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Friday, December 7, 2012

A 37% top federal income tax rate?

Seems reasonable -- much too reasonable for our fearless leaders in D.C., of course.

Comments (49)

There are 109 million people in the United States working in private enterprise. There are 79 million people on Social Security, Social Security Disability, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare or that work for the government. That is not sustainable. That is what the president and congress should be focused on. Why are they worried about a token tax increase that would or would not amount to eight tenths of a percent of the budget.

YES! What John Benton said!

We should just cut everyone's taxes and then prosper from the economic boom it creates. A boom that will actually increase revenue to the government.

What happened to that plan?

"What happened to that plan?"

Addbout 30 years of history.

Try 35 years of economic history! The "trickle down theory" is bogus!
The 1% will not suffer unduly paying 4% more in taxes. They did OK when the tax rate was 70%.
And while we are at it let's do means testing for Social Security and Medicare too. I bet the Koch brothers don't send back their SS checks or reject their Medicare benefits.
...And yes I am aware they probably pay taxes on their SS income, but the billions of dollars they get in government welfare, offshore tax havens and whatever else is available to the super rich probably offset the paltry taxes they pay on SS income!

Yes, let's means test Social Security, so that we can kill it off as a welfare program.

If there's a deal at 37% that includes cuts to Medicare and Social Security, I'll turn in my party membership.

I'll admit that congress has broken me and has me wishing for bad policy decisions just to make the punishment stop. Kick the can down the road, just do it.

Above all else I need clarity on 2012 tax law before the end of the calender year. This Congress, like most in recent memory, is sadistic to those of us who work with the IRC for a living. Just make it stop.

What happens when all of the "rich" people liquidate all of their assets and disappear? You can't tax what someone already has (only the income generated from it, unless you're in a state that taxes property). Who would pick up the slack?


Just think about enacting an asset tax, and a bureaucracy that inspects mattress stuffing.

Yes, 37% sounds more reasonable than 39% or 49%, but that top 1 or 2%'s not where the money is. It's where the rest of us are, and, like Christmas, it's coming real soon!

For the past decade or so our (married, both working) tax burden has been from 30% to 32% of our gross income. That’s tax burden; totaling everything we pay directly to the government (income, property, ss and other things from the paychecks, interest/dividend taxes, etc.) and conservatively estimating hidden things like gas tax, hotel tax, etc. (not including any direct pay for services, e.g., park fees, tolls, garbage, utilities, etc) We do the standard deduction, plus the other common things (401k, charity, etc), but nothing more esoteric. It’s been surprisingly consistent since I started paying attention and totaling it up.

As I’ve aged I’ve gotten to this point: I don’t give a damn what they say “the rate” is. Because I don’t trust what’s said.

I KNOW that my wife and I work, have worked and will continue to work, and that almost one third of our work goes to support the community, our nation, for the greater good. Because that’s what taxes are: working for the community.

Is that “fair”? Meh, I don’t know. Works for us, I guess. It’s a good country to live in.

But, and this is the caveat that has driven my view for years now, I have no appetite to work any more for my community. Fair or not, if “we” can’t get along on our giving one third of my effort to the group, then “we” need to modify what we’re doing. I don’t vote for any new taxes because of this.

37% solution? Solution to what?

A 37 percent marginal rate is the obvious compromise number, though it, just like the 39 percent rate, will do nothing in terms of fending off the ultimate explosion of the debt bomb. Two months into FY 2013 the gubermint is already $292 billion in the hole. The heck with pulling out the stops -- all the stops -- to let the economy grow when the so-called progressive can get their revenge against the hated 2 percent.

And by the way -- another drop in unemployment today due to more people giving up on jobs. This no-work society is something else. Forward! Enjoy!

It's a mystery to me why people foam at the mouth about Social Security, which is fully funded and solvent for around 21 years from now. It doesn't contribute to the deficit, and can be restructured to remain viable past that projected funding problem, in a deliberate way. If it is reformulated while people are waving their arms and screaming about the fiscal cliff, it will surely be harmed more than helped.

It's a mystery to me why people foam at the mouth about Social Security, which is fully funded and solvent for around 21 years from now.

Ya, Social Security is fully funded if you think entering contrived numbers into a spreadsheet makes for solvency.

