A Challenge to Lefty Bloggers: State Your Limits

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Several years ago, Matt Welch put up a "pro-war libertarian quiz" in an effort to get pro-war bloggers to go on record stating their limits when it comes to what powers they'd give the government in fighting terrorism.

In that spirit, I'd like to pose a similar query to the lefty blogosphere/opinionsphere on the growth and size of government. Every initiative announced by the Obama administration pushes us further into uncharted territory on both fronts, so it would be interesting to see what if any actual limits lefty opinion makers would put on the size, cost, and influence of the federal government. At what point would you be willing to finally say, "Okay, we've gone far enough"?

Note that the intent here is to find your limits, not what you consider to be ideal.

Next week, I'll post links to any responses to the survey.

Progressive Taxation

Currently, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans make 19 percent of the country's income and pay 37 percent of the taxes. The top 10 percent pay 68 percent. The bottom 50 percent of earners pay 3 percent of taxes. (Note: These figures don't include payroll taxes.) Most on the left believe the current tax system isn't progressive enough, so they'd presumably favor shifting the tax burden up the income scale. But what is  your limit? Should the top 1 percent pay 60 or more percent of the government's costs? More than 80? What's the maximum percentage of earners who should pay no income tax at all?

• Inflation

What's the maximum acceptable rate of inflation? How high would the inflation rate need to be for you to say, "This new government program is great, but we can't print anymore money to pay for it"?

• National Debt as a Percentage of GDP

Currently, the federal debt stands at about 80 percent of GDP. That's the highest percentage since the early 1950s. What is the maximum percentage of debt related to GDP that you'd be willing to accept?

• Federal Spending as a Percentage of GDP

For most of the last 50 years, annual federal spending has held at about 20 percent of GDP, the annual deficit at 2 percent. The CBO projects that by 2020, spending will soar to 26 percent of GDP, and the annual deficit to 7 percent. This is before factoring in the cost of Obama's health care plan. What percentage of spending with respect to GDP would you consider too high? The annual federal deficit?

• Unfunded Liability of Entitlement Programs

Right now, Social Security and Medicare face a $106.4 trillion future liability above and beyond what current payroll taxes would be able to fund. Before we start talking about new entitlements, where should we put the celing on unfunded future entitlement liability? That is, how much higher can that $106.4 trillion figure rise before you'd be willing to say, "Hold on, great as this new entitlement idea sounds, I'm not sure we can afford it"?

• Income Equality

As noted above, currently the richest 1 percent of Americans earn about 19 percent of the country's income. The bottom 50 percent of earners make 13 percent. Most on the left believe these figures are too lopsided. So where should they be? Presumably, the answer is somewhere between where they are now and the point at which every earner in the country makes the same amount of money. To phrase the question another way, at what point would you be willing to say the government has gone far enough when it comes to redistributing income? What is an acceptable level of income inequality?

• Individual Tax Rates

The top federal income tax bracket currently stands at 35 percent. What's the maximum top tax rate you'd be willing to endorse? Where should the cutoff be for the top bracket (it's currently $372,950)? Factoring in state and local taxes, the average tax burden on the wealthiest Americans in some states will approach 60 percent if the Democrats' health plan passes. What's an appropriate upper limit on that figure?

• Average Tax Rate

According to a new World Bank report (PDF), the average U.S. tax rate is 46.2 percent, putting us 102 out of 178 countries (meaning 101 countries have a lower total tax burden than the U.S.). Again, how high would you be willing to let that figure climb?

NEXT: Better Health-Care Talking Points Needed

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  1. Prepare for crickets, Radley.

  2. Over the limit on all measures already.

  3. Prepare for crickets, Radley.

    Nah, more like a chorus of “blah blah blah glibertarians! yadda yadda they hate poor people!”

  4. It’s for working Americans! How dare you question this administration?! Elections have consequences and Bush had his turn now let Obama have his turn to fuck this country over.

    Or something like that…

  5. This could be fun.

    That 106 trillion is a scary number. You show that to a child on paper and they’ll say it’s a bajillion gazillion with all those zeros.

    It shouldn’t be a real number. The only application for something like that should be related to astrophysics.

    I’ve snooped around the intertubes and can’t find anything, where does that number come from? Is it a government or indie figure?

  6. What exactly is the libertarian alternative? This I gotta hear, after reading that op-ed by Gillespie and Welch about Clinton’s “generally” free market policies of the 1990s, which basically amounted to loose credit and a subsequent bubble.

