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Old 02-27-2009, 11:08 PM   #81
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I'm still confused at how 95% of Americans will receive a tax cut when a good portion of the 95% don't pay income taxes.
Good question.

I had not seen this apparent impossibility refuted so I did some googling.


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CLAIM #3: “Because of this plan, 95 percent of the working households in America will receive a tax cut – a tax cut that you will see in your paychecks beginning on April 1st.”

FACT: This is a mathematical impossibility. According to the IRS, there were over 138 million families filing income tax returns in 2006. Only 93 million returns paid income tax. That means that one-third of households had no income tax liability in 2006 (and this doesn't even account for those households that don't have to file tax returns, like most seniors). You can't cut taxes on 95% of families when one-third of them don't pay income taxes.

According to the Joint Tax Committee, 15 percent of families have neither an income tax nor a payroll tax liability.



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Old 02-27-2009, 11:24 PM   #82
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Inflation increased the later period receipts by at least 12%. On a constant dollar basis the 2001-2005 receipts would be more like $3,741,767.
Yes, apparently, when they say in "current" dollars, they mean in dollars current to the year reported? Or not? And then there is the fact that the economy was in different cycles for each period, and people will argue if there is cause/effect there...

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I think it's a little more complicated than just total tax collections. Here is a link to a 2007 NY Times article by economist Robert Frank that goes into a little more depth on why the trickle-down theory has not worked:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/12/bu...cene.html?_r=1

Quote from the article:

"In the 1950s, American executives earned far lower salaries and faced substantially higher marginal tax rates than they do today. Yet most of them competed energetically for higher rungs on the corporate ladder. The claim that slightly higher tax rates would cause today’s executives to abandon that quest is simply not credible."
So, as I said, any "real world" analysis gets bogged down in externalizes and opinion.

That is why I try to strip it down to basics. So I'll ask again: If I reduce the value of something, don't I reduce the demand for it? Reducing the value of an hour worked will reduce the motivation to work that hour, correct? Can it be other wise?

Has your boss ever come to you and said "Great job this year, and to motivate you to work even harder next year, and give more of yourself to this company so that we can grow - I am cutting your pay!".

But this is supposed to work when the govt says it to small business? I don't get it.

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Old 02-27-2009, 11:43 PM   #83
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Well technically, I believe you will reduce the supply side of the labor equation by reducing price a.k.a. the labor pool will supply less at a lower price, but I think your analysis is spot on. I know that if taxes increase much more for us, DW will work less as she would like to work on more stuff with the kids (playdates, classes etc.).
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Old 02-27-2009, 11:47 PM   #84
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The sense of entitlement among many high income individuals is breathtaking. The idea that "I earned my 7 figure salary" usually ignores the opportunities and protections given the individual, often due to an accident of birth, that made success possible. This is not to say society shouldn't reward high achievement, it should. But high achievers should display a little humility and recognize that our system and infrastructure, built and maintained through the hard work and sacrifice of countless people, both living and dead, is what made that achievement possible.


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Well put, ...Yrs. to Go.
I'll respectively disagree that it is "well put". I think it is more accurate to say it represents only one view of the situation.

The hard workers who build and maintain the infrastructure are paid to do it. Seems like a fair trade? If they don't like that deal, they are free to find a better one. If they can't find a better one, then I guess it *is* a good deal for them.

And yes, the high rollers make use of the opportunities and protections this country provides. But those same opportunities are there for the 50% of people who do not pay federal taxes. Now, is *that* fair?

I'm trying to picture how a business that hires thousands of people would get off the ground if it was totally made up of "worker bees". If you put a cap on what the startups could make, those who invested their life savings, that worked 100 hour weeks to get it going, left successful salaried jobs with benefits to take this risk? Would they do that if they were told that someone else would determine what their reward would max out at? And if they didn't, those "worker bees" would not have jobs.

Sorry, despite the warts I think the free market is a far better determiner of this. I'm still waiting to hear someone explain a system that would work better. They complain that some make "too much" and others "too little", but how would *you* determine who can make what?

