Speaking of the revolution

… how many more articles like this can we see before it becomes time to man the barricades?

The most maddening excerpts:

It is a tricky situation in which some Americans find themselves after a long boom: They are by no means struggling, compared with the 98% of Americans who make far less, but depending on where they live and the lifestyle choices they have made, they don’t necessarily feel rich, either. Worse, in their view, they are facing the same tax rates as those making millions. Some of the expenses are self-inflicted — like private-school costs and conspicuous consumption. Others, though, are unavoidable, like child-care costs, larger health-care deductibles and education expenses, especially college.

Under Mr. Obama’s budget proposal, two of the highest tax brackets would see rates rise, and deductions would be reduced for households earning more than $250,000 annually. President Obama said Wednesday, “We’ve made a clear promise that families that earn less than $250,000 will not see their taxes increase by a single dime.”

By any statistical measure, that income level is at the top of the bracket. But for those closest to the line, the money might be less a sign of affluence than it is of the industry of dual-income couples. It is possible, say observers, that veteran civil servants could fall into the higher tax bracket.

Already, many members of Congress are seeking to scale back some of the proposed tax increases, which call for raising the top federal tax rates to 36% from 33% on households earning $250,000 or above.

Wealth and comfort “depends on where you’re coming from,” said Lois Avitt, a sociologist and founding director of the Institute for Socio-Financial Studies in Charlottesville, Va. To a family earning $50,000, $250,000 is well off, but for the family earning $250,000, rising college and medical costs and dropping home values make the perception debatable.

Changes to the tax code don’t generally make adjustments for high costs of living in particular areas of the country.

San Jose, Calif., Mayor Chuck Reed calls a family living in Silicon Valley earning $250,000 “upper working class.” That is about what two engineers working at a technology firm can expect to make, but “a family earning $250,000 a year can’t buy a home in Silicon Valley,” he said.

James Duran owns a human-resources company in Silicon Valley and is president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in California. He supported Mr. Obama, but is worried about the tax proposals. He has laid off some employees in recent months and has been wondering how he can fund an extension of those workers’ health-care benefits.

Mr. Duran said he and his wife earn about $400,000 annually, but “I’m barely getting by.”

For the Parnells, their perception of themselves is based on the math. The value of their house is down $60,000. Ms. Parnell says the couple’s gross income last year was about $260,000. Taxes, premiums for medical care and deductions for Social Security and their 401(k) contributions cut the gross to about $12,000 per month. The family tithes $1,300 a month at their church. Their mortgage, second mortgage and payment on land they bought is nearly $4,000 a month. Other expenses, including their family car payment, insurance and college funds, as well as basics like food, utilities and donations to charities, leave them with about $1,200 left over each month.

Are these people fucking serious? They’re pissing and moaning when they’re in the very top of the income distribution in this country, because they spend great glorious gobs of money on the taxes on their expensive-ass houses and the payment on random extra land they bought, or their private school and their vacation home and their charitable donations and their fucking 1,300 a month church tithing and their irresponsible child-rearing and child-bearing practices. All the while everyone else in the country is living on much less.

I manage to live in silicon valley just fine on much, much less than 250k a year, thank you very much Mr. Reed. And I have a fancy new macbook, too. How? I didn’t saddle myself with some massive mortgage, nor did I spawn out an army of children or join some kind of church.

For years, the right has been having delusive ravings about “welfare mothers,” invariably black women (because what’s right-wing class war without a little racism tossed in?) who, according to the lie, produce children just in order to get social welfare payments. Well, now we know who the real welfare mothers and fathers are — spoiled-ass yuppies who piss and moan about a lousy 3% tax increase* on their gigantic, staggering, incomes because it means they won’t be able to keep up their extraordinarily spoiled lifestyles as well as continue to send little Wilkins Faraquashire Dudley III to private school and tithe the income of a whole farmworker to the doubtless also overpaid mouthpiece for an imaginary spook in the sky.

Can we just shoot them, please?

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* As a friend pointed out, they also need to learn what the word “marginal” means. But that would require them having IQs higher than cheese, which they evidently don’t. And I don’t mean one of those fancy sharp French cheeses with all that marbling and tours through the Sorbonne and Ecole Normale Sup neither. I mean Kraftfuckingslices.

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14 Responses to “Speaking of the revolution”

  1. eric Says:

    To quote the great Philip Marlowe: “To hell with the rich, they make me sick.”

  2. Stephen Bank Says:

    I don’t remember how I found your blog, but it’s quickly becoming my favourite!

  3. Paul Gowder Says:

    Thanks Stephen, and welcome!

  4. Mike Says:

    LOL. I have a post in draft form on that issue. It’s pretty hilarious article.

  5. Arvita Says:

    As usual, I’m left to devil’s advocate. Let’s see what I can scratch out while on a break at work:

    Taxes are the price we pay for living in a civilized society. A & I have a combined income just above 300k and live in the Silicon Valley. We can’t imagine having kids on our income. Yes, we are rich by objective standards. By valley standards though, we are solidly middle class. Not even upper middle, just middle middle. I don’t think that we’re in the same tax bracket as the Larry Ellisons of this world though. Our dumpy little house, built in the 1940s is worth $650k, we are only just able to afford this. Larry has a huge estate in Woodside.