    Let’s just all admit that the past 30 years – Reagan, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Clinton, Bush, Bush – have been a fucking mess. How, precisely, the progressives bear responsibility for this is beyond me. Hell, if we’d had a progressive president at any point in that 30 years, maybe we would’ve at least had health care reform, which could’ve been awful, but no more so than two Bush era wars, $12 trillion in Bush era debt, and a currency that is devalued.

    Oh, instead libertarians have their own pet state-capitalist programs: vouchers, tuition tax credits, social security “privatization”, a repeal of the death tax.

  7. I would love to see some responses to this one, but I seriously doubt there will be any. I generally believe that those on the left are there because they believe that the course of the left is the better course, but I’d love to know what their own limits are. It’s a shame I don’t know any lefty bloggers out there.

  8. Good and fair questions… except that you can’t exclude payroll tax when talking about taxes and then include social security when talking about unfunded liabilities.

    Personally, I’d rather replace the work tax with new taxes on carbon and cannabis.

  9. ABC: Progressives aren’t just Democrats. There’s been plenty of idiot progressive Republicans out there too.

  10. Radley,
    I love you man, but you’re making a common mistake. The progressiveness of a tax system is not measured on % of taxes by % of people, it’s based on % of taxes by % of income (I’d include all income, like capital gains). If the top 1% made 90% of total income and paid 90% of taxes, that system would be less progressive than the current system.

  11. Oops, I accidentally missed the part where you talk about percent of income made, but you kept focusing on % of people rather than % of income, hence my confusion. I take it back. However, I think ignoring payroll taxes is a big mistake since they are used to fill budget gaps and there are no magic social security IOUs.

  12. “Note: These figures don’t include payroll taxes.”

    Why don’t they?

  13. Prepare for crickets

    I note that the quiz you link to refers to its objects as “pro-war libertarians”, a term that is not incorrect and gives them at least the affiliation they’ve chosen.

    In contrast, you reference the “lefties.” It sounds comparatively derisive. I wouldn’t be surprised if you do get crickets.

    It’s also a bit tiresome to keep hearing this “left-leaning people are Obamabots” meme. It’s untrue and silly, and you all have better sense. I voted Obama to keep theocracy a couple steps from the White House, nothing more.

    I personally am not serious enough a “lefty” to be able to give you concrete numbers, but I can say that:

    1) We’re well over my limit for debt and spending…we should be cutting fat, including, yes, military spending.

    2) We’re well over my limit for tax rates…existing tax dollars aren’t being used well enough.

    3) Coming from poor folks and probably never rising above lower-middle, I have no problem with taxing the rich a little more. 68% seems excessive until you realize exactly how much richer these people are than the bottom 50% of earners.

    4) On unfunded entitlement liability: use existing tax dollars properly and it won’t be a problem…as it is, we’re too far in debt already to start something new. Over my limit.

    5) Income equality: I don’t think everyone should make exactly the same amount of money. I do think that people should be paid enough for the crap work that they can at least float above the poverty line, and I am looking forward to someday making what my male colleagues make for the same job, dollar for dollar. That would be an acceptable level of “income inequality” for me.

  14. A lot of things progressives want done, we believe, will result in massive savings. I’d start with slashing war machine funding. Beyond that, universal single-payer healthcare, a more progressive tax system, and various other progressive measures that redistribute wealth back to the middle class would reduce the govt’s social welfare costs while increasing its revenue.

    Or we could continue with the trickle-down theory. That’s served us so well all these long years.

  15. Possible lefty response #1:


    MILITIAS ON THE RISE!!!
    CLIMATE CHANGE!!!
    ALTERNATIVE ENERGY!!!

    Possible lefty response #2:

    Always worth considering the libertarian analysis, but let the grown ups do the heavy lifting here, Radley. These are big issues.

  16. Well, there’s already a pretty glaring problem with your first question. You admit that you’re leaving out payroll taxes, and of course there are lots of other taxes you’re leaving out. My best recollection of efforts to take into account all taxes at all levels of government is that they’ve ended up reporting that, on average, people pay about the same percentage of their income in taxes regardless of their income (actually a tiny bit less than average at the very top of the scale). As a liberal, I’d be ecstatic if our tax system overall actually were as progressive as our income taxes are in theory, and I think most of my fellow liberals who want our taxes to be more progressive probably have similar thoughts.

