A question of philosophy and taxes

From the Heritage Foundation:

Overall for 2003, the federal government spent $20,300 per household, taxed $16,780 per household, and ran a budget deficit of $3,520 per household.

The average household income in the United States is just under $30,000. Here are the federal income tax and payroll tax breakdowns versus amount of government spending paid for by someone else, at an income of $30,000:

*Single Filer:$5,275 (only $2,980 is income tax) -$15,025 paid by someone else
*Joint, no children:$3,755 (only $1,460 is income tax) -$16,545 paid by someone else
*Joint Filers, one child under 17:$2,430 (only $135 is income tax) -$17,870 paid by someone else
*Joint Filers, two children under 17:$2,295 ($0 is income tax) -$18,005 paid by someone else
*Head of Household, no children:$4,788 (only $2,493 is income tax) -$15,512 paid by someone else
*Head of Household, one child under 17:$3,330 (only $1,035 is income tax) -$16,970 paid by someone else
*Head of Household, two children under 17:$2,295 ($0 is income tax) -$18,005 paid by someone else

So if you make an average living (or even well above it), you are not footing the bill for the majority of government spending done for your benefit and the benefit of society.

For those of you who think that we need higher taxes on the wealthy, what is your philosophical reasoning? Why should you, who already do not pay your fair share, get to impose even higher costs on those footing your bill for you?

$30,000 is an average living? That is survival wage in the Seattle area, or most US cities that I would care to live in.

That''s cause you have places like Mobile, AL to drag you down!!!

$30,000 isn''t a huge amount of money. Of course, most standards of living in areas like Seattle or San Francisco are artifically high due to rich people wanting to keep out poor (often meaning minority) people away with zoning restrictions, open space laws, etc...

For perspective, someone else is still paying at least part of your way if you are:

* Single making less than $80,000
* Married making less than $95,000 jointly
* Married with one child making less than $105,000 jointly
* Married with two children making less than $110,000 jointly

You get the picture. My question stands.

If we''re going philosophical, then I take a fundamental exception with the wording of your questions. A fair share presumes everyone to be on equal footing, presumes that a family of 4 with a 30k income has the same ''fair share'' as a single filer making 100k. Philosophically, I''d disagree with that. Additionally I think saying ""footing your bill for you"" makes the erroneous presumption that taxes can be interchanged with the idea of billing.

Besides, I sense that you''re waiting for someone to say ''because those who have more should contribute more'', so why don''t you go ahead and present your argument against that so we can skip a few small-talk steps and get to the meat of this thread.

What I would like to see is this kind of creativity used elsewhere. Instead of shifting numbers to shame the poor into complacency, maybe this kind of creativity can be used to find ways of using stretching existing tax dollars further. And I dont me privatization of social programs. How about coming up with an idea that doesnt directly benefit conseervatives living comfortably but benefits you indirectly because those less fortunate arent grabbing at your coat tails as much.

Oh and San Francisco is expensive because despite everything happening in recent years, its still one of the top most sought after places to live.

What study is this from? Can you provide the URL, please?
There are a LOT of reports at Heritage.

My name is Farscry and I... *sniffle, sniffle*

...I....

...I only make a little more than $30k per year! *breaks down into hysterical sobbing* Please, Mr. Gates, Mr. Trump, and all my betters, please forgive me for my ingratitude for all the wonderful things you have provided for me! I''m sorry that you have to do with so much less pleasure in life than you are due, and I''m sorry that I forgot my place in the great scheme of things.... *more sobbing*

I vow from this day forward to be happy with my lot in life, pleased to be a mere pebble in the American wilds, upon who''s back you are more than entitled to step and crush me in your rightful pursuit of fair treatment! I''m not worthy! I''m not worthy!

*ahem* There, have I atoned?

A fair share presumes everyone to be on equal footing, presumes that a family of 4 with a 30k income has the same ''fair share'' as a single filer making 100k. Philosophically, I''d disagree with that.

Why? Do you assume that the single filer with the high income just ''lucked'' into it? That person was just ''given'' that income, and so deserves to share a large part of it with someone that is unknown to them?

If you make good money, it is because you earn it. Janitors and fast food people make less than doctors because anyone with the slightest bit of intelligence can do it. It takes years of dedication and education, as well as personal sacrifice, to become a doctor. To varying degrees, the same can be said of any high paying job. You get paid more because your contribution is worth more. Plain and simple.

