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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2012 Endorsements: Karl Marx

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 29th, 2012

2012 Election

Because Workers just don’t Spontaneously Join Together into a Functioning Business they need Capitalists

Karl Marx is the father of socialism.  And communism.  He was also the author (along with Friedrich Engels) of the Communist Manifesto.  The 19th century book that said, “Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution.  The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains.  They have a world to win.  WORKINGMEN OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE!”  Some people heeded his advice.  Vladimir Ilich Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Kim Il-sung, Fidel Castro, Ho Chi Minh and Pol Pot, to name a few.  The greatest mass murderers of all time.  No ideology has killed more than communism.  Not even the socialist Adolf Hitler, leader of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (more commonly known as the Nazi Party) killed more.

According to Marx the history of society has been a class struggle.  Before his time it was the landed aristocracy oppressing the peasants in feudalism.  Then came along capitalism.  Where the new oppressor was the bourgeoisie.  The capitalist.  The employer.  The person that paid others to work.  And kept the profits of their labors.  Basically that means your boss.  Who you may hate while you’re working.  But if business is slow and layoffs are coming you desperately hope it’s someone else and not you.  And should you lose your job you desperately look for someone else who will pay you to work.  Because that’s the only way you know how to feed yourself and buy yourself nice things.  Like a home.  A cup of coffee at Starbucks.  Or a smartphone.  Marx called this oppression.  While most everyone else would call that being happy to have a job.  Because most workers don’t have a clue on how to run a business.  Let alone build one out of nothing.  For workers just don’t spontaneously join together into a functioning business.  They need capitalists.  For without capitalists there would be no jobs for workers.

So who does the bourgeoisie oppress?  The proletarians.  The laborers.  The employees of the bourgeoisie.  The people that actually do the work.  In his day that meant the factory workers.  Who were ruthlessly exploited in sweatshop conditions toiling away at monotonous tasks beneath the dignity of a human being.  The bourgeoisie was turning man into little more than a machine.  That worked until exhausted.  And what did they get for their labors?  Barely enough to survive.  Interestingly, whenever these cruel capitalists turned to actual machines to free these workers from this inhumane labor they cried out against this capitalist greed.  For replacing workers with machines was greedy.  And destroyed jobs.  So on the one hand these jobs oppressed the working class.  But on the other they were the best thing that ever happened to the working class.

Karl Marx summarized his Theory of Communism in One Tenet: The Abolition of Private Property

That’s something else Marx didn’t like.  Change.  The bourgeoisie was always changing things.  Updating their factories.  Installing new machinery.  Forcing the people that did things the old way out of a job.  Much like President Obama blames much of our economic woes on today.  And our high unemployment.  ATMs have put bank tellers out of a job.  Self-serve checkout lanes have put cashiers out of a job.  One man and a trenching machine put hundreds of ditch diggers out of a job.  The electric light put gas lighting workers out of a job.  And gas lighting put kerosene lighting workers out of a job.  And kerosene lighting put whale oil workers out of a job.  And whale oil lighting put candle makers out of a job.  It’s this modernization that Marx doesn’t like.  It disrupts labor.  Making the old worker obsolete.  So unions come in to protect these old jobs.  Allowing people to earn high wages without having advanced skills.  So instead of learning the skills to do the new jobs of the future they can keep doing the jobs of the past.  President Obama talks about bringing back high-paying manufacturing jobs.  Where workers toil away in those monotonous tasks that are beneath the dignity of a human being.  The kind of jobs the parents of college graduates toiled away at to put their kids through college.  So their kids wouldn’t have to do what they did.  Because the new jobs are better than the old jobs.  They’re easier.  Safer.  And offer higher pay.  But the downside is that they take more education and training.  Where some people will be better than others.  Which is unfair to those who aren’t as good.