  17. “It shouldn’t be a real number. The only application for something like that should be related to astrophysics.”
    –ev

    “There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it’s only a hundred billion. It’s less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers.”
    –Richard Feynman

  18. Am I the only one who read the World Bank report and noticed that it is addressing corporate/business taxation, which it refers to as “total tax rate” (i.e. not individual income taxes at all), and moreover that it distinguishes between “taxes borne” and “taxes collected”, using taxes borne as its metric? It’s a pretty comprehensive report, but I would submit not terribly useful for the proposed exercise in setting “average tax rates” (Radley’s words, not the report’s) given that we do not collect anywhere near the corporate taxes that are “borne”. If you are a potential employer ready to set up shop in some hard-hit locality, the taxes you are going to bear right now are nada. The question is instead how much free electricity and water you’re going to get. So, there really isn’t any point in answering the question as to what percentage is acceptable if the percentage doesn’t have any correlation in reality to the percentage that is paid.

  19. Originally, the income tax was going to be capped at 10%, but that was dropped because it would cause people to fear it would get that high, and they knew it wouldn’t.

    The real answers are “100%, as long as The Right People are in charge”. Since that would scare people away, you’ll be ignored.

  20. I understand for some of the questions the approach that leads one to wonder what the parameters should be, for example our debt load, our inflation rate, etc. I am not a sufficient economist to analyze those with any degree of intelligence, although I am beginning to think that may not matter. But the approach for other questions makes no sense to me — what’s the maximum percentage of earners who should pay no income tax at all? That’s extremely odd way to think about it and I can’t imagine actually having an opinion on it without knowing what the earners earn. If you do not earn enough per year to have any realistic hope of living out of poverty, I think your income should not be taxed. If this is 75% of the population, then that’s the percentage. If it’s 5%, then that’s the percentage. Are you really looking for someone to say “25%” when in this hypothetical universe you could be in the next quartile and earn, say, $1,000 a year? Why would you have an opinion based on a maximum percentage of earners rather than a minimum income? Likewise, the question regarding what percentage of the government’s costs the top 1% should bear — why would you have an opinion about that rather than what an equitable marginal tax rate is? Make the tax rates progressive, and what they collect is what they collect. What’s the point of looking at it backwards? I would echo Mo that whatever those percentages are, they don’t bear any relationship to whether the system is progressive or not.

  21. I’d start with slashing war machine funding.

    I’d like to hear how any progressive with their penchant for humanitarian interventian (every bit as big a problem as conservative imperial intervention) is going to accomplish that.

  22. Well, there’s already a pretty glaring problem with your first question. You admit that you’re leaving out payroll taxes,

    Well, he probably should. Those go to support Social Security, which is supposed to be a seperate program

  23. ABC had some doosies:

    How, precisely, the progressives bear responsibility for this is beyond me.

    Well, there was that time actually called the “Progressive” era, where we got the bubble-blowing central bank, popular election of Senators, and the income tax. Which then led directly into the New Deal. This is the genesis of our current catastrophic indebtedness and mis-placed faith in government.

    Also there was this:
    libertarians have their own pet state-capitalist programs: vouchers, tuition tax credits, social security “privatization”, a repeal of the death tax

    This quote shows why “progressives” and libertarians are like two ships passing in the night. With exception of vouchers, all of those things involve letting a person keep more of their own property. How those could be termed “programs” is beyond me. It shows that ABC assumes that all income and property belongs to the State first, and that the government’s job is simply to decide how much a person gets to keep, due to the unquestioned benevolence of the “progressive”.

  24. …and I am looking forward to someday making what my male colleagues make for the same job, dollar for dollar. That would be an acceptable level of “income inequality” for me.

    UGH. This argument is BS and the studies that conclude it are equally flawed. It doesn’t happen on anything approaching a large scale anymore, and yet it is continually tossed out there like “gee, everybody knows this is true”. Such a tired complaint.

  25. A lot of things progressives want done, we believe, will result in massive savings.

    Eugenics for example.We’ll sterilize all those poor people as long as we can put the redneck racist redstaters in the ovens.This is a twofer as the reduction in population will also help the environment.

  26. The prog response to all criticims of Obama is one of the following options

    1. It is Bush’s fault
    2. Any one who criticizes Obama this early in his term must be a Bush defender and how dare a Bush defender say anything
    3. At least Bush isn’t President anymore

  27. I looked at Welch’s old quiz and at any point in the War I would have voted an adamant NO to everything but this one:

    5) Should the CIA be able to legally assassinate people in countries with which the U.S. is not at war?