It offends me that the government takes such a huge percentage of my check every single year. I worked my way up. My first corporate job paid $18k. It took me 12 years of hard work and long hours. I put in a lot of after hours time learning new skills and technology so I would be better at my job. I made myself valuable to the people that employ me and they showed that appreciation by raising my income.

The system guarantees a equal opportunity. Not that everyone will have equal results. If you make poor life choices or are less capable, then you will not make as much money as someone who make better decisions or is more capable. I don''t begrudge LeBron James his $100M, because his contribution to the economy is a large multiple of that. I can''t play basketball worth a hoot, so I don''t expect a Nike endorsement. Is that ''fair''? Yes. I have just as much opportunity to play basketball as he did. The system didn''t exclude me. Genetics did. There is no ''cosmic fairness''. It doesn''t exist.

So explain to me how trying to create it by taking away from people that worked hard to get where they are is fair. How is taking money from people that make larger contributions to the economy or to society ''fair'' in any sense of the word?

"Elysium" wrote:

If we''re going philosophical, then I take a fundamental exception with the wording of your questions. A fair share presumes everyone to be on equal footing, presumes that a family of 4 with a 30k income has the same ''fair share'' as a single filer making 100k. Philosophically, I''d disagree with that. Additionally I think saying ""footing your bill for you"" makes the erroneous presumption that taxes can be interchanged with the idea of billing.

Besides, I sense that you''re waiting for someone to say ''because those who have more should contribute more'', so why don''t you go ahead and present your argument against that so we can skip a few small-talk steps and get to the meat of this thread.

It is very rare for a family of four to make 30k. The average family of 4 makes 40-50k. I got the link in my text book (2002 numbers)

Why?

For a variety of reasons, but not the least of which is because people are more important than money. I''m not really going to get into a whole long explanatory diatribe, because honestly I''ll never stick with it. I don''t go in for the endless tit for tat. If someone else want to pick up the slack, they''re welcome to, but it comes down to common sense empathy. Those with significant incomes, whether they earned it or not, aren''t being taxed down to a level of barely making ends meet - where the lower middle-class and poor are - so fundamentally I don''t really care how persecuted they feel for being rich. I really don''t. Maybe it''s not fair, but I sleep just fine at night thinking those with the resources in our society have an obligation to pull a lot more of the weight for those who can''t. Does it mean on some rare occasions they will be footing the bill for shiftless morons, absolutely, but please spare me the part where that''s everyone who doesn''t make 100k/year. And also spare me the part where people who make more are more important - how elitists can you get? - because someone out there has to be the cook, the janitor, the convenience store clerk, the bank teller, the sales guy at the store, and so on. Tell me all about how the construction worker isn''t worth as much to society as the corporate lawyer? Sing to me again of how the police man isn''t as important to society as a CFO. Be sure and get to the part where we need more corporate vice presidents, and fewer airline mechanics or EMTs.

The wealthy and upper middle-class still get their spoils, still get to be successful, drive much better cars, live in much better houses, and go on much better vacations, so if they have to pull the weight of society a little more because they don''t have to make hard choices about how much they can afford to spend at the grocery store for their family then that sounds just about right to me. You can sing the sad story of the successful all you like, but I don''t buy it for a second.

But here are some statements you made that I pretty strongly disagree with.

You get paid more because your contribution is worth more. Plain and simple.

Like teachers, and researchers, and social workers, and nurses, and on and on and on? Boy, all those MBA middle managers ... our society would fall to ruin without them!

If you make poor life choices or are less capable, then you will not make as much money as someone who make better decisions or is more capable.

I hope you don''t mean to imply that lower income is a function of bad choices. Shame on all those people who chose raising their kids above spending 70 hours at work. Punish them!

Meh, anyway the sob story of the rich and often disposable just annoys me (as you can probably tell). Yeah, there''s no cosmic fairness, but on my tally sheet it''s a helluva lot more fair for those with the cash to pull the extra weight instead of dumping it on those who would suffer from the burden. It''s just that easy.

A fair share presumes everyone to be on equal footing, presumes that a family of 4 with a 30k income has the same ''fair share'' as a single filer making 100k. Philosophically, I''d disagree with that.