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Old 02-28-2009, 12:19 AM   #85
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Okay i'll admite that this is just jealousy because i'll never make a base income of more than $55K, in todays dollars, but if you make over a quarter of a million $ a year you don't have anything to complain about. Even if you have to pay an extra couple percent in taxes you still make more than 90% of the US population where the average individual income is under $50K and the average household income is under $70K. Yes you may work hard for that $250K/yr but I work hard too for 12+ hrs a night and nobody earns 5x what I earn... nobody.
Nobody? If you were to spend the next 4 years and $320k ($540k including opportunity cost) working hard for a Harvard JD/MBA, wouldn't you think you'd have earned a higher salary?
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Old 02-28-2009, 09:04 AM   #86
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So I'll ask again: If I reduce the value of something, don't I reduce the demand for it?
"If I reduce the price of something (labor) don't I reduce the supply of it?" Is what I think you meant to say, and to this I'll agree. It is a basic, and uncontroversial, tenant of economics.

What isn't know, though, is the slope of the supply curve. With respect to labor, "Supply siders" want the world to believe that the slope is perfectly elastic, and that modest increases in marginal tax rates result in major reductions in the quantity of labor supplied. On the other hand, traditional politicians budget as if the supply of labor is perfectly inelastic so that an x% increase in tax rates results in an equivalent x% increase in tax revenues. The reality is somewhere in the middle.

Arthur Laffer developed a partial solution to this problem when he introduced a theoretical model (the Laffer curve) showing zero federal revenues produced by a tax rate of 0% and also by rates of 100%. Supply siders, again, want folks to believe that the Laffer Curve means that EVERY cut in taxes results in increased revenue and vice versa . . . but that's not what the theory says. It matters where on the curve you are. At 0% taxation, increased rates will yield positive revenue just as tax cuts will yield more revenue once rates are as high as 100%.

So where are we on the curve? My guess is that at a 35% marginal rate we're still on the "upward sloping" part of the curve, meaning higher rates generate more income. Some studies have suggest that the Laffer Curve turns downward toward zero at very high levels of taxation. Intuitively that makes sense. At what point does someone stop working because the extra effort isn't worth it? When he "only" keep 90%? Or 70%? Or 40%? Or 20%? In each case the worker is still better off financially than he was before.
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Old 02-28-2009, 09:05 AM   #87
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The population in the US is shaped somewhat like a pare with regards to income. With the very rich, Buffet, Gates etc, at the top and the very poor at the bottom. Politicians have figured out that they can take money from those at the top and give it to those at the bottom. The politician has several choices to buy his votes. He can tax everything the Gate's of the world make and purchases his votes, or, he taxes less and taxes more 'rich'. This is the route they seem to have chosen. Now it is just a matter of seeing how rich is rich. Right now it is $250K. I believe it will go lower.

For the members of this board who want the government to pay for their health care. You are the Rich! The money you have saved represents far more than what the average American has. You want someone else to pay for your benefits? There is no one else. We are the next level down to be set upon so the politician can purchase his power.
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Old 02-28-2009, 09:13 AM   #88
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Supply siders, again, want folks to believe that the Laffer Curve means that EVERY cut in taxes results in increased revenue and vice versa . . . but that's not what the theory says. It matters where on the curve you are. At 0% taxation, increased rates will yield positive revenue just as tax cuts will yield more revenue once rates are as high as 100%.
I don't think that's what supply-siders believe in general. They may still feel we're on the right side of the curve, with the "inflection point" (maximum revenues) still below us.

I'm not sure I agree with that, but I do think there's a tendency for increased taxation of economic transactions -- be it buying stuff or employing people -- to slow the pace of those transactions. As a result, it's pretty important not to go overboard with the tax hike thing -- the last thing we want in an economic recession is to slow the pace of economic activity even more. But with a 14-figure (!!!) national debt, it's pretty obvious that in the long run we can't afford to cut taxes for long any more.

My gut feeling is that the debt is managed with higher taxes and inflation. As the Fed's current actions are likely ultimately inflationary, that will lower the "real" value of the debt. So basically, I'm seeing stagflation ahead. We've been in denial and propping up a slowly eroding economic bubble for decades through debt and expecting our kids and grandkids to pick up the tab. And it's time to pay the piper.
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Old 02-28-2009, 09:15 AM   #89
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If anyone's boss, regardless of their salary, were asked: "Do you earn your salary?"; Why would they say no? Should this worker show some humility? Who is the person who will determine what is the proper level of humility?
The point was the high earner's achievement is the result of many, many factors . . . not the effort of the "achiever" alone. He owes a great debt to the police and military officers who keep him safe. The judges that protect his property rights. The laborers who maintain the streets over which commerce flows etc, etc, etc.

