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Spare me the spin for the ‘poor rich’

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

With power comes money. With money comes greed.

— Ice Cube

There’s a classic Peanuts comic strip in which Linus is going over the horrible stats of the gang’s recent winless baseball season. With each statistic, one more awful than the last, you see Charlie Brown’s demeanor grow increasingly forlorn.

Finally, as he reaches the end of his rope, Charlie Brown erupts: “Tell your statistics to shut up!”

I wanted to pull a Charlie Brown recently as I listened to an enlightened defender of all that’s right in America talk about statistics that show how the super rich pay an overwhelming percentage of taxes in this country. His lesson (ahhh, Reaganomics) was offered as evidence that rich people are already paying too much in taxes and they deserve to keep the tax breaks implemented as a gift from former President George Bush that President Obama and others have targeted as an area from which the country could start chopping away at its staggering deficit.

It was that tired old “5 percent of Americans pay 70 percent of all taxes and 10 percent pay 80 percent” stuff that all Republicans, a few wealthy Democrats and the lower- and middle-class sheep who fall in line with whatever their shepherds say trot out any time someone even hints that rich people do not need more tax breaks. Those people make it sound like the folks who aren’t a part of that 5 or 10 percent are low-life scum who are living off the sweat of these poor, mistreated rich folks.

Decorum prevents me from expressing my true emotions here, but suffice it to say the word “BULL” would figure prominently in my response.

I’ve never seen facts to back up the claim that the super rich are paying X percent of taxes in this country — only heard the same old spin by the same old people — but let’s, for the sake of argument, say that the 5 percent who make boatloads of money actually do pay 70 percent of the taxes. Does that really mean they’re being unfairly targeted?

A person who does not happen to be part of that 5 percent — and, yes, I definitely fall into that category ... fall very hard, in fact — might argue that if the mega-rich are paying such an ungodly proportion of the country’s taxes, it stands to reason that it’s because they make such an ungodly amount of money?

And, yes, I know there are multi-, multi-, multi- millionaires and billionaires who worked hard and earned their fortunes. I don’t begrudge them that. But a couple of things to consider before we have Lionel Richie write a “We Are the World”-type benefit song for the yacht club demographic: 1) A large number of the wealthy in this country did nothing more than be born to “earn” their wealth. And 2), many among the super-rich pay hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars to sleazy tax lawyers and CPAs to come up with loopholes that keep them from paying their taxes.

So if they’re paying 70 percent of the country’s taxes and still using their do-nothing son’s college tuition as a “charitable” tax write-off, they’re actually taking in w-a-a-a-a-a-y too big a percentage of the available money.

And, lest we forget, most among the super rich would not have their money if not for the labor of the people working under them.

Full disclosure time: My “portfolio” (the largest portion of which is around 78 bucks worth of change in a plastic Coke-bottle container) clearly indicates I’m not someone you should listen to about money matters. Still, I think I have a point that is of some relevance here.

Let’s say some poor shlub is squeezing out a living making $30,000 a year, and he has to pay 20 percent of that total in taxes. (Please don’t write or call to tell me how uninformed or stupid I am; I know these numbers aren’t accurate. I’m trying to make a point.) And let’s say his boss makes $300,000 a year and pays the same 20 percent.

Let’s also assume neither of the two has a sleazy accountant and each will pay his fair tax share without trying to find loopholes. Guy No. 1 will pay $6,000 in taxes (if my math is right, and don’t hold me to that either). His boss will pay $60,000, a whole heck of a lot more. In fact, if you take that total, the bossman is paying 91 percent of the taxes between the two.

And even though the second guy is paying 10 times more than the first, which one do you think is going to hurt most? Is the boss going to have a tougher time living off $240,000 than the working stiff will trying to live off $24,000?

OK, I know you’re going to argue that if the first guy pays 20 percent, the second will have to pay something like 40. So? The money he’d be left with ($180,000, pending a math check) would still afford him a very comfortable lifestyle while the guy who works for him would still struggle to afford the bare necessities.

So, please, let’s agree to stop with the sob stories for the rich and the super rich. The anger over such ludicrous spin is what has people protesting wealth distribution on Wall Street and other parts of the country right now. And if you’re not one of the rich or super rich but you buy into the spin, well, please, by all means, work hard to get someone elected who will take more of your money and give it to his rich friends.

I’d suggest looking toward Texas ... they tend to think that way over there.

Email Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com

Comments

ObjectiveEyes 2 years, 11 months ago

"I've never seen facts to back up the claims that the super rich..." That statement summarizes the entire "commentary," If you haven't seen the "facts" then you aren't paying attention and admit the FACT that you did no research for this drivel. Class warfare at its finest. Why would I expect anything else?

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supersquawker 2 years, 11 months ago

A 3 second Google search will give you all the facts you need (which will nullify both of the so-called "examples" that Fletcher uses). And the facts come, not from pundits or spin-meisters, but from the IRS web site. Here is one: the top 10% of income earners in the USA pay 70% of the income taxes that are paid!! And the bottom 50% pay less than 3%!! And if you are making only $30,000 per year you will not be paying ANY federal income taxes!! Fold that up in your rolling papers and smoke them real good Mr. Fletcher!!

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gotanyfacts 2 years, 11 months ago

Mr. Fletcher seems to have a severe case of envy. The green-eyed monster is known to wreak havoc on a person’s logic and appears to have completely shredded what ever logic Mr. Fletcher normally makes use of. Add that to the propensity for left leaning journalists to make up facts to suite their positions and ignore actual facts that do not, and you have a typical “you must be evil if you disagree with me” intimidation piece. The left, from protesters on the street to the mainstream press to the sitting President of the United States, uses this tactic to silence debate on the facts.

Regardless of whether you accept the accuracy of the information in the piece (and Mr. Fletcher says accuracy is not important in making his point –logic?), to agree with Mr. Fletcher you have to believe that government should determine, for its citizens, what is an appropriate amount of income or wealth and then take the excess and give to those it deems more worthy of that wealth. To give the government (politicians and bureaucrats) such power is to cast our nation into tyranny. Can anyone say they trust any politician with that power? To do so would be foolish! I would not trust myself with that power!

To quote Thomas Jefferson (maybe not in the same league with Ice Cube , but…hey!) “To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.” -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Milligan, April 6, 1816

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