    YES

    Assassination is always preferable to war.The collateral damage is so much lower (not to mention the cost).

  28. Tony:
    and various other progressive measures that redistribute wealth back to the middle class would reduce the govt’s social welfare costs

    Wow, is this a mind-twister or what!

    Let’s have a giant social welfare program that steals from one group of people to give to another, which would involve huge amounts of taxing and spending, as well as plenty of skimming off the top by politicians and corporations, and we’ll say that this reduces social welfare costs.

    Maybe I should just give up thinking and enjoy the enveloping, comforting, and warm fog that fills the minds of most “progressives”.

  29. But the approach for other questions makes no sense to me — what’s the maximum percentage of earners who should pay no income tax at all? That’s extremely odd way to think about it…

    The point here is that things become dangerous when a very small percentage of earners are funding the entire government, while a very large percentage of the population is only collecting.

  30. Assassination is always preferable to war.

    Hmm. If only there were a *third* option…

  31. I’d like to hear how any progressive with their penchant for humanitarian interventian (every bit as big a problem as conservative imperial intervention) is going to accomplish that.

    I’m no “progressive”, but the military’s budget can be torched without significantly impacting its operational capacity. Look at the ongoing controversy over the F-22. Congress routinely attempts to force upon the Pentagon weapon systems and bases it doesn’t want or need, to keep contractors happy and factories open in their districts

  32. Okay, I take the point, while maintaining that it is not especially useful to set a percentage limit, particularly absent any other information. Your illustration might well be the case in, say, some countries where the vast majority of the population is very poor but there exists an oligarchy which owns and controls most of the land and wealth. In these cases, a very small percentage of the country likely would be bearing nearly all of the expenses of government. It’s a dangerous scenario, but the relative taxation burden is not why it’s dangerous.

  33. Libertymark:

    Tony:
    and various other progressive measures that redistribute wealth back to the middle class would reduce the govt’s social welfare costs

    Wow, is this a mind-twister or what!

    Let’s have a giant social welfare program that steals from one group of people to give to another, which would involve huge amounts of taxing and spending, as well as plenty of skimming off the top by politicians and corporations, and we’ll say that this reduces social welfare costs.

    Maybe I should just give up thinking and enjoy the enveloping, comforting, and warm fog that fills the minds of most “progressives”.

    I had the same reaction reading that line. Had to read it twice to make sure i got it right.

  34. “I voted Obama to keep theocracy a couple steps from the White House, nothing more.”

    Name one area in Bush’s 8 years where socialcons gained any ground. Abortions still legal, 2 states legalized gay marriage, porns still legal and more availiable then ever, and evolution is still being taught in classrooms. Voting for someone who will destroy our economy, solely on the basis of parnoid delusion of America turning into Christen Iran is retarded.

  35. Libertymark and EJ:

    I thought some of you might be confused by that. Let me try again.

    Premise: large middle class means fewer people requiring social welfare programs + more tax revenue. Can we agree on that?

    Progressives believe the progressive era following WWII and its robust middle class led to the U.S. being the leading economic power in the world. We can agree to disagree about that.

    What I also disagree with you about is that wealth distribution towards the middle class is any more an example of government theft or morally repugnant than what we’ve experienced during the Reaganomics era: wealth redistribution upward, which may or may not be a natural progression but it’s certainly not the result of individual entrepreneurial hard work. Productivity increased most of the time wages decreased. Policy is directly responsible for this wealth redistribution, and remember it was defended on the grounds that such a distribution scheme creates jobs and thus produces more middle class prosperity. That justification has been proved to be a fairy tale, of course.

  36. jibeaux:
    Your illustration might well be the case in, say, some countries where the vast majority of the population is very poor but there exists an oligarchy which owns and controls most of the land and wealth. In these cases, a very small percentage of the country likely would be bearing nearly all of the expenses of government.

    I think that in a case like you describe above, there would not be a functioning government, or, it would be owned lock, stock and barrel by the oligarchy. So, I think the “taxes”, such as they are, would not be borne by the rich, and the poor would be utterly powerless.

    But, in our country, we practically worship the concept of democracy, even though we are a republic. For us, this percentage game is much more dangerous, because the people who are net tax consumers are very empowered by the combination of “democracy” and a federal government that knows no limits. If they (the tax eaters) are a majority , which I think they already are, then it is only a matter of time before the parasite destroys the host.