Of course to help these factory owners pay these old jobs high wages they need to sell their goods at high prices.  Often at higher prices than the market price.  So they have to unlevel the playing field.  Governments pass minimum wage laws.  Union requirements.  And minimize the competition.  Either by restricting other domestic competitors by high entry costs.  Such as licensing fees.  Or by placing tariffs on lower priced foreign imports.  Raising their prices so they don’t cost less than the higher priced domestically produced goods.  Allowing these few factory owners to pay their employees these higher wages.  By forcing the general public to spend more money than they would have without these protections.  And thereby having to make sacrifices in their lives because they have less of their earnings for their own families.  For these reasons Marx called free trade exploitation.  Because free trade made it difficult for unskilled workers to earn high wages.

Marx summarized his theory of communism in one tenet: The abolition of private property.  For it was the bourgeoisie’s accumulation of private property that exploited the working class.  So no one can own anything.  Even laborers.  Because whatever private property the laborers accumulated came from only one place.  From the exploitation of other workers.  And that’s not the only thing Marx wanted to abolish.  He also wanted to abolish the past.  Even though he held on to the jobs of the past.  Marx advocated abolishing tradition, customs, institutions and religion.  Even families.  He wanted to replace education with communist indoctrination.  Much like they did in Nazi Germany.  In the Soviet Union.  In communist China.  North Korea.  Cuba.  Cambodia.  In a socialist/communist society everyone is equally subordinate to the state.  Where there is no private property.  No bourgeoisie.  Just a dictatorship of the proletariat.  A workers’ paradise.  A communist utopia.  Where no one looked anywhere but to the state for all of their needs.

If Karl Marx were Alive Today he would Likely Endorse the Democrat Candidates Barack Obama and Joe Biden

So what would it be like in this communist utopia?  This dictatorship of the proletariat?  There would be a heavy progressive tax.  (The US has a progressive tax rate.  And the Democrats want to raise tax rates higher yet at the high end.)  No right to inheritance.  (Democrats want to raise inheritance taxes.)  Confiscation of the property of emigrants.  (The Democrats want to highly tax/seize money invested outside of the United States that is trying to escape that heavy progressive tax.)  A central bank.  (The Federal Reserve is a central bank.)  Centralization of the means of communication into the hands of the state.  (The three television news networks have a Democrat bias.  Most newspapers have a Democrat bias.  And the two areas that don’t, talk radio and the Internet, the Democrats want to regulate.)  Free public education.  That indoctrinates our children.  (Public education tries to turn our children into Democrat voters.  By teaching the unfairness of capitalism.  America’s sins.  And by scaring our children about global warming.  And that only government can protect us from global warming by regulating private industry more.  Generous tuition subsidies help continue this work at our colleges.)

The Democrats further this class struggle, or rather create one, with their endless class warfare.  The top 1% isn’t paying their fair share of taxes.  The Democrats embraced the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Pitting the 1% against the 99%.  The Democrats employ racism.  Tuning any criticism of President Obama into a racist attack.  The Democrats try to scare women by warning them of the Republican war on women.  Saying ‘women should buy their own birth control’ is code for Republicans hate women and will oppress them if elected.  The Democrats constantly divide us.  Putting one group against another.  Trying to keep the people agitated.  And angry.  So they will welcome more government into their lives.  And the abolition of the capitalists’ private property through that heavy progressive tax.  The empowerment of unions.  Both private and public.  The restriction of our liberties through radical egalitarianism.  By punishing achievement.  So no one can rise to a higher level of success.  Or to a higher level of wealth.  So everyone is equally miserable in their workers’ paradise.

So if Karl Max were alive today who would he support in the 2012 election?  The party that includes a lot of Marxist doctrine in it all ready.  Marx would feel at home in the Democrat Party.  In fact it would be hard not to see a bit of communist revolution in it.  Especially with communist Fidel Castro and socialist Hugo Chávez already endorsing the Democrat Party candidates.  So it isn’t much of a leap to say that if Karl Marx were alive today he would likely endorse the Democrat candidates Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

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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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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #75: “Lower income tax rates generate more tax revenue by making more rich people who pay more income taxes.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 19th, 2011

The top 1% of Earners pay close to 40% of all Federal Income Taxes

Poor people pay little income taxes.  Rich people pay a lot of income taxes.  Everyone else pays somewhere in between.  The tool to make this happen is the progressive tax system.  Government designed it so that people with more income pay more taxes.   Via progressive tax brackets.  And the current (2010-2011) brackets (for head of household) are:

  • 10% on first $12,150
  • 15% on income from $12,150 – $46,250
  • 25% on income from $46,250 – $119,400
  • 28% on income from $119,400 – $193,350
  • 33% on income from $193,350 – $379,150
  • 35% on income over $379,150

If you earn $8,000 you owe $800.  Simple.  If you earn $83,600 you owe $15,668.  If you earn $450,000 you owe $131,435.  If you earn $2,500,000 you owe $848,935.  See the pattern?  Earn more.  Pay more.  Almost as if you’re penalized for being successful.