From those who benefit the most from the platforms that society built, the most should be expected in return.
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Old 02-28-2009, 09:22 AM   #90
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For the members of this board who want the government to pay for their health care.
Actually I just want someone to fix the health delivery system because it is badly broken. It is neither a free market nor a government entitlement but rather incorporates the very worst elements of each approach.
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Old 02-28-2009, 09:24 AM   #91
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The point was the high earner's achievement is the result of many, many factors . . . not the effort of the "achiever" alone. He owes a great debt to the police and military officers who keep him safe. The judges that protect his property rights. The laborers who maintain the streets over which commerce flows etc, etc, etc.

From those who benefit the most from the platforms that society built, the most should be expected in return.
Not to mention the educated work force, the infrastructure and other conditions which make it possible to build a business.

You can go to Mexico, where tax rates on the wealthy are said to be low, but the infrastructure isn't quite there and the level of education is much lower. Not to mention these days the all out war the drug cartels are waging on the govt. so the rule of law is in doubt.

It's interesting that a couple of years ago, the more libertarian opinions, which included a lot of conservatives, would say the civil infrastructure should not be done by govt., that key roads and bridges could be privatized.

Now, the complaint from many of the same people is that the stimulus package doesn't have enough money allocated for infrastructure projects.

Go figure.
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Old 02-28-2009, 09:28 AM   #92
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Actually I just want someone to fix the health delivery system because it is badly broken. It is neither a free market nor a government entitlement but rather incorporates the very worst elements of each approach.
It's interesting. I wrote a few days ago that some cynical folks think Social Security was enacted in a period of prolonged, elevated unemployment largely to get the older workers to retire and free up jobs to younger, unemployed folks.

I can't help but wonder if health care reform would turn out the same way: seen as a way to retire people who could quit if they didn't have to worry about that pesky health insurance thing...

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From those who benefit the most from the platforms that society built, the most should be expected in return.
Arguably so, but going too far with it does no one any good as it weakens growth and reduces taxable economic activity, including employment.
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Old 02-28-2009, 09:30 AM   #93
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For the members of this board who want the government to pay for their health care. You are the Rich! The money you have saved represents far more than what the average American has. You want someone else to pay for your benefits? There is no one else. We are the next level down to be set upon so the politician can purchase his power.
I don't necessarily want govt. to pay for health care but you look at all the other first world nations who spend about half per capita what we spend, and achieve better results.

At least with buying power, a universal system is more likely to contain costs than the present system.

As for the money saved, I would retire right now if health care costs weren't a concern. A lot of early retirees hope they can find a short-term bridge until they're eligible for Medicare. We know that health care costs are a big uncertainty and the biggest cause of personal bankruptcies, while in no other industrialized nation are individuals going bankrupt because of health care costs.
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Old 02-28-2009, 09:47 AM   #94
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I don't necessarily want govt. to pay for health care but you look at all the other first world nations who spend about half per capita what we spend, and achieve better results.

At least with buying power, a universal system is more likely to contain costs than the present system.
The present system is an absolute disaster and I'm eager to see the whole thing revamped. My first instinct is against socializing the system but I've yet to hear a free market approach that will actually work because of these reasons:

1) For people with pre-existing conditions and the elderly health "insurance" isn't insurance, but subsidization. The free market will not willingly take on a customer when it is known in advance that they will lose money in doing so. Just as you can not insure your house after it has caught fire.

2) The product lacks price transparency. In many instances it isn't possible for the customer to know in advance how much he is paying for treatment. Without price transparency, a competitive market can not exist

3) In many instances the consumer has no choice. A heart attack patient can't haggle for a better deal from the ambulance, request to go to a lower cost emergency room, or refuse service. Without the freedom to choose between suppliers, a competitive market can not exist.

I'm open to a free market solution to health care, but someone needs to explain how you address these issues before I'll consider it a viable option.
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Old 02-28-2009, 09:51 AM   #95
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The point was the high earner's achievement is the result of many, many factors . . . not the effort of the "achiever" alone. He owes a great debt to the police and military officers who keep him safe. The judges that protect his property rights. The laborers who maintain the streets over which commerce flows etc, etc, etc.

From those who benefit the most from the platforms that society built, the most should be expected in return.
Those items you mentioned are there for the high, middle, low and no achiever.
You've changed "humility" to "return". If the progressive tax system we currently have and as proposed by the POTUS is not appropriate say that. But the "Humility" point is subjective and, difficult to objectively measure and judge.