You''re right. It''s even more unfair. Federal spending per person is about $8200, or $32,800 for a family of four. So the single filer who has the talent and work ethic to finally be pulling down six figures covers his own cost plus that of almost two more people.

fundamentally I don''t really care how persecuted they feel for being rich.

Which at least is an honest answer. There is no justification for demanding services and making someone else pay for them - unless you just don''t give a sh*t about those people''s basic rights to their property. If I did what government does, stand on a corner and point a gun at people until they gave money to, say, the homeless, you would condemn me. But if I call it ""taxing the rich"" you are all for it.

You gonna give us the link, Ral?

So the single filer who has the talent and work ethic to finally be pulling down six figures covers his own cost plus that of almost two more people.

How black and white. Actually, that may be giving it too much credit. Damn talentless lazy public servants, police officers, teachers, etc. About time we penalized their hapless bungling!

But if I call it ""taxing the rich"" you are all for it.

I''m also taxed for those things, and I''m not rich. But I get your point. You don''t like living in a compassionate society. I was never confused on your position there.

Damn talentless lazy public servants, police officers, teachers, etc. About time we penalized their hapless bungling!

With very little exception, you are paid what you can get and what you are worth. Don''t tell me that teachers are underpaid when I have seen the half-wits who make up the majority of education majors... Same thing with most public servants. Anyone without a high school diploma can do most government work. Also, those entering government service as teachers or police know full well that they are not on the path to riches. This is their choice. For many of them these careers offer better pay and benefits than they could otherwise get, for the rest, they are motivated by more than money. They are paid more than their base salary, in power, influence and authority.

I''m also taxed for those things, and I''m not rich. But I get your point. You don''t like living in a compassionate society. I was never confused on your position there.

Ridiculous. If you think providing free government healthcare and retirement allowances to the richest demographic in the country - seniors - is compassion, then you are seriously misguided. Government programs for welfare and entitlement are not about giving, they are about power. Those who enact and run them are looking for power for themselves in general and over those who use them.

What Heritage study did this come from, Ral?

You gonna give us the link, Ral?

The quote was from anarticle talking about wasteful spending in the government and where it is coming from. The math on the taxes is my own, using the Heritage Foundation''s tax calculator and including payroll taxes.

Those with significant incomes, whether they earned it or not, aren''t being taxed down to a level of barely making ends meet - where the lower middle-class and poor are - so fundamentally I don''t really care how persecuted they feel for being rich. I really don''t.

Spoken like someone that has never put in the effort or made the sacrifices that the majority of people who earn those incomes did.

spare me the part where people who make more are more important - how elitists can you get? - because someone out there has to be the cook, the janitor, the convenience store clerk, the bank teller, the sales guy at the store, and so on. Tell me all about how the construction worker isn''t worth as much to society as the corporate lawyer? Sing to me again of how the police man isn''t as important to society as a CFO. Be sure and get to the part where we need more corporate vice presidents, and fewer airline mechanics or EMTs.

Sorry that reality offends your sensibilities. Here''s reality. A doctor *is* worth more to society than an EMT. And EMT *is* worth more to society than a janitor. And, funny enough, the incomes of those people reflect that. But, since you don''t think that there is any difference in their contributions, next time your baby is sick, ask the janitor at the hospital for his diagnosis.

You get paid more because your contribution is worth more. Plain and simple.

Like teachers, and researchers, and social workers, and nurses, and on and on and on? Boy, all those MBA middle managers ... our society would fall to ruin without them!

When you take the amount of impact that one of those people has on the economy or society, then weigh into account the level of effort and capabilites required to get to that position...that equates pretty quickly with compensation. But, since being a ''middle-manager'' and having P&L responsibility for a line of business is so trivial, why haven''t you gone and done it? Obviously all of those people make no contribution compared to social workers. It''s not like good decisions on their part lead to economic growth, employment for bigger departments, and wealth creation for their shareholders. Nope...obviously their education was wasted and their compensation is overblown.

People are paid based on their contribution. Their income is *earned*, not handed to them. And it is a factor of the number of potential people that could do that job. That is why a CFO is compensated more than a math teacher. Teaching fractions is a little less demanding than having fiduciary responsiblity for a company.

How black and white. Actually, that may be giving it too much credit. Damn talentless lazy public servants, police officers, teachers, etc. About time we penalized their hapless bungling!