  37. Personally, since we’re over the limit on all of these things already, I don’t need to hear a collection of pathetic justifications for why the state isn’t screwing things up enough.

    And yet, on cue, Tony shows up anyway.

  38. “Good and fair questions… except that you can’t exclude payroll tax when talking about taxes and then include social security when talking about unfunded liabilities.”

    Yep. Why should we “lefties” reply when the questioner himself is so disingenuous?

  39. Pretty much what I expected. None of the leftists has actually responded with a number, which is what you asked for. Either they don’t understand the question, or don’t want to go on record as saying what the maximum tax rate should be, and at what income level it should kick in. Neither of these positions is confidence-inspiring.

    And for all the leftists reading this, that’s why moderates like me don’t trust you. Not that I completely trust libertarians, but at least they don’t dodge the question.

  40. The point here is that things become dangerous when a very small percentage of earners are funding the entire government, while a very large percentage of the population is only collecting.

    But excluding payroll taxes means that a large percentage of people “only collecting” are paying in. Excluding payroll taxes from calculations is a farce. It’s an easy target for progressives to go after. I make a good wage and FICA (for social security and medicare) makes up over 1/3 of my Federal tax burden. Seems like a lot to ignore.

  41. Tony:

    What I also disagree with you about is that wealth distribution towards the middle class is any more an example of government theft or morally repugnant than what we’ve experienced during the Reaganomics era: wealth redistribution upward, which may or may not be a natural progression but it’s certainly not the result of individual entrepreneurial hard work. Productivity increased most of the time wages decreased. Policy is directly responsible for this wealth redistribution, and remember it was defended on the grounds that such a distribution scheme creates jobs and thus produces more middle class prosperity. That justification has been proved to be a fairy tale, of course.

    Actually, a big reason that income distribution shifted as it did was simply because during that era of a robust middle class to which you refer, white males largely didn’t have to compete with either women or blacks for jobs…

  42. It doesn’t surprise me that they can’t offer hard numbers, but I would at least like to hear what it is in their philosophy that allows them to decide how much is too much — if anything.

  43. so it would be interesting to see what if any actual limits lefty opinion makers would put on the size, cost, and influence of the federal government.

    None, provided the Right People are In Charge.

    Exhibit A: Lefty circles were aflame with anti-war rage right up until their guy got his mitts on the levers of power. Since then, barely a whisper. Even though US casualties have ticked up, our troop commitments haven’t changed, and we have a brand new offensive in Afghanistan.

  44. Tony:
    Policy is directly responsible for this wealth redistribution, and remember it was defended on the grounds that such a distribution scheme creates jobs and thus produces more middle class prosperity.

    I don’t have the time to respond to everything, so I’ll just pick on the statement above.

    First off, Tony doesn’t say what “policy” was responsible.

    But the main thing I noticed is that Tony called it a “scheme”. To Tony, everything is controlled, and is controllable, by a central authority. Nothing happens naturally – he has no understanding that labor is commodity, that its price is controlled by scarcity, that these facts of nature cannot be repealed by an act of government any more that gravity can.

  45. When I was in college, there was a sculpture in the library called “a little more comfortable” which was a pair of feet on a pyramid of rug samples. There must have been 500 rug samples. The pyramid alone was at least as tall as me. I have no doubt in my mind that the artist meant it as a commentary on the middle class and their rising quality of life (with the name being the implication that their charitable actions would come soon rather than now.) But I think it’s a pretty damn accurate representation of a sizeable minority of the American left in that there’s always “a little more government” that is needed for us to really function well as a society. Much like the artist’s conception of the middle class’s relationship to wealth, my conception of the left’s relationship to government is “we’ll let you know when we’re there”

    Anyone want to tell me that there’s a final cutoff point?

  46. “Currently, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans make 19 percent of the country’s income and pay 37 percent of the taxes. The top 10 percent pay 68 percent. The bottom 50 percent of earners pay 3 percent of taxes. (Note: These figures don’t include payroll taxes.) Most on the left believe the current tax system isn’t progressive enough, so they’d presumably favor shifting the tax burden up the income scale. But what is your limit? Should the top 1 percent pay 60 or more percent of the government’s costs? More than 80?”

    I find this really interesting. Is there easily accessible historical data on this?

  47. So far from the self-labeled progressives here, there’s been nothing but obfuscation, pedantic nit-picking and fluff.

