Monday, April 12, 2010

A Lesson in Tax Outrage

I wonder if there has ever been another country that liked to work itself into such a snit about taxes? Seriously. Republicans have made it such an art that they can foam at the mouth about it. And many Democrats are only too willing to imitate them.

Hyperbole? Have you forgotten the tax kamikaze in Austin? Here was a guy that was so privileged -- that had done so well in America he owned an airplane -- that he decided to kill himself (and murder as many people as he could in the process) over his taxes.

The Associated Press decided to fan the flames of this particular cultural trait with this story:

Nearly half of US households escape fed income tax

”Tax Day is a dreaded deadline for millions, but for nearly half of U.S. households it's simply somebody else's problem. About 47 percent will pay no federal income taxes at all for 2009. Either their incomes were too low, or they qualified for enough credits, deductions and exemptions to eliminate their liability. That's according to projections by the Tax Policy Center, a Washington research organization.“

The wailing and gnashing of teeth started immediately, with the usual suspects cheering along. In truth, about 3/4ths of all Americans think they’re in the half that pays. That’s the problem with the truth. It’s usually sitting right in front of us but we’re too busy grinding our teeth about what we want to believe is the truth.

”The vast majority of people who escape federal income taxes still pay other taxes, including federal payroll taxes that fund Social Security and Medicare, and excise taxes on gasoline, aviation, alcohol and cigarettes. Many also pay state or local taxes on sales, income and property.

That helps explain the country's aversion to taxes, said Clint Stretch, a tax policy expert Deloitte Tax. He said many people simply look at the difference between their gross pay and their take-home pay and blame the government for the disparity.“

It’s an odd thing about the working poor. Most of them are on somebody’s payroll -- paying payroll taxes. And the non-working poor don’t really have it so good. If you don’t think so, you should try it sometime. But back to those payrolls... Where’s the “outrage” ? (H/T to EBM)

What The Top U.S. Companies Pay In Taxes

”HOUSTON -- As you work on your taxes this month, here's something to raise your hackles: Some of the world's biggest, most profitable corporations enjoy a far lower tax rate than you do--that is, if they pay taxes at all.

The most egregious example is General Electric ( GE - news - people ). Last year the conglomerate generated $10.3 billion in pretax income, but ended up owing nothing to Uncle Sam. “

Be sure to click on the “In Pictures” link at the Forbes site. Exxon paid no taxes -- to us. Chevron paid almost nothing -- to us. I ask again, “Where’s the outrage?” Let me be clear. I really don’t get excited about businesses paying taxes. Businesses just pass it along to consumers anyway. What I’m asking about here is the difference in tone. The difference in coverage. Why does one “outrage” become the topic of conversation at the water cooler and the other is given a pass?

I believe the difference is in who is whipping up the crowd. Let’s think about it a minute. On the easy-to-hate scale, what are the relative positions of a faceless, giant corporation versus the huddled masses of the poor? Tell me, good In-God-We-Trust Christian Americans. Tell me, literal-translation-Christian-American Republicans. What does The Good Book say about the poor? What does it say about corporations? Which should we hate? First?

This little, throw-away blurb in Time magazine shouldn’t come as a big shock to you.

”Bennett is caught in a range war between two such conservative allies: the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks.

This unsatisfying record opened space for a competitor: FreedomWorks, an activist organization run by former House majority leader Dick Armey and generously funded by the billionaire Koch family of Wichita, Kans. FreedomWorks thrust itself to the fore of the Tea Party last year, providing the sometimes stumbling movement with professional skills.“

Here’s some homework for you. Trust me. It’s easy and it will mean so much more to you if you will read it for yourself.

Who is the Koch family?

What is FreedomWorks?

What is “Club for Growth” and who provides the money behind it?

Now that you know who speaks for the rich, ask yourself one last question (or two). Who speaks for the poor? Who is fanning the flames of hatred in the hearts of Americans and why ?

Don Brown
April 12, 2010

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