by Jim Quinn
“There are three storylines that are pounded home repeatedly by the mainstream media and the Republican Party ideologues.
1. More than 50% of Americans don’t pay any taxes.
2. The top 1% pays 38% of all the Federal income taxes.
3. Increasing the highest tax rate above 35% would destroy jobs and kill small business owners.
The misinformation spewed forth by the super rich, who control the media, politicians, and media message, to disguise their continued looting of the American middle class, is unrelenting. There are 117 million households in the United States with a median household income of $48,000. Data from the Tax Foundation shows that in 2008, the average income for the bottom half of taxpayers was $15,300. The first $9,350 of income is exempt from taxes for singles and $18,700 for married couples. Politicians of both parties also provided credits for children, earned income credits, mortgage tax deductions, property tax deductions, and a myriad of other tax goodie payoffs for votes. When half the households in the country make less than $48,000 per year in income, of course they won’t be paying any Federal income taxes. There are approximately 151 million Americans earning income. Almost 73 million, or 48%, make less than $25,000. As Wall Street enriched billionaires are interviewed by millionaire journalists on CNBC, scorning those who don’t pay their fair share of taxes, they outsource the blue collar jobs of those on the lower income scale to China and India. Without good paying jobs, the middle class uses debt to maintain their American dream, further enriching the billionaire class in a circle of death.
The top 1% does pay 38% of the Federal income tax because they have a 23.5% share of the national income. The last time the top 1% reached this level of income was in 1928, just before the Great Stock Market Crash and the Great Depression. During the glory years of the American Empire, between 1946 and 1971, the top 1% of households’ share of the national income ranged between 8% and 13%. With the era of unbridled greed and debt that began in the 1980s, the inequitable distribution of wealth has risen to new heights. This level of pillaging by those in control of the finance sector of the economy, supported by their mouthpieces in Congress, and championed by their controlled media pundits, has reached a level that will eventually lead to revolution.
The biggest lie pushed forth by the powerful super rich in this country is related to the top marginal tax rate, which is currently 35%. The Republican agenda includes a further cut in the top rate to 25%. It is sold to the American public as a good thing for them. It has nothing to do with them. The 35% rate applies to only taxable income over $379,000. Of the 151 million Americans earning a living, this rate would apply to about 200,000 people. The top marginal tax rates during the glory years of the American Empire (1946 – 1971) were between 70% and 90%. These rates only applied to taxable income above $400,000, when the average income was less than $10,000 per year. These were the best years for the American middle class.
The IRS issues an annual report on the 400 highest income tax payers. In 1961, there were 398 taxpayers who made $1 million or more. Today there are over 78,000 taxpayers who make more than $1 million. The loopholes written into the tax code over decades by lobbyists paid for by the super rich, plus much lower tax rates on the largest sources of income of the wealthy (capital gains taxed at 15%), explain why the average federal income tax rate on the 400 richest people in America was 18.11% in 2008, according to the IRS, down from 26.38% when this data were first calculated in 1992. Among the top 400, 7.5% had an average tax rate of less than 10%, 25% paid between 10% and 15%, and 28% paid between 15% and 20%. The average American’s share of their income going to federal taxes increased from 13.1% in 1961 to 22.5% in 2008. William Domhoff explains how the super rich have paid off Congress to rig the system in their favor:
“According to another analysis by Johnston (2010a), the average income of the top 400 tripled during the Clinton Administration and doubled during the first seven years of the Bush Administration. So by 2007, the top 400 averaged $344.8 million per person, up 31% from an average of $263.3 million just one year earlier. How are these huge gains possible for the top 400? It’s due to cuts in the tax rates on capital gains and dividends, which were down to a mere 15% in 2007 thanks to the tax cuts proposed by the Bush Administration and passed by Congress in 2003. Since almost 75% of the income for the top 400 comes from capital gains and dividends, it’s not hard to see why tax cuts on income sources available to only a tiny percent of Americans mattered greatly for the high-earning few. Overall, the effective tax rate on high incomes fell by 7% during the Clinton presidency and 6% in the Bush era, so the top 400 had a tax rate of 20% or less in 2007, far lower than the marginal tax rate of 35% that the highest income earners (over $372,650) supposedly pay.” – "Wealth, Income, and Power" – William Domhoff
As an added bonus, hedge fund managers like John Paulson, who made $9 billion over two years, paid no income taxes on his windfall. In 2007, Republicans and a key Democrat, Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, fought to keep the tax rate on hedge fund managers at 15%, arguing that the profits from hedge funds should be considered capital gains. Schumer, the ultra-liberal champion of the poor, knows who butters his bread – Wall Street. But it gets better. As long as they leave their money, known as “carried interest,” in the hedge fund, their taxes are deferred. They pay taxes only when they cash out, which could be decades from now. These upstanding citizens access their jackpot winnings by borrowing against the carried interest, often at rates as low as 2%. I’m sure every youngster in America dreams of becoming a hedge fund manager so they can use system risking leverage to make bets on derivatives, reap billions in profits, pay no taxes, and produce no value for the country. The new American Dream.”