Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Taxation and Inequality in America

Rich Americans have lately been complaining that they are exploited by all those poor people who don't pay income tax. Mike Lofgren:
Stephen Schwarzman, the hedge fund billionaire CEO of the Blackstone Group who hired Rod Stewart for his $5-million birthday party, believes it is the rabble who are socially irresponsible. Speaking about low-income citizens who pay no income tax, he says: “You have to have skin in the game. I’m not saying how much people should do. But we should all be part of the system.”

But millions of Americans who do not pay federal income taxes do pay federal payroll taxes. These taxes are regressive, and the dirty little secret is that over the last several decades they have made up a greater and greater share of federal revenues. In 1950, payroll and other federal retirement contributions constituted 10.9 percent of all federal revenues. By 2007, the last “normal” economic year before federal revenues began falling, they made up 33.9 percent. By contrast, corporate income taxes were 26.4 percent of federal revenues in 1950. By 2007 they had fallen to 14.4 percent. So who has skin in the game?
The weird contempt that many billionaires seem to hold for ordinary people is starting to bother me, too. Shouldn't it hurt Republicans, politically, that their policies only feed the aristocratic pretensions of people like Sheldon Adelson and Schwarzman? Why do Americans accept the ever-greater concentration of wealth in their hands?

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