times more than that lower income earner.  Those earning $5,000,000 to $10,000,000 paid 407 times more than that lower income earner.  Those earning $10 million or more paid 1,389 times more than that lower income earner.

The rich may be paying lower tax rates but they’re paying far more tax dollars than most of us.  An inordinate amount.  If you look at it in terms of government services people consume (which is what taxes pay for) are those earning $10 million or more consuming 1,389 times the government services those earning $50,000 to $75,000 consume?  No.  If anything, they consume far less government services than most people.  Because they live the good life.  The good life their high earnings provide.  Being that the rich are paying far more than their fair share you can only conclude then that these excessive taxes are punitive.  To punish their success.

The only way to Achieve Real Deficit Reduction is to Increase Taxes on the Middle Class or Cut Spending

So what can we conclude?  The rich are paying more than their fair share of taxes.  The amount of tax dollars they’re paying could even qualify as being punitive.  As they are so great any further increase in rates on the rich is not likely to increase tax revenue.  First of all as they are already paying so much they will take every tax shelter advantage they can to minimize the further confiscation of their earnings.  But more important than that is that there are just so few rich people.  Even though the rich pay on average hundreds of times more in federal income taxes than that meaty center it’s the meaty center where most of the tax revenue comes from.  Because there are so many more people in the meaty center.  And by graphing the number of tax returns from each income bracket and the amount of tax revenue they pay we can understand why the Democrats are so adamant to raise taxes on those earning as little as $250,000.

The blue line (Series 1) is the number of tax returns filed in thousands of people for each income bracket (the left vertical axis).  The red line (Series 2) is the total tax revenue in millions of dollars each income bracket produces (the right vertical axis).  You can see the meaty center of tax revenue (from those earning $75,000 to $1 million).  And you can see the meaty center of those filing tax returns (form those earning $30,000 to $200,000).  As you can see the meaty center of tax filers and tax payers are not the same.  As the tax code shifts the tax burden onto the higher income earners.  And in this chart we can see why the Democrats want to increase tax rates on those earning $250,000 and more.

The drawback to progressive tax rates is that it shifts the tax burden onto fewer people.  Who must pay more in taxes than is their fair share.  And that worked for awhile until government grew so large.  But as our aging population has increased the costs of Medicare and Social Security (and soon Obamacare) there just aren’t enough rich people to tax to pay these soaring costs.  And they will have no choice but to shift the tax revenue graph to lower income people.  So they can capture more people (and incomes) under this graph.  Yes, they want to tax the rich more.  But only for the symbolism.  For once they’ve punished them by forcing them to pay their ‘fair’ share then they can raise tax rates on everyone else.  Which is the only way they have a snowball’s chance in hell of achieving real deficit reduction.  Increasing taxes on the middle class.  Well, that, or cutting spending.  Which could provide serious deficit reduction.  By shrinking the size of government. The very cause of those massive deficits.  And accumulated debt.  But shrinking government is, of course, crazy talk for those on the Left.  Who would rather let the country sink into insolvency before agreeing to that.

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If you Tax the Rich in France at Confiscatory Tax Rates they will Leave France

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 15th, 2012

Week in Review

Rich people won’t leave the country if we raise tax rates.  Governments everywhere say this.  For they will believe that people with the ability to create wealth will just sit idly by while the government takes it away.  So believed the French socialist president.  François Gérard Georges Nicolas Hollande.  Who said he would tax millionaires at 75%.  And by golly he’s going to do it.  But it turns out those who can create wealth are none too keen on paying 75% of everything they earn over a million to the government.  And they’re saying so.  Not so much in words.  But with their feet (see Gerard Depardieu moves to tiny tax haven in Belgium just 800 YARDS from border where a third of people are French citizens dodging Hollande’s high taxes by Ian Sparks posted 12/10/2012 on the Daily Mail).

French film star Gerard Depardieu has moved into his new ‘tax exile’ mansion in Belgium – just 800 yards from the border with France.

The 64-year-old actor’s lavish home in the village of Nechin – on a street known as Millionaire’s Row – is less than two minutes drive from the French town of Roubaix.

Depardieu is the latest wealthy Frenchman fleeing a looming new tax of 75 per cent on all earnings over one million euros – about £850,000…

France’s economy minister Pierre Moscovici hit out this week at repeated warnings in the world’s media that France’s richest people were fleeing overseas.

He told a conference of business leaders in Paris: ‘I am troubled to read in the papers that the exile has begun, and that companies are fleeing…

His comments also came after Laurence Parisot – head of MEDEF, the French equivalent of the UK’s Confederation of British Industry – warned last month that left-wing economic policies risked turning France into ‘the poor man of Europe’.

She said: ‘Large foreign investors are shunning France altogether. It’s becoming really dramatic.

Now before you say the rich are a bunch of evil unpatriotic people who put their greed before the welfare of their nation answer me this.  Did you buy a lotto ticket for that recent half billion dollar jackpot?  If so, why?  Did you want that half billion?  Or did you want to win it so you could give it to the government to help the welfare of the nation?  Don’t answer that for it’s a stupid question.  People buy lotto tickets because they want to be rich.  So they will support raising taxes on the evil rich right up until the day they win a big lotto jackpot and become one of the evil rich.

