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May 20, 2011 - 7:13am

Today's Poll: Do you think the wealthiest Americans are paying their fair share of taxes?

posted by Howard B. Owens in polls.
Jeff Allen
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I have contemplated both sides of this debate and have concluded that both sides are so entrenched that they have become ideologically immovable. That is why I tend to believe that the solution lies in one of two other ideas. Either the flat tax, or fair tax(value added tax, national sales tax). The fair tax has the appeal of compelling everyone to pay taxes proportionally based on their purchases. By everyone that would now include every American who consumes goods and services (criminal element, tax evaders, illegals, or as Mike Huckabee used to say..pimps, prostitutes, and drug dealers). It would also eliminate the IRS. The downsides to this are trying to convince the public, without mass upheaval, that suddenly paying 21% to 23% tax on everything is equal in their home budget when no longer paying income tax. It would certainly not be equal in homes that pay no income tax either legally or criminally. Also, closing the IRS does suddenly put over 100,000 people out of work (I say that biting my tongue since it such a bloated agency). I tend to support the flat tax. If every employed American paid a flat percent of their income (many estimates place 10% to 17% as equalizing or even besting the current revenue stream), with NO loopholes or deductions, it would be hard to argue the fairness. In reality, most of the wealthy would pay more without the luxury of deductions and loopholes, low income would remain about the same, and by and large the middle class would get a huge break. Our annual tax return would consist of 1 page, and the resources at the IRS that deal with the convoluted tax code would now be freed up for tax enforcement. We would no longer hear that the IRS simply doesn't have the resources to track down tax evaders. Most of all it moves us in one sense away from the class warfare division that poisoning our society. This Tuesday write-in Jeff Allen
JoAnne Rock
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Jeff, have you read the Ryan plan? His tax reform plan is as you described the flat tax that you support. The tax code would fit on a postcard and if it were in place, last year I would have realized about an $800 tax savings. It's too bad that we still can't have a real discussion about what's really included in the Ryan plan. Words like decimate and privatize are red herrings intended to steer the discourse in a different direction. Last week, the trustees of Social Security and Medicare released a new report that indicates the dates upon which the two programs become insolvent will be sooner than previously expected. Trustees for the programs say legislative corrections are needed if disruptive consequences for beneficiaries and taxpayers are to be avoided.
Jeff Allen
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JoAnne, I have not read the Ryan plan, but that portion sounds intriguing, I'll have to check it out. You are absolutely correct about the rhetoric on the plan.
Bea McManis
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JoAnne, you and Corwin (and Ryan) seem to be in the minority to stauchly support a plan that even the GOP lawmakers are walking away from. The GOP in the senate are backing away from it. I know you did your resarch on this plan. I applaud your persistant cheerleading for it. There is no comfort level, from a senior's point of view, to be told that the plan will not effect my medicare, but it will effect the next generation. That next generation is OUR children. I refuse to support a plan that deprives our children of the safety net of medicare while we are still subsidizing companies that are posting record breaking profits. Yes, there should be reform in the medicare/medicaid programs. I understand that. I also understand that the cost of medical care is going to rise, the cost of medical technology will increase far beyond the worth of the vouchers suggested in the Ryan plan.
JoAnne Rock
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Bea, I know I am in the minority...the minority of people that actually read the plan. I don't support or oppose something because others are...I don't buy into the bandwagon mentality. Jane Corwin claims to support the plan, yet she is incapable of defending it...I doubt she even read it. That is one of the multitude of reasons that I refuse to vote for her, even though I know she will vote for the Ryan plan which I do staunchly support. I am the next generation of medicare that would be affected by the Ryan plan and I feel comfortable with it. I would disagree with you that the plan deprives our children of the safety net of medicare. There are those that oppose the plan for ideological differences, for example, because it is not a public option. I can respect that. That is where the debate really should be.
JoAnne Rock
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Bottom line is...the Ryan plan has not been portrayed accurately in the media (by those for and against) and too many people rely on the media to formulate their opinions.
John Roach
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I agree with Jeff. The only fair tax is a flat rate tax. Otherwise, who determines how much is fair? With so many not paying any tax, why should they care how much anyone else pays, as long as it is enough that they don't have to.
Jerry Buckman
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Next poll question: Are the poorest Americans paying their fair share of taxes? I agree with John Roach.