Social Security is closer to being a Ponzi scheme than being fully funded. The funding claims assume, contrary to fact, that net payroll tax proceeds have been invested (they've been spent) at a real interest rate of 2 to 3 percent (for many years now and under current monetary policy for many years to come real interest rates on the assumed mix of government securities are negative), that payroll taxes are collected at statutory levels (we are about to enter the third year of a partial payroll tax holiday), and payrolls and pay grow at historically normal levels (real incomes are down and payrolls significantly lag population growth).

The money is not there and it will not be there. Don't be concerned. Move on.

And while we are at it let's do means testing for Social Security

Yeah, well that would put a new spin on the New Deal wouldn't it? You'll pay into Social Security as a government guaranteed pension, unless you're successful, in which you never see your pension. Oh, and that will decision will take place decades after you've already been paying into the system under a complete lie that you'd be able to draw on that in the future.

We could make green energy by wrapping FDR's corpse with copper wire, for all the revolutions he'd be making in his grave.

Then why are the solutions being bruited about all about cutting benefits? If the focus were on properly managing and investing the trust fund, and securing the funding scheme through reforming collections by raising the exemption threshold, bringing capital gains into the picture and raising wages, the money could be there. It's not *that* daunting or pressing compared to much larger problems of the entitlements given to the military, defense contractors and bankers.

Top earnerns in California will be paying 52% combined income taxes, plus sales tax.

It will be a lot cheaper for some of them to move to Nevada.

And some of the weathiest Americans will apply for citizenship in another country, while still enjoying 180 days of "visiting" the U.S. each year.

Taxing the "other guy" is always going to be popular, especially when you're targeting 2% of taxpayers. But it won't solve the budget deficit, because there are insufficient numbers of wealthy taxpayers given the size of the deficit.

I'm not holding out hope for a deal before Christmas. The posters here are somewhat divided, but miles closer to a deal than a Congress so devoutly married to their respective party ideals.

I think the crew on this site could probably work things out in a day or two.

This issue is a poster child for why it's difficult to be an optimist. Obama says the rich aren't paying their fair share in taxes, implying I guess that everyone else is. Federal entitlement spending alone exceeds all federal tax revenues. (Stop all wars, close DOD, stop maintaining roads and all other discretionary spending and the federal government is still in the red on an annual basis.) A reasonable person could argue that NO ONE is paying their "fair share" of taxes based on the unsustainable amounts that the federal government spends every year in entitlement payments alone. Top avoid a real crisis, we need to cut entitlement spending AND raise tax revenues broadly, not just on "the rich". Some real (non-debt-juiced economic growth would be helpful too.) Obama is full of it; the GOP is full of it. It would be better to fall off the "fiscal cliff" than adopt some BS compromise that doesn't even begin to address the problem.

"A 37% top federal income tax rate?"

Sure, its reasonable. However, it will all get spent and then you'll ask if a 39% top rate is reasonable in about 3 years.

Still haven't heard one mention of decreasing spending on anything yet (defense or not.)

Ah yes, daily commuting from Nevada to SF or LA? Sounds reasonable!

What original bob w said.
The best way to get there is a phased in balanced budget amendment. We cannot expect politicians to simultaneously make significant cuts and raise taxes unless they have no other option (debt). Absent a BBA, we will have to wait until we are no longer credit worthy.

"let's means test Social Security"

So I guess its OK with you if Bill Gates and Warren Buffett and anyone with >$200K/yr of passive income collect SS?

I'd really rather see something like drug-testing for welfare recipients.

So I guess its OK with you if Bill Gates and Warren Buffett and anyone with >$200K/yr of passive income collect SS?

Totally. They paid for it, same as everyone else. It's a short step from "He doesn't need it" to "He shouldn't need it" or -- as lovingly implied by Steve's last sentence -- "He doesn't deserve it."

To finish the thought, what I 'm absolutely not o.k. with is the 10-15% federal income tax rate on Bill's and Warren's dividends, bond coupons and stock gains and "carried interests".

Stop talking about SS "solvency" and "trust funds" (and don't even mention Al Gore's infamous lockbox). There is no THERE there. The fund consists of US Treasury IOUs; all money entering the so-called trust fund is dispersed daily to the federal government for other purposes. You and I (and the Fed's printing press) are expected to make good on those IOUs.

From the SSA website: "By law, income to the trust funds must be invested, on a daily basis, in securities guaranteed as to both principal and interest by the Federal government."

Invested ... oh, really?

In 2011, the IOUs in the SS trust funds amounted to $2.7 trillion.