Let’s look at what winning that jackpot would be like if the U.S. had a top marginal tax rate of 75% for all earnings over a million dollars.  Based on the 2011 tax rates for married filed jointly, and adding the 75% rate to the top of those tax rates, how much of a half billion dollar jackpot do you think you would be able to keep?  After paying your federal income tax of $374,818,212 you’d have only $125,181,789 left.  That’s still a lot of money.  But how many of you would be satisfied with winning $500,000,000 while only being able to keep $125,181,789?  Not many I’m guessing.  Most probably would say that’s not fair.  Which is what people like Gerard Depardieu are saying in France.  And why they are moving to Belgium.

Being a rich, greedy bastard is a sliding scale.  If you earn $35,000 annually anyone earning more who doesn’t vote to increase tax rates on the rich is a rich, greedy bastard.  Should you win a $500 million lotto jackpot the rich, greedy bastard line moves up.  And only applies to people earning more that $500 million.  So you can keep what is yours.

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Product Pricing

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 10th, 2012

Economics 101

The First Thing a Business has to do to Determine their Selling Price is Determining their Costs

Did you ever think about how businesses price their products?  Do they just pull numbers out of the air?  Do they just charge as much as they want?  No, they don’t.  Because they can’t.  For if one gas station charges $12 for a gallon of gasoline while the station across the street is only charging $3.50 guess where people are going to buy their gas from.  So free market competition prevents businesses from charging whatever they want.  So how do they determine what to charge?

Well, some look at what their competitors are charging and match it.  Or charge a little less.  To steal customers away from the competition.  Which can work.  But it can also bankrupt a business.  For if a business owner doesn’t know his or her costs selling at the market price could fail to recover all of their costs.  The market price limits what they can charge.  But if their costs are too great to stay in business selling at the prevailing market price they have to do something about reducing their costs.  Which they can’t do if they don’t know their costs.  So the first thing a business has to do to determine their selling price is determining their costs.  Like this.

This is an abbreviated fictional income statement showing last year’s results.  And forecasting next year’s results.  EBT stands for earnings before taxes.  Income taxes for this year are based on the 2011 federal tax tables.  Income taxes for next year are based on the proposed Obama tax rates (increasing the top marginal rate from 33% to 39.6%).  The business is a subchapter-S where the business earnings pass through to the owners’ personal income tax returns.  The owner does not draw a salary but draws $125,000 from retained earnings to support him or herself, his or her stay-at-home spouse and their 3 children. The percentages show each number as a percentage of revenue.

You need to Sell at the Right Price and at the Right Volume to Pay all of the Bills

The difference between this year and next year is the rise in costs.  Obamacare and other business regulations increase the cost of sales (direct labor, benefits, direct supplies, etc.) by 2%.  And they increase fixed overhead (rent, utilities, administrative labor, benefits, etc.) by 2%.  They will have to recover these higher costs in higher prices.  Which will likely reduce unit sales.  But because each unit will sell for more we assume sales revenue remains the same.

The higher costs cause EBT to fall.  A lower EBT means lower federal income taxes.  But it also means less retained earnings to invest back into the business.  The reduction in retained earnings is $36,604.28.  Which limits investments to grow the business.  And leaves a much smaller cash cushion after some of those retained earnings are reinvested into the business.  To pay for the unexpected.  Like a new piece of equipment that fails and halts production.  Things worked well in the current year.  The business owner would like to have things work as well in the following year.  Which means not exposing themselves to such a dangerous cash position.  And how do they do that?  By raising their prices to make next year’s retained earnings as large as this year’s.  By recovering those retained earnings in higher prices.  Like this.

Let’s assume these numbers are for a coffee shop that sells only one type and size of drink (say a large espresso-based drink) to simplify this discussion.  If we subtract this year’s cost of sales from revenue we arrive with the markup on our direct costs.  Dividing this number into cost of sales we get a markup percentage.  For this year it was 72%.  In the current year let’s assume they sold 302,406 cups of coffee.  Which comes to about one cup a minute.  Dividing the costs of sales by the number of cups of coffee sold gives a unit cost of $2.58 for a cup of coffee.  Adding the 72% markup to this cost brings the selling price to $4.45.  Coffee sold at this price and at this volume produced enough revenue to pay all the bills, provided an income for the owner and his or her family while leaving enough left over to invest back into the business.  And provide a cash cushion for the unexpected.  As well as paying state income taxes, city income taxes, etc.

A Business must bring their Cost Structure in Line to be able to Sell at the Prevailing Market Price

To arrive at the new selling price we added the loss of retained earnings to next year’s revenue.  And re-crunched all of these numbers.  Because we are raising the price we can expect a small fall in revenue as customers buy less.  The higher costs and lower unit sales volume raised the unit cost.  The markup percentage is 1 percentage point lower but because the unit cost is higher so is the markup amount in dollars.  Which raises the selling price by $0.32.  Increasing the price of a cup of coffee to $4.77.  But is it enough?  As it turns out, no.  Because the new price raises revenue enough to push the business into a higher tax bracket.  Taking the business owner back to the numbers.