Ed Gentner
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I have read the Ryan plan and from what I read it offers more of the same non-sense of supply-side ecomics that Reagan tried and failed to produce a positive outcome with. The notion that you can reduce revenues at the top end of the income scale from corporations and the wealthiest individuals that support the continued export of industry and jobs has been tried and has failed. What is new with the Ryan plan is the idea of shredding the social safety net and privatizing Medicare using a voucher that leaves seniors at the mercy of the private insurance industry. The Ryan plan has no provision for cost control once the voucher plan is enacted and ignores the consequence. It is a plan that does little or nothing to reign in the Pentagon's spending on the outsourcing of military and security functions tp private contractors. What the Ryan plan does do is cut tax revenue at the direct expense of the poor, disabled and seniors. The Davis approach of rebuilding American industry, ending the wholesale export of jobs by ending the free trade aggreements that have not worked and curbing foriegn military expiditions is simple, straight foreward and at the end day will increase tax revenues without the draconian proposals embraced by both the Republican and Democratic leaders. If there is a red herring it is the claimed insolvency of Social Security and Medicare and the need to make drastic changes to either by both the Democrats and Republicans who have sold out working Americans to Wall Street bankers, big oil and corporations that have decimated American industy with foriegn outsourcing.
James Renfrew
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Looking at today's poll ... it appears that a large number of the respondents are OK with taxing the top 1%, or 2%, or whatever the benchmark might be, but it's interesting that one party has drawn a line in the sand to keep this from happening at ALL costs, even willing to hold the unemployed hostage (as they did in the fall), even willing to shut down the government (as they appear to be willing to do right now), even willing to auction off Medicare (though backing off from this fast). I can understand why the top 1%, or 2%, or whatever the benchmark might be, support that kind of approach, but why do so many others appear to go along with it? Why are so many in the middle class defending the interests of the richest? Yes, I know the response, that less taxation on the rich is supposed to generate thousands of jobs. But the evidence from the Bush tax cuts, as far as I can tell, is that the money gets invested in jobs in China, resulting in less jobs here. Or, put more bluntly, if reducing taxes on the rich - which has already been done over many decades - is supposed to generate jobs ... where are all the jobs? My conclusion is that this approach has failed, if the idea is to generate jobs. The approach is obviously a huge success if the idea is to concentrate more wealth in fewer hands. The intensity with which that one party resists any tax on the rich suggests that it is not really jobs that are the bottom line, it's more wealth in fewer hands that they want to fight for. I'd prefer that they be honest about this. "No taxes for the rich so me and my friends can be richer". Stop pretending that it creates jobs. So I wonder, why do so many in the middle class defend the interests of the very rich?
Dave Olsen
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I think you have hit the nail on the head, James. Most of the political class are in the top 2% of income. Which is generally accepted as around $250,000.00 per year and up. Most of the campaign contributions come from that economic strata as well. Most of the "consultant" jobs politicians look forward to are paid for from that club. From money, power is derived. I have a favorite quote that is at the bottom of my e-mails "Give me control of a Nation's money,and I care not who makes the laws" That's Mayer Amschel Rothschild the founder of Rothschild's Bank, 200 years ago. The poor and middle class are not bankrupting this country, the rich are. Edmund, you are right about Ryan's plan not addressing the runaway defense spending (who do you think profits from that?)nor does it address foreign aid.
Dave Olsen
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"Senators had a median reportable net worth of $1.79 million in 2008, the last year such data were available, down from $2.27 million in 2007. House members' median net worth was $645,503 in 2008, down from $724,258 the previous year. While about 1 percent of Americans are considered millionaires, 44 percent of members of Congress were in that category. Fifty members had wealth topping $10 million." Read more: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/05/03/93358/congress-where-44-percent-ar...
Angela Penkszyk
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That's a great question, James. Who knows if we will ever discover the answer. My guess is they want to feel like they are part of the "winning" (rich) team. Personally, I've always wondered about people who are fully capable of working, yet, are receiving medicaid, foodstamps, WIC, benefits cards, & purposely keeping their "legal" income so low to continue to qualify, but also claim to be Republicans.
Jeff Allen
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JoAnne, you and I are not in the minority. Telling us that even the GOP is backing away from the Ryan plan is rhetoric from the mainstream media. There is no solid evidence that the GOP or the general public is running from the Ryan plan. The Gingrich debacle has been an attempt to show discord and fracture amongst the GOP that is greatly exaggerated.
Bea McManis
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Angela, As one of my sons would say, "It's a tribal thing.".
Daniel Jones
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A flat tax? I do not want to be paying the same taxe rate as someone who makes millions of dollars. Kthx. A fair tax? I do not want to pay a high VAT tax in addition to the sales tax I already pay. Kthx.
JoAnne Rock
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Angela....I wasn't aware that recipients had to indicate a political affiliation when applying for entitlement benefits. Exactly what is the breakdown of entitlement recipients by political affiliation? Jeff, my comment was in reference to being in the minority of people that read the Ryan plan, but I do agree with your assessment of media rhetoric.
