Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Class warfare from the White House to you

I made my annual pilgrimage to H&R Block today to find out how much I owe on my taxes, since I never seem to ever earn a refund. So here's the punchline: $2,193. Funny, huh?

Of course I wasn't laughing. The Mouth and Mrs. Mouth are schoolteachers, so we're not exactly reaping the kinds of windfalls that we would if our last names were Rockefeller, Bush or Cheney. In fact, as fairly recent arrivals to the public school classroom, we both earn toward the bottom of our respective districts' payscales. Consider that we felt we had little to tax, we were able to justify over $12,000 in deductions, including our mortgage, graduate school tuition and over $2,000 in charitable contributions to our church (Yes, liberals go to church). Surely, we would get off somewhat easily, although still in the high-three-digit, low-four-digit area. That clearly was not to be.

I've never been a tax whiner. If you're a middle class American, you probably have an equally sad tale to tell this evening. Still, I always felt I had a responsibility to pay the taxes that are used to rasie our quality of life with schools, highways, parks, and police officers and firefighters, and so I sent my check to the IRS with a feeling of patriotism and civic pride. Besides, I didn't want to be one of those angry old farts who sit around whining and moaning about being taxed into the poorhouse.

But in recent years, tax season has become an increasingly bitter pill to swallow as recognition has grown stronger and stronger that not everyone is shouldering the same share of the burden. It seems as if our White House and Republican leadership on Capitol Hill fight their hardest for tax cuts on things like capital gains and dividends, which have a far greater benefit on the wealthy than on the middle class. Many of saw through the sham of Bush's insistence on completely doing away with estate taxes, as if average Americans are leaving estates in excess of $500,000. In the meantime, Bush appears highly disinterested in doing anything about matters that truly affect the middle class like the skyrocketing costs of healthcare, housing and college tuition.

Tonight I arrived home from H&R Block to find that the New York Times has quantified the level of injustice. Here's a crude quickie graph for 2003 I've recreated from their story:

Avg. Income, Pct. Change in Avg. Tax Bill, Avg. Tax Cut
$50,000, -1.1%, $10
$50,000-$100,000, -.8%, $68
$100,000-$200,000, -1.2%, $268
$200,000-$500,000, -2.2%, $1,489
$500,000-$1million, -2.9%, $5,491
$1million-$10million, -4%, $25,450
Over $10million, -7.3%, $497,468

Looking at this graphic, the flat-taxers can no longer smugly assert that the wealthy get greater cuts because they have more to tax. Here we see a progressive rise in percentage cuts in tax bills. The more you make, a greater percentage that's being cut from your tax bill. Funny, isn't it how Steve Forbes and his plutocrat friends have little to say about a flat rate on tax cuts.

Like most middle-class Americans, Mrs. Mouth and I are in the $50,000-$100,000. Personally, I would be willing to forfeit our $68 savings to reverse our frightening national spending binge and corresponding budget slashes of so many government programs that the middle class and poor use and need. Also, take into consideration that the over-$10 million crowd makes up a grand total of 6,126 taxpayers nationwide. At the same time, the top 1 percent of income earners in our nation controls a third of our nation's assets, so these cuts really add to our government's spending defecit and national debt.

Again, I don't mind paying my fair share. But is this fair?

While we're on the subject of class warfare...

We keep hearing about a great economic boom going on, but in the midst of this alleged miracle, incomes are dropping. The median household in Missouri earned $44,000 in 2002-2004. That's down from $46,800 in 1999-2001. Nationwide, the median household's income slipped during this period from $45,750 to $44,473. Meanwhile, corporate profits consumed 10 percent of our GDP, at its highest percentage since 1968.

You can read more dismal facts from Economic Policy Institute's recent report, The Boom That Wasn't, by clicking here.

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