"$2.7 trillion" backed by the full faith and credit of the USG. The fact that the money is not stored in 'the' vault somewhere and only IOU's are there instead, well, that is all one thicket-sort of problem, one type of concern for discussion -- how is it going to be paid off?; (print new money, etc.)
Another aspect concerns a discussion of where it went. 'The horse is out of the barn. Yeah, tend to the barn and locking the doors, etc. But also, Who dunnit, who's the culprit who stole the horse?' That's a second, separate discussion.

That answer is, of course, military madness spent the money (Soc.Sec. Trust funds). Obviously we can't get the money back. And discussion should conclude: Well, don't do that again and stop spending it there now. It doesn't bring back the spilt milk (money) wasted since Reagan -- $15 trillion, (Fed.Debt was $1.0 trillion when Reagan/Bush elected, total accumulated 1836-1980 incl. Vietnam), but ending military madness plugs the hole where the money drains out.

It's like that John Prine song, there's a hole in Daddy's arm where all the money goes. There's a Pentagon hole in Washington DC where all the money goes
... to feed an addiction to violence.

'Nother point, as regards the rich taking their ball and going home (expatriating), cashing out and dis-pledging their allegiance, forsaking USA if we are going to raise their rates. Not hardly gonna happen, almost a hollow threat. The rich don't have the money piled in a pile in cash. The money is invested in instruments, stocks and bonds and such. To 'get' the money they have to sell the paper instruments. The money only exists as trading. Traders doing trading.
So tax the traders. Eliot Spitzer: Tax the Traders! It Would Solve Economic Crisis and Stop Reckless Activity ~ A tax on financial transactions will give us gobs of revenue.
Less than half-a-percent 'processing fee' (tax) on 'Wall Street' trades, revenues the Gov't $350 billion/yr. That ain't chicken feed.
And every time the rich move money out of one 'investment' and into another, shifty's shifting -- whack whack, We the People's Government gets a slice. So the rich and their high-velocity trader-agents trading on Wall Street would have to let their 'investments' ride a little longer where they put their money, long enough to be more stability for the companies (corporations) the rich have their money in.

Molly: Yes, really. What's not real about it?

"he shouldn't need it" or

He should pay more taxes because he can afford it?

Other point about they deserve the benes because they paid for them:
-Does the inverse apply? If they didn't pay for the benes do they deserve them?
-Should we stop docking ss if their earned income goes beyond a certain number?

Yes, Steve, however shocking it may seem to you, progressive income tax rates mean that people with higher incomes pay a higher marginal rate on their higher income brackets precisely because they can afford it.

Stupid question: are all federal income tax payments deductible from your Oregon income tax forms?

The higher tax RATE is not unlike a extra vial or heroin, or an extra fifth. But until spending is reduced from it's 8% annual glide path, in an era of Obama growth under 2%, we will become the slaves socialists want us to become.

Mister Tee: There is a maximum amount of federal tax obligation that can be deducted on the Oregon return. For 2011, it is $5950.

Allan L: When I 'invest' money in something, I expect the investment to pay back the principal and throw me some interest. In the case of SS, when the money I've placed in trust is raided to pay for other spending, the government looks to me and you (and the Fed's printing press) to pay back the IOUs. That's a lousy investment.

Lose the figured idea of interest on money, the illusory el dorado of money making money as being the purpose of money, and then reappraise the meaning of 'currency' in money and in life.
That's the specific distortion grafted onto the pure conception of 'token' as currency which braids all the evil in the root where money is planted -- the attachment of 'interest' on the money. Rethink that convention. Re-format the societal hard drive.

Many times during humankind's history in commerce and four times in American history, (most recently by JFK), non-interest bearing money was issued into circulation. And those times (whether foreign or domestic) coincide with the periods of soundest economy of the issuing sovereignty. Coincidence? Refer: definitive document here.

Hey, Molly, you're not "investing". I think you've misunderstood the system. If you earn income, as an employee or in a business you own, you pay a tax -- the FICA tax. It's not an investment: you don't have a choice whether or not to pay it, or to whom. As a tax, it creates a dedicated revenue stream to pay social security retirement and disability benefits, which by law cannot be paid out of general revenues (i.e., federal borrowings and income and other thax revenues). Starting in 1983, under Reagan, that tax was increased enough to provide a positive cash flow that generated billions, even trillions, in surplus FICA revenues. The purpose was to prepare for the retirement of the baby boom generation. But what to do with the extra money in the meantine? You can't just stuff it in a mattress. Reagan wanted to invest it in the stock market, but I think some kindly staff person drew him aside and pointed out that that would produce a communist system. So US Treasurys were the investment of choice. But it's not YOUR investment; it's Social Security's.

