It’s So, So Sad, That The Top 20% of Americans Pay 87% of Taxes

Tax day is almost upon us in the (dis)United States of America. What better time to press pause and reflect on wealthy Republicans’ rhetoric about how unfair the tax system is.

Wealthy Republicans routinely lament that The Left “plays the victim” time and time again, but that doesn’t stop them from complaining endlessly about how unfair it is that they have to pay such a large percentage of the country’s taxes. When I listen to them complain about the unfairness of it all, they kinda, sort of, almost sound like victims.

I might have some empathy for them if they weren’t getting wealthier over time, but they are, and that point is lost on passive readers of recent tax headlines. It’s time for at least a little critical thinking by digging deeper into the much publicized 20%-87% refrain.

Specifically, key details from a recent Wall Street Journal article deserve closer scrutiny.

Drawing on research conducted by the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, they report:

“For 2018, households in the top 20% will have income of about $150,000 or more and 52% of total income, about the same as in 2017. But they will pay about 87% of income taxes, up from about 84% last year.”

There’s two very different ways to read this. The wealthy Republican way is to focus exclusively on the second sentence. “Hey, now we’re paying even 3% more of the total, whah, whah, whah.” The other way is to ask, “What effect did that 3% bump have on your total income?” The details in the article show that in 2017 the top 20% earned 52.1% of the country’s total income, in 2018 it is projected to be 52.2%. As they used to say on the tough streets of Cypress, CA, no harm, no foul.

Two more critical sentences for our wealthy Republican friends to try to spin:

“To be sure, this analysis doesn’t include the flow-through effects of corporate-tax cuts, which benefit higher earners more than lower earners, or the doubling of the estate-tax exemption to about $11.2 million per person. Neither levy is part of the individual income tax.”

Those ultra-wealthy tax advantages mean the total wealth of the top 20% (including stocks, real estate, and other assets) continues to increase relative to the remaining 80% at an even faster clip than income.

Therefore, all of these things are true:

• the wealthy pay a lot in taxes

• in 2018, the wealthy will pay a slightly larger share of total taxes

• the income of the top 20% tax-payers; and especially their total wealth, continues to increase relative to the bottom 80%

Wealthy Republicans are determined to distract the masses from the fact that their share of the economic pie continues to increase. One tried and true way to do that is control the message by repeating over and over that the tax system is inherently unfair.

Also, ever notice how they keep threatening to stop working as hard given their unfair tax burden, and yet, somehow, their proportion of total income and wealth continues upwards?

Here’s another sentence our wealthy Republicans friends will wrap themselves in like a warm, cuddly blanket.

“Roughly one million households in the top 1% will pay for 43% of income tax, up from 38% in 2017. These filers earn above about $730,000.”

The above logic applies to this factoid in the exact same manner.

In summary, wealthy Republicans only want one question asked, “What share of the income tax do the wealthy pay?” They work tirelessly to avoid anyone asking “How are the wealthy doing vis a vis everyone else?”

Because I’ve raised it, I will now be entering the Witness Protection program. Hoping to land in a warmer, sunnier locale. Depending on how Cleveland does in the playoffs, I will be changing my name to LeRon.

Postscript: WSJ commenters are scary conservative. The linked article has 815 comments attached to it. I would rather serve a ten year sentence in a Turkish prison than have to read any of them.

 

 

 

Saturday—HP Color LaserJet Pro M281fdw All-in-One Laser Printer

A recent purchase made here. Like nearly every consumer product, there are hundreds of printers to choose from. How does one decide?

In this case, I thought about the features I needed and then chose one with some features the last printer didn’t have and that I think we might use over time. Then, like most everyone I imagine, I read reviews and searched for the best price. While B&H doesn’t have any reviews, Amazon has 90. Printer reviews are somewhat like home appliance ones, frustratingly bifurcated. And of course, who really knows whether a review is made up or not.

After a month, it’s clear this is a serious upgrade from our retired Brother monochrome that cost two-thirds less. It’s one of those purchases where you wonder why you waited so long. Go forth and print, copy, scan, and fax. Sans cables. In color if you choose.

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Monday—Tradition Pure Green Matcha Powder

Or more precisely, Tradition Pure Green Tea Powder, Matcha Tea Powder, Product of Taiwan, 8.8 Oz. Cost $9.30.

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How do you poor saps jump start your day? With orange juice, almond milk, cofvefe, wrong, wrong, wrong. There’s only one way to begin the day and that’s with a green tea latte and you can’t achieve green tea latte nirvana without excellent matcha powder like this. One bag lasts about two months and I always have a spare in the refrigerator. You never, ever want to get caught matcha-less.

Just as with mashed potatoes, the enemy of good matcha is clumps. This stuff, like my jump shot and putting stroke, is silky smooth.