    About what I expected. However, I’d be curious to see if that phenomenon scales up. Radley’s essay ought to be posted up on Daily Kos.

  48. Thank you.

  49. I voted Obama to keep theocracy a couple steps from the White House, nothing more.

    ROFL! How’d that work for ya?;)

    I just love the lefties who mock bible people for believing in an all benevolent old man in the sky while devoutly believing in an all benevolent man in Washington DC.

    Theocracy, Fascism, Communism, Socialism.. none exists except in the religious mind. They all devolve (and rapidly) into crony capitalism/oligarchy, which of course is the purpose of collectivist ‘philosophies’.

    Regardless theocracy isn’t a risk in the US, never was. Obama is bringing us via the fascist route.

  50. What income tax rate should the richest 1% pay? I dunno exactly. More than they’re paying now, especially given the loopholes. Probably less than they paid mid-century. I say we figure out what government-provided services are necessary and proper and then establish a tax scheme that provides them while not burdening anyone, just as Jefferson (and Milton Friedman) advocated.

  51. faithkills,

    I don’t think the threat was from actual theocracy, just from the stupidity of the theocrats.

    If we learned anything from the Bush era it should be that stupidity and governing are a bad combination. Something libertarians seem loath to admit.

  52. Uh, no, Tony. Libertarians point that out on a daily basis. Of course, whenever we grind your sacred cows into hamburger, you get all exercised about it and call names.

  53. Tony:
    If we learned anything from the Bush era it should be that stupidity and governing are a bad combination. Something libertarians seem loath to admit.

    God, Tony can you get it through your head that “governing” and “stupidity” are practically synonyms? Bush == Obama.

    I am an equal-opportunity President hater. They are all “stupid” because they have an impossible task, and can’t figure that out. So they keep on digging, deeper, deeper, deeper.

  54. I know, I know. Pox both houses. Government can’t be anything but evil. I get it. And I never call names. Useless armchair anarchist fucks.

  55. Beyond that, universal single-payer healthcare

    Because all the other govt monopolies work so well. Because healthcare monopolies work so well in other countries.

    a more progressive tax system

    To better disincentivise productivity.

    and various other progressive measures that redistribute wealth

    Theft/Slavery is ok if government does it.

    back to the middle class

    Back? If money was taken from someone it should be returned immediately.

    would reduce the govt’s social welfare costs while increasing its revenue.

    Because the fact that it never has worked that way is just proof it hasn’t been tried enough.. yes yes I know PK whines to this affect every time he writes.

    Why can’t you just answer the question posed? How much is too much to steal from people? How much of a persons life is it ok for you to enslave them for things you think are important?

    Do I get to live 50% of my life for myself? 25%? How much of my life do you demand?

  56. faithkills,

    Besides the dishonesty in your prepackaged libertarian talking points, there is a fundamental lack of coherence in your moral grandstanding on taxes. If taxes are theft, are any taxes legitimate? What form of government, then, is legitimate, except no government at all?

  57. Useless armchair anarchist fucks.

    Idiotic thieving statist bastard.

  58. Maybe we should also ask you/them what, if anything, you/they think defines the outer boundaries of that “necessary and proper.” Is there anything worthwhile that the richest 1% (since they’re an easy target) nevertheless shouldn’t be forced to pay for, on liberty grounds? More importantly, how far do we have to go to meet that “necessary and proper” standard? At what point will we run out of unmet needs and potential programs to fund?

  59. Can someone please explain to me why a flat tax isn’t fair and equitable? I’ve never quite understood the arguments against it.

  60. Exhibit A: Lefty circles were aflame with anti-war rage right up until their guy got his mitts on the levers of power. Since then, barely a whisper. Even though US casualties have ticked up, our troop commitments haven’t changed, and we have a brand new offensive in Afghanistan.

    Exhibits B and C: Obama’s embracing Bush’s policies on surveillance and detaining “terrorists” without trial, with muted, if any, objections from the left.

  61. If we learned anything from the Bush era it should be that stupidity and governing are a bad combination. Something libertarians seem loath to admit.

    You would be more apt to understand me as a federalist. The states have more leeway according to the constitution to do stuff. I have no problem if some states want to have progressive experiments and some want to have libertarian experiments. As an authoritarian you hate that idea of course.

    Stupid is a constant. You want to empower it. We want to disempower it. It’s about that simple.