Brandon Burger
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You cannot dismiss the motivations of middle-class support for lowering the taxes on the very wealthy as being merely 'tribal' or wanting to be part of the winning team. These reasons (and many like it) do not address real issues and do disservice to everyone involved in the debate. I believe that many middle-class Americans oppose higher taxes on the very wealthy for the same reason that we would oppose censorship of unpopular political views; it is a matter of the application of equal treatment and the excercise of individual liberty. It is a strong sentiment and one that does not deserve to be brushed aside or ridiculed. It deserves consideration and thoughtful discussion.
JoAnne Rock
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Very well said Brandon.
Mike Weaver
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Well said Brandon. I believe that dismissing the middle class that sees equal taxation as an application of equal treatment is a bit of a "tribal thing" too. How ironic.
Bea McManis
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Brandon, you are absolutely right. The "tribal" reference was meant to be banal. Many people are steadfast in their vote for one party, regardless of the candidate - ie: the tribal reference.
Jeff Allen
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"A flat tax? I do not want to be paying the same taxe rate as someone who makes millions of dollars. Kthx." So Daniel, you would reject a lowering of your tax rate just so that you can continue to stick it to the rich?
Daniel Jones
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Jeff - I would like to lower my tax rate and raise theirs. Rich people like Warren Buffet have been screaming for the government to raise their taxes for years. The thought of someone with an annual income of over $1,000,000 paying the same tax rate that I do with an annual income that is much lower than that is horrendous. Rich people do not need a tax cut. I do agree that the tax code needs to be simplified, I just do not believe in doing away with a progressive tax system.
Mark Potwora
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Why doesn't Warren Buffet just send the IRS money to help pay off the debt..Same with all those who feel they aren't taxed enough..No ones stopping them from paying more to the IRS...Warren Buffet makes his money from Capital Gains..No one is talking about raising the capital gains tax ..So i don't see how he will be paying more even if they do raise the marginal tax rates..
Daniel Jones
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Mark - Him doing so alone would be fruitless. Thanks to (largely) the Bush tax cuts and Medicare part D, the debt and deficit are beyond the point of being solved by Warren Buffet sending extra money in his yearly check to the IRS. His point is that everyone who has as much money as he does should be paying a higher tax rate, certainly higher than his secretary. These people do not need the money. A frequent scare tactic by the right is to claim that small businesses would be hurt by these tax increases when in reality small businesses would be exempt. I also agree that we should cut the capital gains tax. Infact, I think that we should eliminate the capital gains tax. We should also eliminate any taxes on dividends and cut business/corporate taxes. I am referring to income taxes here.
Ed Gentner
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Welcome to the brave new world where a wealthy minority buys the politicians who pass the laws that will eliminate the middle class with lowered wages that result in a lower standard of living for the majority and unlimited wealth and power for the wealthy few. That's the Republican model of governing that has been moderately successful by demonizing any objection as class warfare, acting on self-interest by liberals or just plain being un-American. The Republican campaign to elect Jane Corwin is a prime example of the actual elites castigating those who raise questions or object to their agenda as the liberal elite, over-educted, a socialist threat to order dancing at the end of a string like puppets for a puppet master. A generation ago it was the commie threat to the American way of life, today we are told by the same right wing elite that it is a socialist plot that needs to be eradicated starting with unions collective bargaining rights, moving along to welfare programs like Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security before they bankrupt our economy all in the quest for the minorities ability to dictate to the majority.
Mark Potwora
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Daniel my point wasn't just him sending in extra money ..Is that anyone who thinks they should be taxed more this include all those liberial millionaires who feel the need to do so should send in extra money to the irs.Why didn't Obama set the example and pay extra...If we cut the capital gains tax Warren Buffet will pay less..I think we should be taxed when we spend the money not make it..Like we do now with sales tax..Which is a flat tax..No more underground off the books economy..Such as illegal drug profit..
Jeff Allen
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Using facts and not platitudes or class warfare, here is the result of "taxing" the rich to put us back on firm financial footing.
John Roach
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When people who have less money can tell the ones with more how much they have to give them, that's not fair.