Of course, low-income people often don’t pay any federal income taxes.  In fact, a lot of people don’t.  About half.  Thanks to tax credits, deductions and exemptions.  But when you’re a rich CEO earning a multimillion dollar salary there aren’t enough tax credits, deductions and exemptions to avoid your taxes.  That’s why the top 1% of earners pay close to 40% of all federal income taxes.  Something we should thank them for.  Instead of demonizing them.

The higher the Top Marginal Tax Rate is the more the Rich avoid paying Income Taxes

There are no Mom and Pop hardware stores anymore.  The big box home improvement stores like The Home Depot, Lowe’s and, for those of you old enough to remember, Builder’s Square put them out of business.  Because of greedy consumers like you.  And me.  Who want to get the best value while shopping.  And if we can buy something of equal quality at a lower price we do.  We work hard for our money.  We spend it carefully.  Wisely.  And we don’t pay more for something when we can get the same for less elsewhere.

It’s the same for rich people.  When they shop.  And when they invest their wealth.  Or their ability.  They look at their options.  Create a new business?  Work at an established business?  If you’re highly skilled you can earn a lot of income.  Which rich people take into consideration.  But there are costs.  Payroll taxes.  Employee compensation and benefits.  Compliance and regulation costs.  And, of course, the progressive tax system.

The higher the top marginal tax rate the less incentive they have to start or run a business.  The less incentive they have to create jobs.  And the more likely they won’t start or run a business.  Instead they’ll invest their money and pay the simpler and (so far) lower capital gains tax.  And this is what happens.  The higher the top marginal tax rate is the more the rich avoid paying income taxes, leaving the middle class to pick them up.  Just like you avoided that Mom and Pop hardware store on your way to The Home Dept.  And with an abundance of government debt available, the rich can invest and live on interest.  Sitting on the sidelines.  Watching the rest of us struggle to find a job.

You don’t need Employees to live on Interest Income

So, the progressive tax system is a way to make rich people pay more.  To transfer the tax burden to them.  And it does.  To a point.  But if you try to tax them too much they’ll just drop out of the economy.  And take their jobs with them.  Which is a double whammy.  We lose some of that generous 40% of income taxes they pay.  And we lose who knows how many thousands of jobs.  And taxpayers.  Thus transferring the burden the other way.  Away from the rich.  To those less able to afford it.

The progressive tax system is supposed to make paying taxes easier on the poor.  The less you earn the less you pay, leaving you with more money for the necessities of life.  Whereas the rich can afford to pay more so they do.  But a flat tax is a progressive tax, too.  The more you earn the more you pay.  For example, going to a 15% flat tax, our sample earners above would change their taxes owed as follows:

  • $8000:  $800  →  $1,200
  • $83,600:  $15,668  →  $12,540
  • $450,000:  $131,435  →  $67,500
  • $2,500,000:  $848,935  →  $375,000

It’s still progressive.  And, yes, the rich will pay less individually.  But there will be more of them.  For this lower income tax rate changes the dynamic.  It will be more profitable to get off of the sidelines and get back into the economy.  Because a flat 15% income tax rate will beat or equal the capital gains tax.  And the profit from creating or running a business will blow away the earnings on a portfolio of treasury bonds.

Better still are the jobs.  You don’t need employees to live on interest income.  But you need them to run a business.  More jobs mean more taxpayers.  So more rich people are back in the economy earning income and paying income taxes.  And more employees are working.  That’s more payroll taxes.  And more personal income taxes.  In the end, the numbers win.  More jobs.  More GDP.  And more federal tax receipts.

