Friday, September 16, 2011

bizarro world | the wealthy + the poor in America

Somehow I woke up this morning in an America with people who characterize our wealthiest citizens as beleaguered victims living from paycheck to paycheck and our working poor as lavishly pampered tax dodgers.

I find this bizarre. 


Anonymous said...

And yet both of these characterizations can be found to be true. Wealthy & middle-class citizens over-spending and tying themselves to every penny of a paycheck, underwater in a mortgage and indebted up to their eyeballs. The working poor doing enough to stay under the gov't threshold and continue to get assistance, while buying new cars, digital cable packages and the latest kicks.

At the same time you have responsible citizens, both rich and poor, living well-within their means, paying off their debt and trying to make a better life for themselves little by little. Unfortunately, these sanest of people aren't sensational enough to write stories about, unless you're someone like Hemingway or McCarthy, who can take the mundane and make it magical.

And such is the nature of our fallen world. Apologies for the comment longer than the post, but it is indeed an interesting thought. Thanks.

Jim Hancock said...

Thanks for your gentlemanly response, Nate. I think you’ve put your finger right on the bruise.

I have some thoughts about the nature of our fallen world, but I believe I’ll hold them for now and just say this: The people at the center of the fair taxation debate this autumn are not the “wealthy & middle-class citizens” to whom your response gravitates at the beginning — the ones who got in trouble by overspending.

The “beleaguered victims” I’m talking about are the top three-tenths of one percent of U.S. taxpayers:

— the wealthiest 235,000 of whom had incomes above $1,000,000.00 in 2009 (Reuters)

— the top 8,300 of whom had incomes in excess of $10,000,000.00 in 2009 (ibid)

— the top 384 of whom took in more than $1,000,000,000.00 in 2009 (Forbes 400 list).

I don’t believe we have to worry about these households. They shouldn’t be punished; they should, each of them, pay a fair share under the law.

As for the working poor…for now, perhaps it is enough to say that the households who filed returns but paid no income taxes in 2009 had an average income of $14.483.00 (Reuters again), and to ask, “How far does $278.51 a week go in your zip code?”

I think fairness mandates that our wealthiest citizens pay effective tax rates equal to those making, say, $55,000.00, the median income for working age households.

Again, thanks for your thoughtful reply. I hope I’ve been equally respectful.