Tuesday, November 26, 2002

I'm getting the Wall Street Journal on a trial subscription, and although I'm enjoying the fine feature writing, editorials like last Wednesday's "The Non-Taxpaying Class" are enough to lead me to cancel happily. The WSJ editorial board, which last had an independent thought and orginal insight years ago, complained that the poor don't pay enough in taxes. In other words, says Slate's Timothy Noah, "cleaning ladies [should] fork more over to Uncle Sam."

As Noah points out, the WSJ's beef is that making someone pay "only" 4 percent in income taxes on a $12,000 salary is not "enough to get his or her blood boiling with tax rage." So if the poor don't pay high taxes, they'll never know the rich's unique agony of high taxes. It seems to me that this is the logical equivalent of saying you should light a fire in your living room so you know what it's like to complain about heat.

I'm just fooling around with some math here, but 4 percent of $12,000 is $480. Now, I need to find out what the annual income of someone in the top 1 percent would be, but let's say, oh, $10 million--28 percent of that is $2.8M. I've never known what it's like to be rich, but it's not a stretch to say it's less of a trial for a multi-millionaire to part with a couple million than a "cleaning lady" living paycheck-to-paycheck to lose two weeks' pay. Plus, what the market-worshiping WSJ-ers won't factor in: the multi-millionaire probably got to where he or she is mostly via inheritance and education, while the poor get to where they are largely because of lack of inheritance and education. I'm not a pure socialist, but in that light, sharing the wealth and improving education is the best thing to do for the sake of equality, and last time I checked this country was founded on equality.

Back to Noah's column; he brings in Robert McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice to do this math:

In 2001, the top 1 percent earned 19 percent of the nation's income and paid 26 percent of the nation's federal taxes. (The Bush tax cuts will drop the latter to 24 percent.) Everyone else earned 81 percent of the nation's income and paid 74 percent of the nation's federal taxes. "The rich are paying an amount roughly comparable to their share of their income if you do it right," McIntryre told Chatterbox. "That's not exactly socialism."

That "if you do it right" is a little unsettling, but overall, point taken.

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