    What is wrong with working your ass off and wanting to keep some of your money to play with? Andrew and I both have stressful and un-fun jobs, but the reward is being able to afford the lifestyle we enjoy. Why should we be penalized for our hard work and good fortune? I’m not saying that we shouldn’t get taxed. I just don’t think we should be taxed at the same rate as the billionaires of the world. We have one, modest house. Up until the middle of last year, it had a white picket fence. We live within our means, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other things we’d like to do with our money. We pay our mortgage on time, always have for the past 8 years. Why are you taking some of our money and giving it to people that were irresponsible and couldn’t figure out that they couldn’t afford the house they were living in?

    Also, why are you knocking charitable contributions? Don’t charitable donations help subsidize the cost of university tuition? They also promote the arts – I don’t know if the SF Ballet or Opera would exist without the donations of people like me.

    This isn’t nearly as coherent as it should be, I’m sorry. I’m just frigging tired of being demonized for having the good fortune of having a decent job with a decent paycheck. No one sees the 7 years scratching by as an admin, a baker, a sous chef. Some people are fortunate to be bonafide rich. $300k a year in the Bay Area is not bonafide rich. Tax us, fine. Just don’t tax us the way you’d tax a Rockefeller or a Zuckerberg.

  6. Paul Gowder Says:

    As usual, Arvita, your devil’s advocacy is welcome and appreciated! Some quick thoughts
    - at a 3% increase on the post 250k marginal rate, someone making 300k pays an extra $1,500. The rockerfellers are paying lots more extra. Marginal tax rates are a bad way to express these things, since it makes what’s actually a lousy half-a-percent increase in tax on total income seem much bigger. I wonder (not directing this at you personally in any way) how many of the just-over-250k crowd bemoaning this were supporters of the various flat tax proposals which would actually soak them much more relative to the rockerfellers

    - that being said, it’s worth considering more higher brackets. Subject to the standard economic concerns, why shouldn’t we have higher rates still at a post-500k bracket and so on?

    - I don’t have much sympathy to the local cost of living argument in part because that, too, is a lifestyle choice. Silicon valley is expensive because (apparently) people want to live there, ditto NYC, etc. To be fair, some of that demand is from following jobs, but some is also (alleged, in the SV case) quality of life, and it shouldn’t be subsidized.

    - Charitable contributions by the wealthy are a notoriously poor way of allocating resources. They produce things like additional gross unfairness in education (one of my professors, who reads this blog, has published a bunch of stuff on this — if it’s online, I’ll link an article or two of his), and, besides, we already subsidize them through the tax system in the form of deductions; do we really need to take them as an excuse to cut taxes still further?

  7. Paul Gowder Says:

    This paper is an excellent place to start on the failures of philanthropy as public policy. One-sentence executive summary: huge giant gobs of the money donated by wealthy people to “charity” basically goes to themselves.

  8. Arvita Says:

    $1500 doesn’t sound like all that much more. When you add that to the $26k I already paid in property tax alone, not to mention the $28k in income tax it starts to seem a bit onerous.

  9. Mike Says:

    huge giant gobs of the money donated by wealthy people to “charity” basically goes to themselves.

    Sounds like most government programs, too. Is there any evidence that Big Government does a better job of feeding the poor than Big Charity?

    Also, Arvita’s point is well taken. “It’s only $1,500″ doesn’t sound so bad when it is only $1,500. When it’s actually $29,500 we’re talking about, then $1,500 seems larger.

    Incidentally, $1,500 is about my annual coffee budget. Drinking coffee enriches my life. It probably makes me more productive. Why should I be deprived of this? “Oh, drink Folgers instead!” But why?

    When you’re raising my taxes, you’re ultimately telling me how to live my life. Every less dollar in my pocket means I must give up something. Who are you – or anyone else – force me to make those sacrifices?

  10. Paul Gowder Says:

    Mike, are you willing to go all the way to anarchism on that argument?

  11. Paul Gowder Says:

    incidentally, in 2007 the median household income in Santa Clara county was 84k and change, in San Mateo county 82k and change.

  12. CJ Says:

    I don’t think the top 10% of income earners in the country live in mortal fear of a mob. Then they’d be happy to pay taxes to keep that mob appeased on a basic subsistence of McDonald’s & American Idol.

    I’m with Paul about having a hard time sympathizing with cost-of-living arguments. It’s a choice to live someplace that expensive.

  13. Arvita Says:

    Thank you Mike for yet again by my point, yet again, in a much more eloquent and well-reasoned manner than I was able to.

  14. Mike Says:

    Mike, are you willing to go all the way to anarchism on that argument?

    I don’t believe in anarchy. Not as in, “Anarchy is wrong.” Rather, as in: “Anarchy cannot exist.”

    There will always exist some sort of government. Most libertarians fail to realize this. Which is why I am not a traditional libertarian.

    Is a company town a government? If you ask me, it is.

    So there is always going to exist some sort of “government.” So it’s not an issue of, “Should there be a government.” It’s an issue of, “We have a government. Now what?”

    Within the “now what” framework is where I always begin any discussion of the governments’ moral authority over citizens.

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