Those people are paid what society deems their value to be. Are you actually trying to argue that there are more people who are willing to sacrifice and that are qualified to be a doctor than there are people to work a counter at the DMV?

I''m all for people paying their fair share. If that means that my portion is bigger, fine. If everyone had to pay a flat 20% of their income, I''d be right there without complaint. But explain to me why I pay 30% and others to pay none.

Because, last time I looked, the contributions and efforts of those ''worthless rich'' have led to a standard of living for all of our society that erases all historical precedents of poverty.

So, educate me compassionate ones. How is a janitor or social worker more valuable than a doctor or CFO?

I don''t see that we all don''t want a compasionate society.

The problem is that government is not an effective or efficient way to help the less fortunate. Bureaucracy is not world famous for waste and cost overruns because of bad PR. It has been proven wasteful in all countries and extra national organizations. We never get a cost benifit analysis from the governement.

The issue is that our tax dollars are being taken from us without our authorization and spent on wasteful programs. Wouldn''t it be more compassionate to allow all of us to direct our compassion more directly and efficiently.

Every year I take part in a ""cafeteria"" type charitable donation program with my workplace. When a local charity was exposed for being wasteful I was able to redirect my donations from it to another more worthy group. I can''t do that with the government.

As for taxation, they deliberately keep the total amount of taxes that you pay from you. They never add up all the little federal, state, city and fees we pay into one sum. Your end of the year tax bill is just clearing up the balance on your total bill. I think most people would have a cow if they ever realized how much they actuall pay to the government. They should not deduct any money from our paychecks and should send eveyone a bill at the end of the year with the total tax amount printed on it. You''d see a quick change in the tax situation if that were to happen.

To end my rant, I just want whatever they take from me to be used efficently. If that were the case they wouldn''t ned so much.

Bravo Taz. Welcome to the discussion.

Thanks for the link, Ral. I have to agree with the author:

The reality that all spending must eventually be paid for in taxes cannot be overemphasized. Despite its current popularity, the ""big-government conservative"" model of coupling tax relief with rapid spending increases is not sustainable in the long run. If Washington continues to spend $2,500 per household more than it did in the 1990s, then taxes must eventually rise by $2,500 per household per year. Budget deficits can delay, but not ultimately avoid, the tax collector. Permanently higher levels of spending require permanently higher taxes.

It''s obvious from the article that tax cuts in the current
spending environment would merely lead to larger taxes
in the future. However, it''s relatively easy to argue that we
should bite the bullet now, undergo a temporary tax raise,
especially on those who can afford it, and fix spending now.
Otherwise, as the Heritage Foundation notes, the tax bill later
will just get worse and worse. I''m with them; a tax raise is
inevitable, might as well get it over with.

Enough distraction. What you are arguing for, is a flat tax.
That''s the logical reduction of the position that one category
of taxpayer should not pay a higher rate than others.

One question I was hoping to get answered - every category
of taxpayer you showed was noted as ""paid by someone else"".
Since $3500 per taxpayer is attributable to deficit spending,
the other $16000 or so for each taxpayer must come from
*somewhere*. But your figures don''t show which taxpayers
are paying too much. You don''t who the ""someone else"" is,
but it''s obvious that not all of those categories are ""the
wealthy"". So which category should offset any reduction
on taxes for the wealthy? Certainly, that''s fallen on the
shoulders of the middle class, and especially wage earners,
since the 1980''s. I assume that''s whom you''d like to see
pay more, unless you do indeed support the current levels,
philosophically.

I note also that you don''t draw any demographic conclusions
from your choices. I believe, for example, that ""single filer""
would skew young and old; that ""children under 17"" would
skew young; that ""joint, no children"" likewise skews young
or old. If what you are upset about is programs that benefit
young married couples, elderly singles and the like, well,
I think that''s a hard sell. If not, then I think you need to
present figures showing more average taxpayers - the ones
who have footed the bill as we reduced taxes on the rich
from up to 78% to the current 28% or so.