Because of the higher tax bracket, and the higher top marginal tax rate, this higher price still results in a loss of retained earnings.  About another $30,000.  So going through the whole process again brings the selling price up to $4.87.  Adding a total of $0.43 to this year’s price.  As long as the prevailing market price is around $4.87 for a large espresso-based drink this business owner should be able to keep his or her cost structure in place and stay in business.  However, if this exceeds the prevailing market price the business owner will have to make some spending cuts to bring his or her cost structure in line to sell coffee at the prevailing market price.  Make some assumptions.  And some adjustments.  Then crunch these numbers again.  And again.  For getting this price right is very important.  Too high and people will go elsewhere to buy their coffee.  To low and they won’t be able to pay all of their bills.

This may not be how all businesses determine their selling price.  But however they do it they have to bring their cost structure in line to be able to sell at the prevailing market price.   Because if their price is too high no one will buy from them.  If it’s too low everyone will buy from them.  Making them happy.  Until they realize they can’t pay all of their bills because their prices are too low.  The above example was complicated.  And that was with only one product.  Imagine a store full of products to sell.  And trying to calculate new prices on numerous products to cover the costs of new taxes and new regulations.  It’s not easy.  Which is why business owners don’t like big change coming from Washington.  For this change requires important decisions to make.  And if they get these decisions wrong and don’t find out until 6 months or so later they may dig themselves into a hole they won’t be able to get out of.  Putting them out of business.

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Undecided Voters, Party Platforms, Capitalism, Socialism, Free Stuff, Taxes, Spending, Deficit and Balanced Budget

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 29th, 2012

Politics 101

There are Stark Differences between Republicans and Democrats even though many are Equally Worthless

A lot of people listen to opposing candidates before making their voting decision.  The perennial undecided voters.  Who often don’t make up their mind until they enter the voting booth.  Who are swayed by the prevailing political winds.  Who are more susceptible to the lies and misinformation bombarding them during political campaigns.  For these are good people.  Kind people.  Trusting people.  Which is why the Left can lie to them so easily.

Anybody who has to listen to both parties’ candidate make their case before choosing who they will vote for does not follow politics.  Does not understand the platforms of the two major parties.  Does not have an understanding of rudimentary economics.  Or history.  For if they did they would be aligned with one party or the other.  Because all Democrats are basically the same.  And all Republicans are basically the same.

Democrats choose to be Democrats because they believe in and support the Democrat platform.  Republicans choose to be Republicans because they believe in and support the Republican platform.  Not in their entireties.  But pretty darn close.  Otherwise they would not identify themselves with their chosen party.  For there are stark differences between the parties believe it or not.  Even though many candidates from both parties are equally worthless and contemptible.

Republicans lean towards Free Market Capitalism while Democrats lean towards European Socialism

Republicans lean toward free market capitalism.  The Austrian school of economics.  Small government.  Low taxes.  Low government spending.  Sound noninflationary monetary policy.  A business-friendly environment that encourages entrepreneurialism.  And job creation.  They tend to be more socially conservative.  And would prefer to combat the rise in teenage pregnancy and teen sexually transmitted diseases by having teens doing more homework and having less sex.

Democrats lean toward European socialism.  What they call social democracy.  The Keynesian school of economics.  Big Government.  High taxes.  Lots of government spending.  Inflationary monetary policy so they can print the money that they can’t tax or borrow to pay for all that government spending.  They don’t believe that there can ever be too much business regulation (they may talk about creating good-paying jobs but their policies hinder job creation).  They tend to be more socially liberal.  And would prefer to address the issues of teenage pregnancy and teen sexually transmitted diseases by providing free birth control and abortion.  Because teens are going to have sex anyway.  And asking them to do more homework won’t change that.

These aren’t their official platforms.  And it’s not an all-inclusive description of their policy positions.  But it gives you a general idea of their differences.  And as you can see there are differences.  An undecided voter may struggle with their choice between Democrat and Republican.  But that’s a decision few Democrats or Republicans ever have.  Because they know the differences between their two parties.  And really don’t like each other.

Those who vote Straight Party Ticket will know how they’ll vote even before any Candidates Announce

When it comes to wooing the undecided voters both political parties tend to downplay their official platforms.  To keep from confusing the undecided with stuff they don’t understand.  Or, worse, to keep from scaring away the undecided in case they do understand this stuff.  So they make personal attacks.  And promise free stuff to voters who’ll vote for them.  Which Democrats can do a lot better.  As they always want to raise taxes and increase government spending.  Which comes in handy when giving away free stuff.  While Republicans want to govern responsibly.  Which isn’t very conducive to giving away free stuff.

Of course the Democrats don’t come out and say that they will tax people more so they can increase the size of government.  To administer that free stuff.  So they say things like they just want everyone to pay their fair share.  And that those who can afford to pay more (the 1%) should pay more in taxes.  For if only we were fairer we wouldn’t have these trillion dollar deficits.  The president would like to return to the Clinton era tax rates.  Raising the top marginal tax rate from 35% to 39.6%.  In 2010 the top 1% earned about $1.7 trillion.  So raising the top marginal tax rate 4.6 points would raise about $77.5 billion in additional tax revenue.  Sounds like a lot of money until you look at the average annual deficit of President Obama’s 4 years in office.  Which comes to about $1.3 trillion for each of his 4 years.  So the president’s proposal to balance the budget would only raise revenue equal to 5.86% of his average budget deficit.  Which won’t be anywhere near enough to balance the budget.  So we’ll have to do more.  And once we raise taxes on the rich that leaves the middle class.  Which we will have to tax punitively to balance the budget if we don’t cut spending.

