Sunday, April 17, 2011

Reddit on taxes

This is the original link:

Saving the text for posterity (because who knows what Reddit's retention rules would look like in a year), because it deserves it.

By kleinbl00 (

"I have a financial planner. He's a dyed-in-the-wool PNAC militant Republican, all the more ironic considering he's an Iraqi with family ties to Chemical Ali. I watched him give a seminar once where in one breathtaking sentence he managed to tie Rosie the Riveter to Osama Bin Laden and blame the rise of Islamic terrorism to the post-war appearance of women in the workplace. I mention this not only to illustrate that his mindset is very much not my own, but to illustrate exactly how far away it is from anything I would consider "progressive."

Yet he manages my money. And he manages it aggressively. When we had this come-to-jesus about philosophy he said "I'll tell you the same thing I told (a prominent liberal whose money he also manages). I don't make the laws. I just play by them. You can hate the policies as much as you want but if I leave money on the table, I'm not doing my job. What you do with it is up to you - give everything I save you to Greenpeace for all I care. But can we have an understanding that because the tax code is written for the rich by the rich, you'd be a fool not to play the game by our rules?"

We fully arrived in Bizarro-World when we were talking about how our current state and our former state don't grant the same professional rights to my wife (a naturopathic doctor) and that her scope of practice would be significantly curtailed compared to what she was used to. "The cheapest thing to do would be to hire a lobbyist and get the laws changed," he said. We just sort of stared at him, bug-eyed. Cheapest? "Well, you're talking a state law with a very narrow scope. We could probably overturn that for ten, twenty thousand dollars." It turns out he was speaking hyperbolically, but he wasn't far off. The list of lobbyists he showed us was the same as the list of lobbyists my wife's professional organization hired off of. His prices were off - maybe a factor of two, factor of three. Not a factor of ten.

Americans need to understand down to their very bones that their money is going to - and their country is being run by - people who know that an inconvenient tax law doesn't need to be suffered, it needs to be changed. These people know that if $200k of lobbying saves them $200m in taxes that lobbying is their most financially efficient tax strategy. Americans need to understand that the entire system is rigged against people who take the 1040EZ, who always get the Standard Deduction, who think that their $10k account on eTrade makes them a "player." The entire system is rigged so heavily against the individual with a middle-class income that the average taxpayer still thinks he's a small fish in a small pond - he doesn't even realize he's a goldfish in an aquarium bought and paid for by people whose fortunes dwarf his so extravagantly that scientific notation is necessary to illustrate the difference.

The AP ran a pie chart in 2001 that I saw in a newspaper once and haven't seen since. It broke down who, exactly, benefited from the Bush Tax Cuts - remember, back when you got a $300 check as pablum to get you to shut up? Prosperity for everybody, right?

That graph had a lot of stuff on it that wouldn't surprise you. "Businesses" got a big chunk of it. "The Middle class" got a tiny chunk of it. "The wealthy" got a big chunk of it. But way down at the bottom, next to a "2%" there was an asterisk. That asterisk, down in the footnotes, said "Samuel, John, Christy, Alice and James Walton."1

2% of the benefits of an entire national tax cut - about four billion dollars - went directly to five people. Who happen to own Walmart. They cut you a $300 check so yo wouldn't grumble about it. Each Walton, individually, got more tax cut than 2.5 million people, collectively. But it's okay, because you got an X-box.

That's the system we live in. And the people who have the most direct power to change it are the ones that are benefiting the most. Be angry at GE. Be angry at the tax laws. Be angry at the lobbyists. Be angry at the people taking advantage of it. If you aren't outraged, you aren't paying attention.
  • "Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporality embarrassed millionaires."
John Steinbeck"


NS said...

Well, people in Russia did try to think of themselves as exploited proletariat... so that ninety years down the road we could converse in English.

Sergey Solyanik said...

Maybe extremes are bad, regardless of the direction :-)?

NS said...

My point exactly.