    There will always be a minority of honest people and industrious people. In a free market the lazy or the unscrupulous must compete with them. In your ideal world they can ignore the honest and hard working and compete for government dispensation.

    I can’t know whether you actually believe in collectivism or are a shill for the rich, but the power you want for government will never be used for you, or the ‘little guy’, or the middle class.

    Who do you think has always been behind the ‘progressives’? Who do you think still is?

    You’re a tool for the rich, wittingly or otherwise. If genuine, your religious faith is far more dangerous than that of a bible thumper.

  62. Can someone please explain to me why a flat tax isn’t fair and equitable? I’ve never quite understood the arguments against it.

    Because its not fair for you to have more than me, and a flat tax won’t do anything to reduce you to my level, that’s why.

  63. I like Tony and the others that come on here and challenge our orthodoxy, since it makes for good entertainment.

    Tony, in a fit of semi-clear thinking, said “I say we figure out what government-provided services are necessary and proper and then establish a tax scheme

    In this statement, he assumes that the Federal Government has unlimited powers, and we just need to think them up, and then do them.

    But, we are supposed to have the rule of law in this country, and the government is supposed to be limited and bound by a Constitution. I know, this is a dead concept now, but it is officially still operative.

    So, the right answer is to figure out what powers have been legally delegated to the Federal government, and then come up with a tax scheme to fund that.

  64. BTW, the Necessary and Proper Clause of the Constitution is not an independent grant of power to the FedGov. Sometimes, “progressives” use it to say that the FedGov has unlimited powers.

  65. Besides the dishonesty in your prepackaged libertarian talking points,

    Yawn.. this is what passes for rhetoric with statists..

    there is a fundamental lack of coherence in your moral grandstanding on taxes.

    Asserted. Now demonstrate this.

    If taxes are theft, are any taxes legitimate?

    Yes, voluntary taxation is legitimate.

    Do you think that if 201 million people agree to use government guns to force 199 million people to work 30 years of their life for the 201 million this somehow is not slavery?

    What form of government, then, is legitimate, except no government at all?

    Logically confused. You’re begging the question. Your implied premise is that a government requires taxes. It does not. Recall we had a government before the 16th Amendment.

    Nevertheless a legitimate government may exists that does tax. For example a fairtax would accomplish this, and in fact would get at the evil rich you loath so well. The poor would pay nothing. And to acquire wealth all you would have to do is 1) work and 2) be frugal. As opposed to now you have to be born into wealth or have political connections. If you want to work for it you are penalized the more you work.

    Tony.. how can it not occur to you that a progressive income tax is intended to protect the rich from competition and create a two class society? I mean Marx basically said as much.

    If you really cared about the middle class what you say you want will accomplish the opposite.

  66. I hope everyone is informed enough to realize the “size, cost, and influence of the federal government” should have been addressed 90 years ago. No administration has scaled back, only added to the mess.

  67. I’m no “progressive”, but the military’s budget can be torched without significantly impacting its operational capacity. Look at the ongoing controversy over the F-22.

    Cutting a handfull of procurement programs is not going to significantly affect military outlys.

    Conservatives insist we must be the world’s Swat Team style policeman while Progressives want us to be the world’s Community Policing Officer and Social Worker combined. Either way your looking at expensive overreach with inevitable mission creep.

  68. Radley,
    The point here is that things become dangerous when a very small percentage of earners are funding the entire government, while a very large percentage of the population is only collecting.

    Oh, absolutely. So, you are advocating income re-distribution as a way to keep government out of the pockets of the filthy rich? 😉

  69. “I am looking forward to someday making what my male colleagues make for the same job, dollar for dollar.”

    What makes you think you do the same job as any of your male colleagues?

    Has it not occured to you that you might be doing a better job than some of them and, hence, deserve to be paid more.

    Fact is, since there is simply no such thing as equal work, there can’t treally be equal pay unless it is arbitrarilly imposed.

    Unless you’re speaking of piece work. In which case, are you really sure you’re producing the same number of units of whatever it is you produce in a day as your coworkers?

  70. Can someone please explain to me why a flat tax isn’t fair and equitable? I’ve never quite understood the arguments against it.

    Because Adam Smith said so? 😉

    A part of the traditional argument is that the richer you are, the more of societies resources you use, therefore the more you should pay.

    Wiki

  71. Reading through the comments from libertarians here, it’s little wonder few progressives can be bothered to give serious answers to Balko’s questions. Why should we waste our time with serious answers for people who we know will not consider our answers with any seriousness?