There are lots of uses of this matcha magic, but here’s my suggestion on how to use it to revolutionize your life. Pour 16-17 ounces of the milk of your choice, I use non-fat, into a mason jar and one quarter cup of water in a small glass bowl. Heat the water, which takes 30 seconds in my smallish microwave oven. Next, heat the milk, which in my case means about 4 minutes in my micro, less time in medium-sized, more powerful ones. You now have 4 minutes to add 2 TSP of matcha powder to a bowl, 1/2 TSP of sugar (way less than Starbucks at about 10% of the price), and some vanilla extract*. To avoid any spraying, add half the water and mix it with a small metal whisk. Once it’s pasty, add the remaining water and whisk until there are no signs of clumps. Clump rhymes with Trump, to start your day well, avoid both.

Add those contents to your large cup or travel mug of choice. Then, unless you’re a slave to the dish washer, use the remaining time, usually about 2 minutes, to clean the bowl and whisk, leaving the soapy water in the bowl to add to the mason jar. Once the milk is supe-hot, add it to the matcha/sugar/vanilla extract concentrate residing in your cup or mug, and drink slowly, savoring the matcha goodness as long as possible.

* I’ve steadily reduced the amount of sugar I use, but simultaneously increased the vanilla extract. I never claimed to be the sharpest tool in the shed. Remember, fat is not the enemy, sugar is. And perfection.

Review Week—One Consumer Product Review a Day

Everyone is saying my consumer products reviews are brilliant, but infrequent, and you dear readers, deserve better. Thus, beginning in an hour, I’m going to review one consumer product a day for seven days. Plan your week accordingly.

This overview is intended to make Review Week even more life-changing than it otherwise would be. Before we get going, scrape together $1,042.64, the cost of all seven products combined. The cool-factor (and prices probably) of these products is about to sky-rocket and you don’t want to be left on the outside looking in.

Most product reviewers write in a way that suggests our quality of life hinges on their uber-detailed, super serious deconstruction of the product at hand. I will take a different tack. Since we are not our consumer purchases, my aim is to lighten up the genre with ample doses of sarcasm. So the not-so-hidden-agenda is to poke fun at the mindless materialism perpetuated by reviewers.

According to economists, we often buy consumer goods to “signal” things about ourselves to others, look I’m well-to-do, look I’m on top of the trends, look I’m smart, look I’m an environmentalist, etc.

The following reviews are informed by my fondness for the ancient Stoics who believed status, wealth, and hedonism are impediments to tranquility or “inner joy”. But even Stoic sympathizers like myself have to buy things on occasion.

The reviews are also informed by books like True Wealth by Juliet Shor. Shor argues we should be more materialistic, by which she means more thorough and thoughtful in our purchasing of products, so as not to waste money and contribute even more to our ever expanding landfills. Shor, and other progressive social scientists, argue that we should signal, if anything, environmentally conscious, pro-social values through our consumer purchases.

As one of the 7.6 billion people on the planet, my goal is to find products that “just work”, offer good value, and last a long time. I concede, that may come across as boring, but I’m also susceptible to beautiful materials and design, as my current love interest, the new Audi A7, illustrates. In the interest of keeping the week’s price total down, I decided not to purchase and review that. Yet.

See you shortly.

 

Friday Assorted Links

1. No rules recess. “Parents don’t tend to sue schools.”

2. In Fight Over Science Education in Idaho, Lawmakers Move to Minimize Climate.

Today’s science lesson—apparently, there are lots of invertebrates in the Idaho state legislature.

3. What $1.4m buys you in London.

4. Has a Civil Rights Stalwart Lost Its Way?

“William Jacobson, a law professor at Cornell and critic of the SPLC, says the group has wrapped itself in the mantle of the civil rights struggle to engage in partisan political crusading. “Time and again, I see the SPLC using the reputation it gained decades ago fighting the Klan as a tool to bludgeon mainstream politically conservative opponents,” he says. “For groups that do not threaten violence, the use of SPLC ‘hate group’ or ‘extremist’ designations frequently are exploited as an excuse to silence speech and speakers,” Jacobson adds. ‘It taints not only the group or person, but others who associate with them.'”

5. Will Millennials Kill Costco?

Really Bad Writing

Or more accurately, thinking.

I do not know Shivani Vora, but I seriously question her sanity. In “How to Have a Luxury Vacation in Norway for Less”, she writes perhaps the most outlandish phrase I’ve ever read in the Paper of Record.

“Norway is a great choice for travelers on a limited budget. . . “

Trust me on this, there are about 194 better choices if you’re trying to stretch your travel dollar.

[Postscript: I’m receiving unrelenting pressure from one of the caption contest contestants. She really wants to know whether she won; however, upon meeting with my attorneys, I’ve been advised to limit the competition to non-family members. Consequently, congratulations to Lance for the victory.]