Occam's razor comes to mind in your position assumptions - many should be eliminated as they do not make a difference ... etc.
Occam's razor - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Occam's razor, also Ockham's razor,[1] is a principle attributed to the 14th-century English logician and Franciscan friar, William of Ockham. The principle states that the explanation of any phenomenon should make as few assumptions as possible, eliminating those that make no difference in the observable predictions of the explanatory hypothesis or theory. The principle is often expressed in Latin as the lex parsimoniae ("law of parsimony", "law of economy", or "law of succinctness"): entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem, roughly translated as "entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity." An alternative version Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate translates "plurality should not be posited without necessity." [2]
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Old 02-28-2009, 10:01 AM   #96
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You've changed "humility" to "return". [2]
Humility is advised for those who reject progressive taxation because "they earned it".


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Those items you mentioned are there for the high, middle, low and no achiever.
Yes. And some benefit more greatly from them than others (whether they have the humility to admit it or not).

I'm familar with Occam's Razor. For it to be an effective retort you'll have to do a better job explaining why it applies to anything I've said.
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Old 02-28-2009, 10:06 AM   #97
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Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:
The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.
So, that's what they decided to do.
The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. "Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20." Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men - the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?' They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay. And so:

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).
The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.
"I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man," but he got $10!"

"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I!"

"That's true!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!"
"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"
The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.
The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!
And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.
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Old 02-28-2009, 10:06 AM   #98
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"If I reduce the price of something (labor) don't I reduce the supply of it?" Is what I think you meant to say, and to this I'll agree. It is a basic, and uncontroversial, tenant of economics.

What isn't know, though, is the slope of the supply curve. With respect to labor, "Supply siders" want the world to believe that the slope is perfectly inelastic, and that modest increases in marginal tax rates result in major reductions in the quantity of labor supplied. On the other hand, traditional politicians budget as if the supply of labor is perfectly inelastic so that an x% increase in tax rates results in an equivalent x% increase in tax revenues. The reality is somewhere in the middle.

Arthur Laffer developed a partial solution to this problem when he introduced a theoretical model (the Laffer curve) showing zero federal revenues produced by a tax rate of 0% and also by rates of 100%. Supply siders, again, want folks to believe that the Laffer Curve means that EVERY cut in taxes results in increased revenue and vice versa . . . but that's not what the theory says. It matters where on the curve you are. At 0% taxation, increased rates will yield positive revenue just as tax cuts will yield more revenue once rates are as high as 100%.

So where are we on the curve? My guess is that at a 35% marginal rate we're still on the "upward sloping" part of the curve, meaning higher rates generate more income. Some studies have suggest that the Laffer Curve turns downward toward zero at very high levels of taxation. Intuitively that makes sense. At what point does someone stop working because the extra effort isn't worth it? When he "only" keep 90%? Or 70%? Or 40%? Or 20%? In each case the worker is still better off financially than he was before.
Nice post. I'll go one step further on the question "where are we on the curve?" In 2006 the Treasury Department did "A Dynamic Analysis of Permanent Extension of the President’s Tax Relief"

Their conclusion was that lower taxes would lead to a higher GDP, and there would be additional revenue from that higher GDP. The number (which you have to derive from their detail) is that $1.00 of tax cuts lead to enough additional economic activity to pay back 7 cents of taxes. The other 93 cents needs to come from spending cuts.

Needless to say, any such study has many assumptions. I find it hard to believe, however, that Bush's Treasury Dept would have skewed the assumptions a great deal against his policies.
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Old 02-28-2009, 10:26 AM   #99
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Yes. And some benefit more greatly from them than others (whether they have the humility to admit it or not).

I'm familar with Occam's Razor. For it to be an effective retort you'll have to do a better job explaining why it applies to anything I've said.
As the items you mention apply to everyone "eliminating those that make no difference in the observable predictions of the explanatory hypothesis or theory."

++++++++++++++++++++
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Originally Posted by . . . Yrs to Go
The point was the high earner's achievement is the result of many, many factors . . . not the effort of the "achiever" alone. He owes a great debt to the police and military officers who keep him safe. The judges that protect his property rights. The laborers who maintain the streets over which commerce flows etc, etc, etc.

From those who benefit the most from the platforms that society built, the most should be expected in return.
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Old 02-28-2009, 12:19 PM   #100
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As the items you mention apply to everyone "eliminating those that make no difference in the observable predictions of the explanatory hypothesis or theory."
But they do make an incredible difference. If all of those things were eliminated, everyone's wealth and income is reduced to zero. Certainly the folks who have the most to lose in that scenario might be expected to pay the most to maintain a status quo that benefits them disproportionately.
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