Keeping People Poorer and more Dependent on Government

If the goal of government tax policy is to raise tax revenue, the logical thing to do would be to design a tax code that creates more rich people.  A lower top marginal tax rate does this.  So does a flat tax.  Such a tax policy will create incentives to earn income instead of living on capital gains from investments.  Each rich person will pay less income tax individually but there will be far more of them paying income taxes overall.  And they will create jobs.  The more jobs there are the more payroll taxes and personal income taxes there are.

History has shown that cutting tax rates has done just that.  The Mellon tax cuts of the 1920s.  The JFK tax cuts of the 1960s.  The Reagan tax cuts of the 1980s.  The Bush tax cuts of the 2000s.  So if the record shows that lower tax rates produce more tax revenue, why are we always trying to raise the top marginal tax rates?  Simple.  Politics.

Being in politics is the closest you can get to being part of an aristocracy in the United States.  Unless you’re born a Kennedy.  Whether its ego or the graft, people aspire to be in the privileged few.  Life is better there.  If you have no talent or ability.  Other than being able to tell a pretty good lie.  So you use class warfare to get the masses to support you.  And the progressive tax system.  Which keeps people poorer and more dependent on government.  Like it used to be in the old days when there was an aristocracy.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #53: “The essence of politics is taking from the many and giving to the few.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 15th, 2011

That Great Sucking Sound of our Money Leaving our Pockets

All right, here’s the dirty little secret about politics.  Most people enter politics for the money.  They can say whatever they want but when it comes to voting tax increases, guess what?  There are tax increases.  Always.  The amount of money transferring from the private to the public sector is always increasing.  Always.  Congress set up close to half of the federal budget to increase automatically.  That great sucking sound isn’t jobs going to Mexico.  It’s our money leaving our pockets.

Take a look at your check stub.  Compare gross pay to net pay.  Are these numbers almost the same?  Or is the difference closer to a car payment?  A house payment?  Depending on where you are in your career this difference on your weekly paycheck could pay for a nice car.  Add them up in a month and they could get you into that nice house in the good school district.  This is a lot of money.  Ask your grandparents what was the difference between gross pay and net pay on their paychecks.  You’ll probably be surprised.  Because, back then, net pay was very nearly gross pay.

Today, nobody gives gross pay a second thought.  We talk about what we ‘net’.  Because we’re just used to it.  You see, the government (federal, state and local) didn’t just start taking hundreds of dollars out of our paychecks.  It was incremental.  Over a long period of time.  Sometimes coming to pennies a day.  Hard to see.  And just not enough to bitch about.  We may see tens of dollars of our gross pay taxed away over a decade or two.  But we typically make more over that same time.  Again, in the great scheme of things, these are small incremental changes.  Just not big enough for a great number of people to bitch about.

Incrementalism, Progressive Tax Rates and the Withholding Tax

That’s the power of incrementalism.  Baby steps.  Little by little.  Big growth over time.  Like watching grass grow.  You don’t see it grow.  Then one day you have to cut it.  And so it is with taxes.  One day you look at your check stub and realize how much you’re paying in taxes.  You may have never realized you were paying so much.  A progressive tax system keeps the tax burden on the young who don’t make a lot money yet low.  So they don’t see it at first.  And keep voting Democrat.  Not because they want to pay higher taxes.  But because the higher taxes haven’t impacted their lives yet.  When they do start paying more in taxes, that’s when some of them start voting Republican.

So taxes creep up on us.  We don’t see them all that clearly at first because of progressive tax rates.  And the fact we pay them before we see them.  Via the withholding tax.  Which provided the greatest advancement in the collection of confiscatory taxes.  For without it there would be tax revolts when April 15th rolled around and people didn’t have tens of thousands of dollars sitting in their checking accounts to pay their taxes.  I mean, what’s easier?  Getting us to pay our taxes with money we never saw?  Or paying our taxes after having that money in our hands first?  Funny thing about earnings.  Once we have the cash in hand we don’t give it up lightly.