Of course, the Democrats don’t tell us this.  This math.  Though they talked about math a lot during the 2012 campaign.  Instead, they just talk about being fair and having the rich pay more.  Which sounds like the decent thing to do.  Especially to the undecided who the Democrats haven’t exactly told the truth to.  Which is why those who understand this math tend to vote straight party tickets.  Either for their special interests and the math be damned.  Those who tend to vote Democrat.  Or those who seriously want to balance the budget before we end up like Greece.  Those who tend to vote Republican.  And unlike the undecided voters these people know who they will vote for even before they know who the candidates are.  Who will ignore whatever the candidates say during the campaign.  And, ironically, these people will probably be more informed than those undecided who study the candidates’ positions up until they enter the voting booth.

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FT126: “Class warfare is the lie that the 10% who pay 70% of all taxes aren’t paying their fair share.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 13th, 2012

Fundamental Truth

The Democrats like to Tax and Spend but their own Job-Killing Policies make this Hard to Do

The key of the Democrat Party platform is ignorance.  If it wasn’t for ignorance they couldn’t win elections today.  For their policies have been failures.  We’ve debunked Keynesian economics stimulus spending in the Seventies.  Their spending did not stimulate economic activity.  They only added high inflation onto high unemployment.  Creating the stagflation of the Seventies and the high misery index (inflation rate added to the unemployment rate). 

And their high marginal tax rates did not produce more tax revenue.  Because high tax rates have never encouraged economic activity.  Even those on the Left admit raising taxes during a recession is not a good thing.  And high tax rates don’t generate any new tax revenue when they cause overall economic activity to decline.  For we need both a tax rate and economic activity to generate tax revenue.  And having one without the other just isn’t going to do the job.

The Democrats like to tax and spend.  But their own policies make this hard to do.  Because their policies kill jobs.  And because they kill jobs they reduce tax revenue.  Fewer jobs and fewer people paying taxes (the unemployed don’t pay taxes) create a problem for tax and spend Democrats.  So they turn to increasing tax rates on the fewer remaining people who pay taxes.  Which is a difficult thing to do when you have to win elections.  Unless you lie.

The Top 10% of Income Earners Consistently Pay about 70% of all Federal Income Taxes

To win elections when your policies hurt the economy you need to transform the country.  You need to get a large percentage of the people dependent on government benefits.  While at the same time you need to change the tax code so these same people don’t pay any income taxes.  You do this and you make a very loyal constituency.  Who will always vote to raise other people’s taxes to increase their own benefits.  Of course, raising tax rates is not always easy.  So they have to add one more thing to the mix.  Class warfare.

Class warfare demonizes anyone who opposes these tax and spend policies.  By perpetuating a lie.  That the ‘rich’ don’t pay their fair share of taxes.  But when you look at the actual numbers, you find it is those who are NOT ‘rich’ that don’t pay their fair share (source:  National Taxpayers Union).

 

 The top 10% of income earners consistently pay about 70% of all federal income taxes.  While the bottom 50% pay less than 5% of all federal income taxes.  Falling as low as 2.25% of the tax total in 2009.  In 2009 those in the top 10% included everyone who earned $112,124 or more.  Which is interesting as we consider the rich to be like those movie stars earning on average of $30 million a year.  Not small business owners whose business earnings fall directly to their personal income tax returns.  Not everyone in this 10% are small business owners.  For it also includes those super rich movie stars.  But most small business owners fall in the top 10%.  And they as a group hire more people than any other business.  This is why higher taxes kill jobs. 

Public Education is in the Shape it is because it is Easier to Lie to the Ignorant

Assume a small business owner earns $200,000 in his or her business.  Putting them in the top 10%.  Based on the 2012 federal tax rates for a married couple filing jointly the federal income tax due is about $42,060.  Assuming state and city income taxes equal this federal tax amount leaves $115,881 after taxes for the small business owner to support his or her family.  And to invest in their business.  If this couple lives on $80,000 (which is only 0.267% of the income of the super rich movie star) this leaves only about $35,881 to invest into the business.  Which won’t even cover the cost of one new full-time employee’s wages, benefits and taxes.  Increasing taxes on this ‘rich’ 10% will leave even less money for small business owners to hire new employees.  Which is why increasing taxes on this 10% kills jobs.

This is, of course, why small business owners typically vote Republican.  Because the tax and spend policies of the Democrats hurt them very much.  Preventing them from hiring new employees.  And expanding their businesses.  Which is why the Democrats try to get as many people as possible collecting government benefits while paying no federal income taxes.  Because their policies have lost them the small business owners’ vote.  As well as those who work hard and don’t collect government benefits.  For if you work hard and pay taxes you’re not likely to vote to increase your own taxes.  However if you don’t pay taxes you probably will have no problem voting to raise taxes on those who do.

So this is why Democrats resort to class warfare.  And lie.  It’s all they have.  Which explains why public education is in the shape it is.  Because it is easier to lie to the ignorant.  Which is why public education emphasizes the evils of capitalism and the horrors of global warming.  Because teaching our students history and economics makes the lie harder to tell.  So they don’t.  Instead they teach them to become good Democrat voters.  Who believe the lie of class warfare.  That the top 10% of income earners who consistently pay about 70% of all federal income taxes don’t pay their fair share.