There''s good reason to think that you cherry-picked those
categories to make your point, by showing the extremes of
taxpayers, rather than the average. I note that the Heritage
Foundation does not make the argument that you do; I have
to wonder why, since they are anti-tax in general. Their
concern is not a tax/service inequity by income, since they
understand we all benefit from the almost half of spending
that is not socially related (defense and 9/11 reaction). They
are more concerned with Bush''s uncontrolled spending than
a flat tax - in the articles you cited, anyway. (perhaps
they have other ones that advocate that, I don''t know.)

At a minimum, you should reflect that about 45% of those
""paid by someone else"" figures represent defending those
people and protecting them from the fallout of 9/11. Unless
you want that benefit retracted from certain classes of tax-
payers, it should not be part of your
argument, since that 45% is common to all citizens. Your
low tax burdens are actually uncommon (or so I surmise,
lacking the data for the other categories of taxpayers you
excluded), and so they probably represent the ""edge cases""
so beloved in partisan statistics. Again, without the other
data, I can''t tell, so I''ll apologize in advance if I''m horribly
wrong there.

I think the issue is more complicated than the picture you
offer. It''s certainly not easy to have to guess the actual picture
from the partial data you put together. We''d really need more
data to show that ""the wealthy"" would actually be seriously
inconvenienced if they were taxed progressively, as indeed
they currently are. Really, the question here is, ""Should a
progressive tax system exist at all?"", since any conclusion
that the wealthy should not pay more leads inevitably, by
simple ratiocination, to advocacy of a flat tax.

All this ""should we tax the rich more"" stuff pales in comparison
to the stark reality presented in these articles: we face higher
taxes, *all* of us, due to the Bush budgets, and no amount
of deficit spending and budget tricks can put that off. From that
perspective, I appreciate your bringing this article to my
attention. It''s certainly eye-opening.

Robear

A doctor *is* worth more to society than an EMT. And EMT *is* worth more to society than a janitor. And, funny enough, the incomes of those people reflect that. But, since you don''t think that there is any difference in their contributions, next time your baby is sick, ask the janitor at the hospital for his diagnosis.

So by that logic, I would assume Paris Hilton, who worked soooo hard to get her money, is worth more to society simply by being born?

If Washington continues to spend $2,500 per household more than it did in the 1990s, then taxes must eventually rise by $2,500 per household per year.

Yay! More zero sum economics! As if we didn''t beat that one to death before. How are we going to get $2500 out of every household? It isn''t going to be by making every household pay $2500 extra in taxes. Some, nay, most of those people are poor! It''s going to be by pulling some arbitrary rate out of someone''s posterior and applying it to the ""wealthy"". That''s when the really fun math begins.

According to IRS numbers the top 1 percent of wage earners pays over 1/3 of the income taxes collected (as of 2001, I couldn''t find anything more recent). Like it or not, without the wealthy to fund it the US tax system is flat broke. Do they get any gratitude for this? Nope. In the very same thread where Ralcydan questions the ethics of punitive taxation Robear proudly declares that whatever is being paid isn''t enough. If we were all truly paying ""our fair share"" or the same amount of money per person which is what ""fair"" means, governent spending (and waste) would come down in a big hurry.

So by that logic, I would assume Paris Hilton, who worked soooo hard to get her money, is worth more to society simply by being born?

Well, let''s start by pointing out that there is a difference between wealth and income. Paris Hilton''s family has wealth, and she shares in that. We don''t tax wealth. We tax income. So, we would have to talk about Paris Hilton''s income. Now, I assume that her income comes from acting/modeling. Last time I looked, her face on a magazine, especially a tabloid, sells issues. By selling issues, the magazine employs writers, copy editors, photographers, printers, delivery people, etc. If her presence on a cover, or in a story, increases sales by 10% that is a significant contribution. Likewise, if as a model, she gets publicity for a designer, which then results in sales, she has contributed to the well being of the designer, the manufacturer, and the retail store.

So, in terms of economic well being for a large number of people, yes...her contribution warrants her income. As for her family''s wealth, and whether she ''deserves'' that...well, that is between her and her family.

However, it''s relatively easy to argue that we
should bite the bullet now, undergo a temporary tax raise,
especially on those who can afford it, and fix spending now.

Umm....no. We should cut spending now, not raise taxes. Why don''t we ''bite the bullet now'' and undergo an overall reduction in government programs. Why is the solution to take more from the people that earn it?

In the very same thread where Ralcydan questions the ethics of punitive taxation Robear proudly declares that whatever is being paid isn''t enough.

