Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Where's Robin Hood when you really need him?

This report is from the Tax Policy Center, and is well worth reading. Never heard of them? Neither had I. Here's what they say on their website:

Who We Are

The Tax Policy Center is a joint venture of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution. The Center is made up of nationally recognized experts in tax, budget, and social policy who have served at the highest levels of government.

What We Do

TPC provides timely, accessible analysis and facts about tax policy to policymakers, journalists, citizens, and researchers. Its major products are

* Model estimates: The TPC Microsimulation Model produces revenue and distribution estimates for the latest tax proposals and bills. More information about the tax model is available in the overview and FAQ.

* Library: Research by TPC staff is disseminated in a variety of publications, including two TPC series - Issues and Options briefs and Discussion papers. The TPC also has regular columns in Tax Notes magazine.

* Tax Facts: The Tax Facts database compiles facts and figures from government agencies and other sources.

If the whole report seems too boring, there is a chart at the bottom of page 3 that provides a nice picture of their results. The Washington Post also has a nice graphic.

CNN's summary:

McCain: The average taxpayer in every income group would see a lower tax bill, but high-income taxpayers would benefit more than everyone else.

Obama: High-income taxpayers would pay more in taxes, while everyone else's tax bill would be reduced. Those who benefit the most - in terms of reducing their taxes as a percentage of after-tax income - are in the lowest income groups.

My observation:

For people whose incomes are in the middle, the plans are roughly equivalent, although Obama's has a slight edge. It's only when you get into the upper income levels that McCain's plans provide a noticeable benefit.

Yes, I really think it's time Donald Trump got those tax breaks he deserves so richly.


Blogger zelda said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:25 AM  
Blogger zelda said...

So what is the ultimate bad result that will come from the wealthy have more money? Is there any possible benefit? To my mind, its not enough to say that the rich will have more money and that in and of itself is a terrible idea that must be stopped.

The Economist is deathly afraid of Obama's economic policy...for a reason.

9:30 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

The point is that it's basically only the rich that benefit. There's no real benefit to middle-income people. So if McCain promotes his policies as providing relief to everyday people he is not really being truthful. Of course, I'd like to hear more about the Economist.

10:52 AM  
Blogger zelda said...

And what would happen if the rich did benefit? Does the money stop there? Or is there just a knee-jerk response to the idea of having a class of people who are rich? Seems like its always okay to disparage the rich with a sweeping gesture and yet if you do the same with the poor you'll get yourself in big trouble.

Also, in terms of real dollars any cut in taxes will benefit the rich the most. In terms of percentages, the rich have actually paid a higher percentage under Bush. The top 1% pay 23% of all taxes.

11:02 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I repeat, the problem here is not that McCain's policies would primarily benefit the rich. It is that he repeatedly represents himself as the one whose policies would best benefit the middle class, and that is not true.

The idea that freeing up rich people from taxes will benefit those lower on the economic chain originated with Reagan, as far as I know, and in my lifetime I have never seen that theory borne out in real life. I saw the effect of Reagonomics on California, because I lived here when he was governor, and when he was President, and it wasn't pretty.

4:12 PM  
Blogger zelda said...

I'm saying that just because the the middle-income taxpayers get less actual tax relief does not mean that they won't receive financial benefits from the tax cut.

Your anecdotal evidence aside, you do realize that when Reagan entered office the situation was high unemployment and inflation which was largely resolved when he left office. Opponents have looked for other reasons for that and have come up with possibilities but the ugly truth is that the empirical evidence strongly suggests that supply-side economics worked. Most opponents have grudgingly conceded that "Reaganomics" worked and don't bring it up anymore.

McCain also proposes tax cuts for businesses. Who will that help? More rich people? Yes. And people who buy thing from businesses or are employed by businesses. Still, there is that rich people problem. I guess we shouldn't give businesses the tax cut. I mean, if business people want to get rich they can take their businesses to other countries.

6:12 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

First of all, I disagree with your earlier assertion that people don't feel comfortable disparaging large groups of poor people. Drop the phrase "welfare mom" into a conversation and see what happens. Or look at someone's face when they mention East Palo Alto or South Central Los Angeles (places which, I freely admit, scare me).

Second of all, I disagree with your assertion that people have grudgingly admitted that Reaganomics worked.

Lastly, I LIVED here when he was governor. You know what? There were not really any homeless people in San Jose before his tenure. After? Well, you live here now, too. Judge for yourself. Before Reagan? World-class university system. After? Struggling institutions in a long steady decline that can barely fill their mandate to provide a low-cost education to eligible California students, not to mention increased fees at community colleges that keep on rising with no end in sight.

Reagan as president? Budget surplus turned into a record deficit. And you know what? A budget surplus would have come in handy when we decided to wage a war that we did not have the cash to fund. But God forbid we should actually raise taxes to pay for it. No, let our children worry about all that stuff.

Lastly, given that the top 1% of the income earners control something like 40% of the money, I think the fact that they pay 25% of the taxes is a pretty sweet deal.

7:54 AM  
Blogger zelda said...

We seem to disagree fundamentally on who is in charge of what in the functioning of government. No point in dragging that to its ultimate conclusion which is me still thinking you are totally misguided and vice versa. We also disagree on whether income redistribution is fair or a good idea.

If you do use the term "welfare moms" you will be judged. If you use the term, "greedy rich people", you won't. Yesterday I read a story to my kids that glorified being poor and made wanting to improve your lot in life a heinous crime. I let them enjoy the story and then that evening explained that its actually okay to want to work hard and get rich. And yes, I said get rich.

I heart Reagan. The things you think are so bad I think I are good. I think the issues of how to dea with mental illness and drug addiction needed self-correction at a fundamental level that was never going to happen while they were being propped up artificially by horribly run programs that gave the appearance of dealing with a problem. Warehousing people isn't the same as helping them. The university system is still great. Its just not free anymore.

And besides, not everyone can be Gray Davis or Jimmy Carter.

8:25 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I have no problem with people wanting to work hard and get rich. I completely agree that there's nothing wrong with that. But I also think people who don't want that should be able to live decently without working hard for not very much. There's not an automatic correlation between working hard and accumulating wealth.

9:22 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Furthermore, I don't think that investing in infrastructure, which the wealthy use at a greater rate than those with fewer resources, counts as income redistribution.

From what I've seen, people feel pretty comfortable making negative remarks about people on welfare. Or homeless people for that matter. Maybe they are being judged. (Isn't everybody judged in some way when they open their mouth at all? Haven't you pretty clearly judged me and my opinions?) If they are being judged, though, it doesn't seem to bother them.

9:27 AM  
Blogger zelda said...

I should have said they are being judged to be discriminatory and hateful while making broad statements about rich people doesn't bring the same censure. I think its disingenuous to suggest otherwise but that's okay. That's why they make chocolate and vanilla. Although if someone picks vanilla then I can't be blamed for their foolish choices.

10:40 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

There's something in what you say. But I think perhaps its disingenuous to speak as if there's a monolithic panel of judgers somewhere. There are people who will have the response you mentioned, and others who will agree strongly; if I sound as if I am disparaging rich people as a whole (which is not actually what I meant) then, obviously, there are people who will judge me as misguided and irresponsible. Perhaps even hypocritical, since I am obviously not poor. The point is, they are not the same people forming the judgments in each case.

To repeat, I think there are plenty of people comfortable with looking down on disadvantaged people, comfortable talking about it, and comfortable hearing it. They may not live in Los Gatos, but they exist.

7:50 AM  

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