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Sixteenth Amendment, Revenue Act of 1913, Progressive Tax, Marginal Tax Rate, Tax Shelter, Tax Cuts and Decade of Greed

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 10th, 2012

History 101

Americans find Taxes Repugnant and have a Long History of Making this Repugnance Known

American independence began with a tax revolt.  The ratification of the U.S. Constitution happened only with safeguards against the new federal government from growing too powerful.  And great efforts went to limiting the amount of money it could spend.  For a long time all federal tax revenue came from import tariffs.  Then from sales of federal lands as the population moved west.  It took a civil war for us to impose an income tax.  Our first income tax was 3% on incomes over $800 (or about $20,000 today).  The first income tax was a flat tax.  They passed this income tax to pay for the war.  They repealed the income tax following the war.  Americans wouldn’t see another federal income tax until 1913 when we ratified the Sixteenth Amendment.  And President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Revenue Act of 1913.

Woodrow Wilson was a progressive.  The precursor to today’s liberals.  Who thought beyond the limited government of our Founding Fathers.  They wanted to expand government.  To make it a part of our everyday life.  Where the brilliant progressive politicians would make better decisions for us than we ever could.  And their changing of society included the funding of the federal government.  For their income tax was a progressive tax.  Everyone paid a flat tax of 1% on income of $3,000 or more.  About $66,100 today.  Then the progressive taxes came into play.   Adding another percentage to the income tax rate for increasing amounts of income.  The thresholds for these increases were as follows: $20,000 (roughly $440,400 today), $50,000 ($1,101,000 today), $75,000 ($1,651,600), $100,000 ($2,202,100), $250,000 ($5,505,300) and $500,000 ($11,010,700).  The top marginal tax rate on the super rich (earning $11,010,700) was 7%.

Our second income tax was quite controversial.  A lot of people hated it.  For Americans find taxes repugnant.  And have a long history of making this repugnance well known.  But thanks to the American Civil War a generation of men was lost.  And a generation of boys grew up without fathers.  Tended on by doting mothers.  Smothering them with love and affection.  And these boys grew up without knowing the manly hardships of life.  And they entered politics.  Becoming those early progressives.  Who wanted to change the government into a great doting mother.  And now they could.  For they had their income tax.

Few paid the Confiscatory Tax Rates of the Seventies by Hiding their Income in Tax Shelters

The rich paid our first federal income taxes after the Revenue Act of 1913.  And these were very small percentages we had them pay.  Back then the top marginal tax rate was lower than our lowest income tax rate today.  Think about that.  The richest of the rich paid only 7% of their income ($11,010,700 or more today) in federal income taxes.  While today single people earning the lowest bracket of taxable income (from $0 to $8,700) pay 10% of their income in federal income taxes.  Clearly the growth of government exploded thanks to the Sixteenth Amendment.  Much as our Founding Fathers feared it would if they had too much money to spend.

Of course, this is ancient history.  Few know about this today.  For few could even tell you why we fought for our independence.  Or even who we fought for our independence from.  (We fought for our independence from Great Britain because of their policies to tax us despite our having no representation in Parliament.  That’s where the phrase taxation without representation came from).  Today high taxes are sadly just an accepted part of life.  In fact, we have referred to our paychecks as take-home pay.  Our net pay.  Because gross pay is a myth.  No one sees their gross pay.  About a third or more of that disappears in withholding taxes.  So gross pay is a meaningless expression for us today.  (It wasn’t before the Sixteenth Amendment or before the progressives came to power).  Something that we sadly accept.  And we now fund our lives on the take-home pay the government allows us to keep.  All the while accepting these high tax rates.

Government spending took off in the Sixties and the Seventies.  As did our taxes.  If we had once thought that a 7% tax on incomes of $11,010,700 or more was an outrage, we didn’t see anything yet.  In 1978 the top marginal tax rate was 70% on incomes of $351,712 or more.  And there were 25 marginal tax rates.  As shown here adjusted for inflation (sources: Tax Rates, Tax Receipts, and Celebrity Incomes).

 In this example we calculated the average of some top celebrities.  And the top celebrities on average earned about $30,000,000 in 2010.  Using the 1978 tax brackets they would have owed $20,936,506 in federal income taxes.  Or approximately 69.8% of their total income.  Which is pretty much equal to the top marginal tax rate.  Of course, few paid these confiscatory tax rates.  They hid their income as best as they could in the Seventies.  In tax shelters.  And you know they did because despite these confiscatory tax rates the federal government still ran budget deficits.  Having to print money to pay for their explosion in government spending. 

The Low Tax Rates of the Eighties created so much Economic Activity the Opposition called it the Decade of Greed

The heyday of Keynesian economics was in the Seventies.  After Richard Nixon decoupled the dollar from gold the Keynesians were free to print money to stimulate the economy.  Which was their answer to ending a recession.  Stimulus spending.  Have the government print money to create economic activity that wasn’t happening in the private sector.  Their policy tool to end a recession was inflation.  By pouring money into the economy people would borrow it and buy cars and houses and furniture.  And everything else under the sun.  Creating a surge of economic activity.  And creating jobs in the process as businesses must hire new workers to meet that government stimulated demand.  With the dollar decoupled from the ‘cross of gold’ the Keynesians were finally able to prove their mettle.  And solve all the country’s economic problems.  It was the dawn of a brave new world.