To be fair, it''s me and the dangerous liberals of the Heritage
Foundation. I can''t *make* this stuff up, after all, we need
economists for that.

Robear

We should cut spending now, not raise taxes. Why don''t we ''bite the bullet now'' and undergo an overall reduction in government programs. Why is the solution to take more from the people that earn it?

Because we - or the officials we elected, for the most part -
are spending it like there''s no tomorrow.

We should be cutting programs. However, that does nothing
to pay off the deficit. We could eliminate government entirely,
and still have to pay taxes until the deficit was paid.

Why not wait? Because we pay interest on the deficit. Every
year we have one, it gets more expensive to keep. So the
obvious ""bite the bullet"" choice is between cutting spending
and taking some reasonable tax increases now, just as
was done during WWII, say, or waiting until the deficit plus
interest is such a problem that we have to cut more and take
bigger taxes to get it under control.

Again, I''m not saying this myself, this is the opinion of one of
the rocks of conservative economics. I happen to agree with
it, and this is one of those areas where both the liberal and
conservative think tanks agree - the deficit and out of control
spending are problems, and they are not going to go away
just because we suddenly get disciplined about spending.

BTW, I always understood the ""P"" in the current system to
stand for ""Progressive"", not ""Punitive"". Certainly the wealthy
are being punished 2/3 less than they were 20 years ago, but
I''m getting hit worse, so...nah, still not punitive. That''s
England''s tax system.

Robear

Why not wait? Because we pay interest on the deficit. Every
year we have one, it gets more expensive to keep. So the
obvious ""bite the bullet"" choice is between cutting spending
and taking some reasonable tax increases now, just as
was done during WWII, say, or waiting until the deficit plus
interest is such a problem that we have to cut more and take
bigger taxes to get it under control.

Umm...if you left taxes where they are, and cut spending you would achieve the same end of paying down the national debt. So again...why take more of my money exactly?

Again, I''m not saying this myself, this is the opinion of one of
the rocks of conservative economics. I happen to agree with
it, and this is one of those areas where both the liberal and
conservative think tanks agree - the deficit and out of control
spending are problems, and they are not going to go away
just because we suddenly get disciplined about spending.

Which ''conservative rock'' is that? And no...simply balancing the budget won''t solve the national debt. But, theoretically, let''s say the debt was 10 dollars. If you take 5 dollars from me and spend 6, then we increase the debt. If you take 6 from me and spend 7, then we increase the debt. But if you take 5 from me and spend 3...well, now you have cash to pay off the debt.

So, why exactly is the right solution to take more?

Which ''conservative rock'' is that?

The Heritage Foundation.

So, why exactly is the right solution to take more?

To get the deficit down while paying the least amount of
interest. What services do interest payments buy? None.
They really are onerous, and each year we service our debt,
some part of our taxes goes to...nothing, from a citizen''s
perspective.

The alternative, draconian cuts in services, is likely to cause
more problems than a temporary rise in taxes, but of course
you may see that differently. You are correct that without
some serious cuts, it won''t happen. I just don''t think you
can get it all through cuts.

Robear

The alternative, draconian cuts in services, is likely to cause
more problems than a temporary rise in taxes, but of course
you may see that differently. You are correct that without
some serious cuts, it won''t happen. I just don''t think you
can get it all through cuts.

And that is where we will just have to disagree.

This is where the saying ""If you aren''t a liberal at 20, then you have no heart. If your aren''t a conservative at 50, you have no brain,"" really comes to mind. Once you hit a point in your life that you have worked hard enough to have a good income, you recognize that ''Progressive taxation'' is onerous and wrong. It is real easy to look at someone that has a higher income than you and think ""Well, he makes more than me, and I get by, so screw him,"" or ""Who needs $100K?"" But for anyone that has fought his way to that point, the very concept of big government becomes anathema.

It''s always a pleasure talking with you Johnny, I gotta say.

All I can say is that I''m up there. I''m not a millionaire, but I
sure ain''t poor and I''m top bracket. I agree with George
Soros, that not everything in society can be done through
sheer market forces, and that those who benefit most from
the system we have, should put more back in. I live very well
after taxes; I can''t complain yet, is my view.

It is one of the prices we pay for living in such a great country.

Oh, and good thing I''m not 50 yet.

Robear