Sunday, September 18, 2011

bizarro world | the wealthy + the poor in America | a respectful exchange

I repeat here a brief exchange on the post, bizarro world | the wealthy + the poor in America, because the Comments feature — properly, I expect — doesn't allow for embedded links and I thought it was important to highlight the Forbes 400 List and David Kay Johnston's Reuters reporting; which I've done below.

Nate commented on my bafflement about those who characterize America's working poor as pampered tax dodgers while painting our wealthiest citizens as beleaguered victims. Nate wrote:
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.
To which I replied:
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 of more than $10,000,000.00 in 2009 (ibid
— the top 384 of whom in excess of $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.
How did we come to this?

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