And that world sucked.  For the implementation of Keynesian economic policy proved those policies did not work.  Instead of replacing high unemployment with inflation they just added high inflation to the high unemployment.  Something that was impossible to happen in Keynesian textbooks.  But it happened.  Stagnant economic activity.  And inflation.  What we called stagflation.  We added the unemployment rate to the inflation rate to come up with a new economic indicator.  The misery index.  The economy was so miserable during Jimmy Carter’s 4 years in office that he lost in a landslide to Ronald Reagan.  Who was a proponent not of Keynesian economics but of the Austrian school.  Or supply side economics.   And the Austrians believed in low tax rates.  For low tax rates would stimulate economic activity.  And the greater amount of economic activity would generate a greater amount of tax revenue even at lower tax rates.  Let’s look at that same celebrity paying taxes a decade later under Ronald Reagan.

 Much simpler.  And more in keeping with the Founding Fathers.  Instead of paying 70% of their earnings in federal income taxes they will only pay 28% (again, equal to the top marginal tax rate.  Which is pretty much the only tax rate the rich pay).  That’s still a lot of money to give to the federal government.  But it’s so much smaller that in many cases it was cheaper and easier to pay Uncle Sam than trying to hide that income.  So economic activity took off in the Eighties.  It was so great that the opposition called it the Decade of Greed.  Out of sour grapes because their policies could never produce anything like it.  But what about tax revenue?  Those on the Left say this economic activity came at a price.  Exploding deficits.  Well, the deficits did grow.  But it wasn’t because of the cuts in the tax rates.

Higher Tax Rates do not Necessarily Increase Tax Revenue 

In 1978 total tax revenue was $1,113.6 billion.  In 1988 total tax revenue was $1,421.1 billion.  So Reagan’s cuts in the tax rates produced $307.5 billion more in tax revenue.  An increase of about 27.6%.  Dropping the top marginal tax rate from 70% to 28% actually increased tax revenue.  So the cut in tax rates did not cause the deficits.  It wasn’t a revenue problem.  Revenue went up.  Spending just increased more.  And it was this excessive government spending that caused the deficits.  Not the tax cuts. 

The lesson here is that higher tax rates do not necessarily increase tax revenue.  Because changes in tax rates changes behavior.  Higher tax rates discourage people from investing in businesses.  They discourage businesses from expanding.  Or hiring new workers.  Higher tax rates may decrease the opportunity costs for hiding income.  The cost and inconvenience of hiding income in tax shelters and offshore accounts may become less that the cost of paying higher taxes.  Like it was during the Seventies.  Where despite confiscatory tax rates the government could not generate enough tax revenue to meet their spending obligations.

Income tax rates grew from a very small percentage on only the largest of incomes to high tax rates on very modest incomes.  And yet our deficits have never been larger.  Proving that our tax rates are either too high and dampen economic activity (as well as encouraging people to avoid paying their taxes).  Or that government spending has just grown too large.  More than likely it’s a combination of the two.  A fact that would shock and dismay the Founding Fathers were they alive to see what we did with the republic they gave us.

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Progressive and Regressive Taxes and Marginal Tax rates

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 9th, 2012

Economics 101

The Beatles fled Britain to Escape a Confiscatory Top Marginal Tax Rate of 95%

George Harrison wrote Taxman.  The song appeared on the 1966 Beatles album Revolver.  It was an angry protest song.  For George Harrison was furious when he learned what exactly the progressive tax system was in Britain.  In the song the British taxman is laying down the tax law.

Let me tell you how it will be
There’s one for you, nineteen for me
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

Should five per cent appear too small
Be thankful I don’t take it all
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah I’m the taxman

That’s one for you, Mr. Harrison.  And nineteen for us.  The government.  Meaning that for every £20 the Beatles earned they got to keep only £1.  This is a 95% top marginal tax rate.  A supertax on the super rich imposed by Harold Wilson’s Labour government.  So if the Beatles earned £1 million because of their incredible talent and hard work touring in concert, working on new albums in the studio and making movies, of that £1 million they got to keep only about £50,000.  While the government got £950,000.  If they earned £10 million they got to keep about £500,000.  While the government got £9,500,000.  As you can see 5% is a very small percentage.  Which is why George Harrison got so angry.  The harder they worked the less of their earnings they were able to keep.

Is this fair?  George didn’t think so.  Nor did his fellow Beatles.  For they fled Britain.  Moved to another country.  Becoming tax exiles.  For they were little more than court minstrels.  Who the government forced to entertain them.  Earning a lot of money so they could take it away.  To help pay for an explosion in social spending Harold Wilson unleashed on Britain.  Socializing the UK like never before.  And all those social benefits required a lot of taxes.  Hence the progressive tax system.  And marginal tax rates.  Where the super rich, like the Beatles, paid confiscatory tax rates of 95%.

The Top Marginal Tax Rate was around 70% under President Carter and around 28% under President Reagan 

As social spending took off in the Sixties and Seventies governments thought they could just increase tax rates to generate greater amounts of tax revenue.  For governments looked at the economy as being static.  That whatever they did would result in their desired outcome without influencing the behavior of those paying these higher tax rates.  But the economy is not static.  It’s dynamic.  And changes in the tax rates do influence taxpayer behavior.  Just ask the Beatles.  And every other tax exile escaping the confiscatory tax rates of their government.  Because of this dynamic behavior of the taxpayers excessively high tax rates rarely brings in the tax revenue governments expect them to.