What happened next? The purchase of all those Treasury Securites with FICA revenues put a lot of extra cash into the government's accounts, and offset a lot of federal cash outflow. Ultimately, with some help from Clinton tax increases and the dot-com boom, budget surpluses resulted. That's when Al Gore came along and said, let's hang onto our Social Security surpluses, we're going to need them when the boomers retire. But George W. got to be President (another story), and then he said, "Hey, let's give all that extra cash to the wealthy." And so, here we are.

People like Bush and like you, Molly, don't really want Social Security to be successful. It goes against the conservative conventional wisdom that government is bad and wasteful, and it provides that $1,000 a month "hammock" for those 47% slackers and takers who don't want to work past age 67. That's why you distort and misrepresent the program and its financial condition. Social Security can become insolvent, but that isn't expected to happen in our lifetime, and even then -- thirty or more years from now -- it is projected to pay out 80% of expected benefits at that time. As it is structured, it can't ever contribute to the federal deficit. By definition.

"a higher marginal rate on their higher income brackets precisely because they can afford it."

OK, so the purpose of taxes is to not to much support govt activity, encourage certain types of economic behavior but to find out the deepest pockets of money regardless and raid those because they can afford it?

Then I guess the next step is income-qualification and if someone wants to buy a house, if they can afford more, they should pay a higher RE transfer tax for the same property? Maybe when you buy gas and you make more than 50% of the people you should pay more for a gallon because you make more? Where do you draw the line because you can afford to you need to pay more?

"But what to do with the extra money in the meantine?"

I believe for the past couple of years SS has been running a deficit on income contributions. Which is pretty sad when you think it takes about 15% (don't forget the employer's contribution) of everyone's income up to $100K or so.

In sum, we can keep SS going, but its going to eventually need to more than just current contributions to keep afloat. What would you suggest then? I'd love SS to be successful, but it has some basic flaws that mean we have to jigger the numbers to keep it working.

Perhaps something like OR taking $1B out of the genfunds and away from schools to fund PERS contributions like last (and the coming) biennium?

"are all federal income tax payments deductible from your Oregon income tax forms?"


You think OR would see that paying taxes on taxes you've already paid as unfair? Apprarently, as long as you can afford it, you need to pay more taxes even on the money you haven't seen.

In sum, we can keep SS going, but its going to eventually need to more than just current contributions to keep afloat. What would you suggest then? I'd love SS to be successful, but it has some basic flaws that mean we have to jigger the numbers to keep it working.

There is a demographic bubble to get through -- the retirement and gradual disappearance of the post-WWII baby boom generation. Beyond that, the numbers get a little more relaxed. The high contribution rates beginning in 1983 were inteneded to cover this bubble. Our long "Great Recession", so far not over, has blown a big hole in the plan, through high unemployment (so, people not contributing who could be, and people taking benefits who might, but for the recession, still be working), and the temporary tax holiday that has been part of the stimulus. There's no question we will, at least for a while, have fewer working people supporting a larger numberof retired people. But there are other variables, too, notably productivity and technology. Unless we skew things too much toward paying for capital and away from paying for labor, it should be easy for a smaller working force to produce the goods and services the whole population needs, and to be paid enough for their labor to cover the burden of retirement insurance.

OK, so the purpose of taxes is to not to much support govt activity, encourage certain types of economic behavior but to find out the deepest pockets of money regardless and raid those because they can afford it?

Steve, I think your use of the word "purpose" distorts the idea too much. Yes, government redistributes income and wealth, taking from those who have more to provide benefits for those who have less. Yes, some people think churches and charities should provide this service, and government should not. But we have a government safety net; it has been national policy for the better part of a century. So we redistribute, not because we dislike or envy wealth, but because we dislike poverty and have some compassion for those who are economically disadvantaged or less fortunate. We also recognize that it's better to pay for our roads, military, courts and such by collecting from people in a way that leaves them able to provide food and shelter with their after-tax income. That is what taking more from those who can afford it means.

"But we have a government safety net;"

Sorry, I'd love to believe that, but with govt human services are bottom priority and with charitable institutions they are top.