That’s why the government introduced withholding taxes.  It makes getting our money from us easier.  And allows them to raise our taxes ever higher.  Because we pay those taxes with gross pay.  Pay we never get.  In our real world, gross pay is a myth.  It doesn’t exist.  Our earnings only become real at net pay.  Sad.  But true.  So they can increase our taxes a lot more than if we were paying them in full in April.  And do.

Pandering and Patronage

Yeah, but America is a center-right country.  And liberal Democrats on the left are the ones who want to keep increasing our taxes to pay for their Big Government programs.  So how can they?  When America is a center-right country.  I mean, if it’s a minority of Americans that want to raise our taxes to grow government, how do they get the votes to increase our taxes in the first place?

By pandering.  Buying votes.  And patronage.  The power to tax provides near-limitless money for politicians to spend.  The trick is in the getting and giving amounts of money.  You tax the many.  And give to the few.  You tax a hundred dollars or so from each paycheck.  And give hundreds of thousands of dollars to those who can help you win election.  That’s how the tax and spend people win elections.  They give money to small groups in exchange for their vote.  Or legislate favorable legislation for them.  Or put someone from that group in the government itself in an oversight position of the industry there’re in.

A small group by itself can’t make a big difference at the polls.  But you get enough of them, they can.  Luckily for the tax and spenders, a lot of these small groups can be found in the political center.  Which helps pull some of that ‘center-right’ to the left.  And this is how the difference between gross pay and net pay continues to grow larger.  These ‘swing votes’ may pay more in taxes, too, but the special privileges they receive from the government more than makes up for it.

The Little Programs Add Up

We pay a lot in taxes.  And yet you don’t hear too many people complain about it.  Why?  The progressive tax rate plays a role in this.  There are more poor people than rich.  So fewer people pay taxes.  And the withholding tax helps, too.  Because most of us don’t even pay attention to what we’re paying.  But what really helps government is the number of taxpayers.  The total amount of taxes each taxpayer pays can ‘appear’ small.  And the amount each taxpayer pays for a specific program can appear smaller still.  This can get a lot of people to ‘support’ these little programs.  Simply by their passive lack of opposition.

For example, heating assistance for the poor is not a very big part of the budget.  And it doesn’t take much out of your paycheck.  You feel for the poor who can’t pay for heat.  You want to help.  So there isn’t a lot of political action against this program.  It’s like those commercials where you can save a child in Africa for the price of a cup of coffee.  I mean, who wouldn’t feel guilty for refusing to buy one less cup of coffee to save a life?  It’s an effective tactic.  Making people feel guilty for being so greedy that they are unwilling to drink one less cup of coffee.  And no one wants to be seen as this greedy.

But the little programs add up.  You start out by sacrificing a cup of coffee.  But when each of these little programs costs you a cup of coffee, they can add up to a dinner.  A movie.  A night on the town.  A new car.  And they do.  That’s why a lot of people can’t live in the school districts they want to.  Because of the aggregate of all of these little programs.  But we never look at the aggregate.  It’s always one program at a time.  To make the taxpayer feel guilty for their greed.  To break down their will to oppose cuts.  To go along with further tax increases.  And a lot of us do.  Which makes that gap between gross pay and net pay grow ever larger.

Taxpayers and Tax Consumers

But things are changing.  And it’s causing a problem.  The baby boomers are beginning to retire.  They’ll soon be using Medicare.  And collecting Social Security.  So the number of taxpayers will go down.  While the number of tax consumers will go up.  And that changes everything.  The fewer taxpayers will have to pay a larger amount of taxes to support these entitlements as well as all of those little programs.  And this will make it a lot harder to hide these taxes.  To make them appear small.  More people will have to go with less to pay these taxes.  Even those who once did all right during periods of high taxation will have to go with less.  Because more people will be consuming Medicare and Social Security benefits.  And it’ll be political suicide to cut these programs.  Leaving little choice but to cut some of the little programs.  Which will give the patrons of Big Government little incentive to support tax and spend any longer.  Because they’ll see more taxing.  And less spending.  On themselves.

Politics as usual will not work as well as it once did.  Because they will not be able to hide the cost of Big Government any longer.  They won’t be taking from the many to give to the few anymore.  They’ll be taking from the few to give to the many.  Which can’t be anything but a recipe for disaster.

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