Even when it comes to sin taxes government still believes that the economy is static.  Even though they publicly state that taxes on alcohol and tobacco are to dissuade people from consuming alcohol and tobacco.  (The U.S. funded children’s health care with cigarette taxes clearly showing the government did not believe these taxes would stop people from smoking).  Perhaps some in government look at sin taxes as a way to discourage harmful habits.  But the taxman sees something altogether different when they look at sin taxes.  Addiction.  Knowing that few people will give up these items no matter how much they tax them.  And that means tax revenue.  But unlike the progressive income tax this tax is a regressive tax.  Those who can least afford to pay higher taxes pay a higher percentage of their income to pay these taxes.  For sin taxes increase prices.  And higher prices make smaller paychecks buy less.  Leaving less money for groceries and other essentials.

Most income taxes, on the other hand, are progressive.  Your income is broken up into brackets.  The lowest bracket has the lowest income tax rate.  Often times the lowest income bracket pays no income taxes.  The next bracket up has a small income tax rate.  The next bracket up has a larger income tax rate.  And so on.  Until you get to the high income threshold.  Where all income at and above this rate has the highest income tax rate.  This top marginal tax rate was around 70% under President Carter.  Around 28% under President Reagan.  And 95% under Harold Wilson’s Labour government in Britain.  An exceptionally high rate that led to great efforts to avoid paying income taxes.  Or simply encouraged people to renounce their citizenship and move to a more tax-friendly country.

When the Critical Mass of People turn from Taxpayers to Benefit Recipients it will Herald the End of the Republic

Progressive taxes are supposed to be fair.  By transferring the tax burden onto those who can most afford to pay these taxes.  But the more progressive the tax rates are the less tax revenue they generate.  What typically happens is you have a growing amount of low-income earners paying no income taxes but consuming the lion’s share of government benefits.  The super rich shelter their higher incomes and pay far less in taxes than those high marginal tax rates call for.  They still pay a lot, paying the majority of income taxes.  But it’s still not enough.  So the middle class gets soaked, too.  They pay less than the rich but the tax bite out of their paychecks hurts a lot more than it does for the rich.  Because the middle class has to make sacrifices in their lives whenever their tax rates go up. 

As social spending increases governments will use class warfare to increase taxes on the rich.  And they will redefine the rich to include parts of the middle class.  To make ‘the rich’ pay their ‘fair’ share.  And they will increase their tax rates.  But it won’t generate much tax revenue.  For no matter how much they tax the rich governments with high levels of spending on social programs all run deficits.  Because there just aren’t enough rich people to tax.  Which is why the government taxes everything under the sun to help pay for their excessive spending. 

If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
If you get too cold, I’ll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.

Don’t ask me what I want it for
If you don’t want to pay some more
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman

Now my advice for those who die
Declare the pennies on your eyes
‘Cause I’m the taxman, yeah, I’m the taxman
And you’re working for no one but me.

This is where excessive government spending leads to.  Excessive taxation.  And confiscatory tax rates.  Taking as much from the wealth creators as possible to fund the welfare state.  And as progressive tax systems fail to generate the desired tax revenue they will turn to every other tax they can.  Until there is no more wealth to tax.  Or to confiscate.  When the wealth creators finally say enough is enough.  And refuse to create any more wealth for the government to tax or to confiscate.  Leaving the government unable to meet their spending obligations.  As the critical mass of people turn from taxpayers to benefit recipients.  Heralding the end of the republic.

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Keynesians, Gold Standard, Consumer Price Index, Money Stock, Nixon Shock, 1973 Oil Crisis, Gasoline Prices, Hidden Tax and Wealth Transfer

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 24th, 2012

History 101

With the Increase in the Money Supply came the Permanent Increase in Consumer Prices that Continues to this Date

Keynesians hate the gold standard.  Because it puts a limit on how much money a government can print.  Keynesians believe in the power of government to eliminate recessions.  And their cure for recession?  Inflation.  The government prints money to spend in the private economy.  To make up for the decline in consumer spending.  But it turned out this didn’t work.  As the Seventies showed.  They printed a lot of money.  But it didn’t end the recession.  It just raised consumer prices.  Because there is a direct correlation between the amount of money in circulation and consumer prices.  As you can see in the following graph. 

 Source: M2, CPI

 The consumer price index (CPI) data comes from the U.S. Department of Labor.  The data is at 5 year intervals.  The CPI is a ‘basket’ of prices for a selection of representative goods and services divided by another ‘basket’ of prices from a fixed date.  The resulting number is a price index.  If you plot these for a period of time you can see inflation (a rising graph) or deflation (a falling graph).  M2 is the money stock (seasonally unadjusted).  M2 includes currency, traveler’s checks, demand deposits, other checkable deposits, retail MMMFs, savings and small time deposits.