As an example:
- At the state level what is higher priority - PERS benes (like $1B last biennium) or classroom education. Same for the OEA?
- At the county/city level - What's more important - Care of the mentally ill or developer handouts a la PDC giving Gerding-Edlen $10M at no interest.

I don't have any problem if govt honestly took care of the needy, but too often its a bargaining chip for them to get what they want.

"There is a demographic bubble to get through"

I wish it were so. Right now we are currently in draw-down mode and the last report I read was that SS has about 15 years left until the "trust fund" (or whatever is in there is exhausted.

I don't see it changing since, right or wrong, like PERS it is a defined benefit program which means the benefits have no real connection to contributions.

Thank you, Allan. I DON'T consider SS an 'investment.' That's the point ... and that's the BS being promoted by the administration.

From the SSA website: "By law, income to the trust funds must be INVESTED (emphasis added), on a daily basis, in securities guaranteed as to both principal and interest by the Federal government."

From Allan: "That's why you distort and misrepresent the program and its financial condition."

As of 2011, the SS trust funds are $2.7 trillion in the hole in actual dollars. The money isn't there. That isn't a distortion or misrepresentation. It's straight from the SSA.

I don't expect the money to be buried in a vault somewhere. But $2.7 million in US IOUs isn't a good investment, or even a good bet. That's the definition of insolvency.

Molly, you imply that the United States government can't or won't honor its debts. I don't know why you would think that, but I can imagine why you might say it. Either way, it just isn't true. If the financial markets thought obligations of the United States were a risky investment, why would they accept negative interest rates, as they do for inflation-protected obligations? Fixed-rate Treasurys also yield less than projected inflation. Compare Greece, Italy, etc., where there is real risk to lenders.

Steve:: yes, other problems abound in the world; but I don't see how changing the subject advances any kind of meaningful discussion.


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Christopher Buckley - Boomsday
Ryan Holiday - The Obstacle is the Way
Ruth Sepetys - Between Shades of Gray
Richard Adams - Watership Down
Claire Vaye Watkins - Gold Fame Citrus
Markus Zusak - I am the Messenger
Anthony Doerr - All the Light We Cannot See
James Joyce - Dubliners
Cheryl Strayed - Torch
William Golding - Lord of the Flies
Saul Bellow - Mister Sammler's Planet
Phil Stanford - White House Call Girl
John Kaplan & Jon R. Waltz - The Trial of Jack Ruby
Kent Haruf - Eventide
David Halberstam - Summer of '49
Norman Mailer - The Naked and the Dead
Maria Dermoȗt - The Ten Thousand Things
William Faulkner - As I Lay Dying
Markus Zusak - The Book Thief
Christopher Buckley - Thank You for Smoking
William Shakespeare - Othello
Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness
Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything
Cheryl Strayed - Tiny Beautiful Things
Sara Varon - Bake Sale
Stephen King - 11/22/63
Paul Goldstein - Errors and Omissions
Mark Twain - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Steve Martin - Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
Beverly Cleary - A Girl from Yamhill, a Memoir
Kent Haruf - Plainsong
Hope Larson - A Wrinkle in Time, the Graphic Novel
Rudyard Kipling - Kim
Peter Ames Carlin - Bruce
Fran Cannon Slayton - When the Whistle Blows
Neil Young - Waging Heavy Peace
Mark Bego - Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul (2012 ed.)
Jenny Lawson - Let's Pretend This Never Happened
J.D. Salinger - Franny and Zooey
Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol
Timothy Egan - The Big Burn
Deborah Eisenberg - Transactions in a Foreign Currency
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Slaughterhouse Five
Kathryn Lance - Pandora's Genes
Cheryl Strayed - Wild
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - The Brothers Karamazov
Jack London - The House of Pride, and Other Tales of Hawaii
Jack Walker - The Extraordinary Rendition of Vincent Dellamaria
Colum McCann - Let the Great World Spin
Niccolò Machiavelli - The Prince
Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus - The Nanny Diaries
Brian Selznick - The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sharon Creech - Walk Two Moons
Keith Richards - Life
F. Sionil Jose - Dusk
Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting
Justin Halpern - S#*t My Dad Says
Mark Herrmann - The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
Barry Glassner - The Gospel of Food
Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 5
At this date last year: 3
Total run in 2017: 113
In 2016: 155
In 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269

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