Howard B. Owens
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John, it's no more or less fair than the people with a lot of the money telling the rest of us what we should give to the government. The fact is, we live in a society that is supposed to be premised on the notion that we all share in the expense of maintaining that society. In fact, the original income tax fell only on the top 5 percent of wage earners under the notion that he would gained the most from society had the greatest obligation to society. That's not a bad way to look at it. Our society, which we all have a share in creating (it's a constant regenerative process) and maintaining, benefits most the people who are good at creating wealth for themselves others. Should those same people give back in a fair amount in taxes. When individuals and corporations that are benefiting greatly from a society that makes it possible for them to become very wealthy, should they be given extra benefits of tax breaks (to the point of paying in some cases NO taxes) and tax rates that take proportionally less from them than from the rest of us? It would be wonderful to live in a society of no taxes, but that's just not possible. And we who do pay taxes -- all of us -- we pay way too much in taxes (our national and state governments are too big, bloated and inefficient and involve themselves in matters that are really none of their business, but that's another matter). Taxes should be lower for all, but if we're going to pay taxes, the burden should not be lighter on the person earning $500,000 than on the person earning $50,000. Trickle down has proven a failure and a sham. Free trade is killing American jobs while making the rich even richer. The conservative position should be that to whatever degree the government has a role in it to protect our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. One of the father's of conservative, Sir. Edmund Burke, said to each we have the right to enjoy the fruits of our labor, and the government's role is to protect that right. Free trade, and an imbalance of taxation rob us working people of our treasurer, our freedom and our prosperity.
John Roach
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Howard, That's why I think a flat tax is the fair way to go. End subsidies, for everyone. Treat dividends and capital gains the same as earned income. If you keep the payroll tax for Social Security and Medicare, then it should be on all earned income. Right now we have too many not paying any income tax telling the others how much they should pay to be "fair".
Howard B. Owens
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John, I'm not opposed to a flat tax. I do think the less you earn (having been there) the more onerous paying taxes becomes. What about exempting those earning some percentage less than the median income? Also, do you think some sort of write off for interest paid on ownership a personal residence?
John Roach
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Howard, most of the flat tax proposals have an income exemption up to a certain dollar amount. For just this example, lets say it is $20,000. If you make that or less, no tax. If you make more, subtract the $20k and pay a set amount on the rest. And no, I would not give any write offs. If you give it for one thing, you are favoring a set group. Other, just as worthy groups or causes, will then want a write off or subsidy and we are right back where we started.
C. M. Barons
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Jeff, did that wind bag in the video ever get around to explaining himself? He started to lose me when he confessed to a Mary Poppins fetish... The chain of alliteration and the claim that liberals obsessively focus on one emotional issue (talk about calling the kettle black!); well, anyway, it was way too slow for me. Even the cool flame graphics borrowed from a Goth site couldn't maintain my attention.
Jeff Allen
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C.M., I know it was long and his delivery leaves a bit to be desired, but it is no longer or more boring than the tired adage that taxing the rich will solve or fiscal crisis. In the end, if you get that far the point remains that we can tax the rich at 50%, 75%, even 100% AND take their assets and still no t make a significant dent in our crisis, but what we would be left with is a society of government being the only employer and simply recycling money.
Dave Olsen
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As Howard pointed out, it truly is more a spending problem than a tax problem.
C. M. Barons
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Historically, as Howard also mentioned, the affluent class has encumbered the lion-share of public financial support. Not because they were unfairly burdened, but because (example) 10% of $40,000 will always be less than 10% of $4 million. If one studies the historical record of tax obligation by income, reduction of upper bracket tax revenue is a specifically modern trend. I'm sure that specific instances of high-income beneficence can be cited. One hesitates to conclude that the rich are selfish. However... Road repair and infrastructure improvements tend to be unpopular targets for charity. I do not disagree that big government needs some significant pruning. One should be aware that government waste and misuse of funds does not occur only in regulatory agencies or social safety net programs. Unfortunately when BIG business starts managing the budget scissors, they typically lay waste to programs that impact their bottom line- which is practical for BIG business, but detrimental to LITTLE people. I would like to think that we could land in the middle somewhere, everyone taking a light hit to avoid anyone taking a big hit. Unfortunately most of the so-called think tanks that drive policy are funded by special interest groups with political agenda and built in blinders. There is nothing wrong with profiting, but the fix should not become a lopsided advantage. We need to address our infrastructure. We need to promote wages that allow our citizens to participate in a market economy without incurring credit debt. We need affordable healthcare for everyone. We need a consistent, local-source energy supply that does not adversely effect air, water an other natural resources. We need to protect families from feeling pressured to depend on multiple earners. We need to encourage manufacturing of domestic products on American soil. We need to protect our food supply from Frankenscience and greedy corporations set on monopolizing agriculture from seed to consumption. We know how to do this. We've been doing it for generations. We just need to expel the money changers from the temple. These people who profit from handling other people's money are a scourge. Thomas Edison would likely puke if he saw what has become of American industry. In Edison's day, product quality was everything. Nowadays, it's all about stockholders.

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