The Breton Woods system established fixed exchange rates for international trade.  It also pegged the U.S. dollar to gold.  The U.S. government promised to exchange U.S. dollars for gold at a rate of $35/ounce.  Making the U.S. dollar as good as gold.  This set the rules for international trade.  Made it fair.  And prevented anyone from cheating by devaluing their currency to make their exports cheaper to gain an economical advantage in international trade.  The system worked well.  Until the Sixties.  Because of the Vietnam War.  And LBJ’s Great Society.  These increased government spending so much that the U.S. government turned to printing money to pay for these.  Which depreciated the dollar.  Making it not as good as gold anymore.  So our trading partners began dumping their devalued dollars.  Exchanging them for gold at $35/ounce.  Which was a problem for the Nixon administration.  For that gold was far more valuable than the U.S. dollar.  They could print more dollars.  But once that gold was gone it was gone.  So Nixon acted to keep that gold in the U.S.

On August 15, 1971 Nixon decoupled the dollar from gold.  Known as the Nixon Shock.  Reneging on the solemn promise to exchange U.S. dollars for gold.  And ramped up the printing presses.  Which you can see in the graph.  After August 15 the money supply began growing.  And continues to this date.  With the increase in the money supply came the permanent increase in consumer prices that, also, continues to this date.  In lockstep with the growth of the money supply.

Prior to the Nixon Shock Gasoline Prices were Falling at a Greater Rate than the Rate Consumer Prices were Rising 

Since August of 1971 the U.S. has maintained a policy of permanent inflation.  Which caused a policy of permanently increasing consumer prices.  Those high prices we complain about, then, are not the fault of greedy businesses.  They’re the fault of government.  And their easy monetary policy.  In fact, if it was not for government’s irresponsible monetary policy the high price we hate most would not be as high as it is today.  In fact, because of the efficiency of the industry bringing us this one product its price has not followed the general upward trend in consumer prices.  And what is this product?  Gasoline.  Which, apart from two spikes in the last 60 years or so has either been falling or holding steady in comparison to consumer prices.

 Source: CPI, Gas $/Gal

 These prices are from DaveManual.com.  And reflect generally the price at the pump over this time period.  Using at first leaded gasoline.  Then unleaded gasoline.  Using inflation adjusted average prices.  Then chained 2005 dollars.  These prices are not exactly apples-to-apples.  But the trending information they provide illustrates two major points.  The two spikes in gas prices were due to demand greatly outpacing supply.  And that even with these two spikes gasoline prices would be far lower today if it wasn’t for the government’s policy of permanent inflation.

Note that prior to the Nixon Shock gasoline prices were falling at a greater rate than the rate consumer prices were rising.  These trends stopped in the Seventies for two reasons.  The Nixon Shock.  And the 1973 oil crisis.  When OPEC punished the U.S. for their support of Israel in the Yom Kippur war by cutting our oil supply.  These two events caused gasoline prices to spike.  But then something interesting happened with these high prices.  It brought a lot of oil producers into the market to cash in on those high prices.  This surge in production coupled with a falling demand due to the U.S. recession in the Seventies caused an oil glut in the Eighties.  Bringing prices back down.  Where they flat-lined for a decade or so while all other consumer prices continued their march upward.  Until two of the most populous countries in the world modernized their economies.  India and China.  Causing a spike in demand.  And a spike in prices.  For it was like adding another United States or two to the world gasoline market.

Inflation is a Hidden Tax that Transfers Wealth from the Private Sector to the Public Sector

Keynesians love to talk about how great the economy was during the Fifties when the high marginal tax rate was 91-92%.  “See?” they say.  “The economy was robust and growing during the Fifties even with these high marginal tax rates.  So high marginal tax rates are good for the economy.”  But they will never comment on how instrumental the gold standard was in keeping government spending within responsible limits.  How that responsible monetary policy kept inflation and consumer prices under control.  No.  They don’t see that part of the Fifties.  Only the high marginal tax rates.  Because they don’t want to return to the gold standard.  Or have any restrictions on their irresponsible ways.

Keynesians believe in the power of government to manage the economy.  And they really like to tax and spend.  A lot.  But taxing too much has consequences.  People don’t like paying taxes.  And don’t tend to vote for people who tax them a lot.  Which is why Keynesians love inflation.  Because it’s a hidden tax.  The higher the inflation rate the higher the tax.  Because government also borrows money.  They sell bonds.  That we buy as a retirement investment.  But if there’s been a good amount of inflation between the selling and redemption of those bonds it makes it a lot easier to redeem those bonds.  Because thanks to inflation those bonds are worth far less than they were when the government issued them.  Even Keynes noted that inflation was a way to transfer a lot of wealth from the private sector to the public sector.  Without many people understanding that it was even happening.

If you ever wondered why it takes two incomes to do what your father did with one income this is why.  Inflation.  This never ending transfer of wealth from the private sector to the public sector.  Leaving us less to retire on.  Making it harder to save for our children’s college education.  Not to mention the higher cost of living that shrinks our real wages.  While they tax our higher nominal wages at ever higher income tax rates (income tax bracket creep is another inflation phenomenon).  Everywhere we turn the government takes more and more of our wealth.  All thanks to LBJ increasing the government spending (for his Vietnam War and his Great Society).  And Richard Nixon decoupling the U.S. dollar from gold.  Instead of doing the responsible thing.  And cutting spending.  But much like high taxes you don’t win any friends at the voting booth by cutting spending.  So thanks to them we’ve had permanent and significant rising inflation and consumer prices ever since.  And as a result a flat to a falling standard of living.  Where soon our children may not have a better life than their parents.  Thank you LBJ and Richard Nixon.  And thank you Keynesian economics.

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