    And yet, despite the absence of all civility, I will try my best to answer:

    >Progressive Taxation

    I’ll join with with the other lefties and, as one enlightened commentor here put it, “nitpick” about this outright distortion of facts.

    Here’s some information on the subject of taxes from an article I know Balko’s read because I found it on his blog: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2009/01/fiscal-therapy

    Like Johnston I’d focus on getting the rich to actually pay their taxes, with possibily a return to pre-Clinton levels of taxation of the rich. I don’t know what percentage of the total taxes paid by the top 10%, or whatever you’re asking, that would work out to, but I think that’s a reasonable goal.

    >Inflation

    I don’t know. I hate to say it, but “whatever it takes” is the only answer I have.

    >National Debt as a Percentage of GDP

    I think we’re far over the limit here. I don’t know what number I would want to set it at. 20-40%? 0%? Really, I have no idea. Unfortunately, I’m not sure there’s an easy way out of debt.

    >Federal Spending as a Percentage of GDP

    Again, “as much as it takes” is as good an answer as I have. If, and this is a big if, the money is being well spent – ie, stimulating the economy, paying down debt, etc. 50% (on par with Sweden, IIRC) would probabably be my uppper limit. But again that depends on how the money is being spent and why. Ideally, it take much less – maybe 20% – to run an adequate government and still make progress towards paying down debt. But really, I’m just throwing the numbers out there. The important thing is getting done what needs doing.

    >Unfunded Liability of Entitlement Programs

    I don’t think we should have unfunded entitlement programs. Proposals for new entitlements should always include funding. (I’m not sure why this is even a question.)

    >Income Equality

    To parrot Johnston again, I think the big priority is to stop the *upward* redistribution of wealth. Once that happens, we can reassess the situation. As in most of these situations, I don’t have a “sweet spot” magic number to put on these things.

    >Average Tax Rate

    Ideally, it would be lower than it is now. But if necessary, having it grow to something like 60% could be acceptable … *if it were worth it*. Far more complex is creating a series of metrics to determine what is “worth it.”

    >”both to see just how much government interference”

    You didn’t ask about any other form of government “interference” (which I’ll read as “intervention”) other than taxation. I may or may not support other forms of intervention, on a case by case basis.

    >”Also to see what happens if and when the Obama administration’s spending exceeds those limits.”

    Considering I didn’t vote for Obama, have criticized him early and often, and opposed the bailouts and the stimulus package (for the specifics of the package, not the need for a stimulus package), I’m probably not the cartoon character stereotype you’re posing these questions to – I have no qualms criticizing Obama. That said, I’m not gonna hold my breath waiting for a return to pre-Clinton tax rates, a jump to 60% average tax rate, or any serious effort to end corporate welfare. So I don’t think I’m going to have to criticize him for going OVER my limits (except for debt, which we’re already well over).

  72. Klintron – you really don’t think your series of nonanswers are deserving of evaluation, do you?

    your answers were:

    1. I’d focus on getting the rich to actually pay their taxes, with possibily a return to pre-Clinton levels of taxation of the rich

    2. I don’t know.

    3. I don’t know what number I would want to set it at.

    4. Again, “as much as it takes” is as good an answer as I have.

    5. I don’t think we should have unfunded entitlement programs.

    6. I think the big priority is to stop the *upward* redistribution of wealth. Once that happens, we can reassess the situation.

    7. Ideally, it would be lower than it is now. But if necessary, having it grow to something like 60% could be acceptable

    Dude, come on, you basically said “I have no upper limits – government can take 100% of what it wants until the goals I want are accomplished”.

    And you have the audacity to tell us we’re not being serious. And for what it’s worth, the lack of civility started with those who want to force others to work for the undeserving, and if you don’t want to be treated like an adult, go back to the kiddie forums.

  73. A part of the traditional argument is that the richer you are, the more of societies resources you use, therefore the more you should pay.

    And how do you not pay more under a flat tax, jasa? If I make 1 Million under a 20% tax rate, I pay 200K; If you make 100K, you pay 20K. That’s more.

  74. What exactly is the libertarian alternative?

    Limiting the federal government’s activities to its constitutional powers would be a good start. That should save us enough to run the federal government on customs duties alone, as we did for the first century of the republic.

    -jcr

  75. Let’s not tease the liberals. I want them to feel welcome to answer the questions.

    It’s good to encourage them to think about numbers so that we can keep this from getting too abstract, but I would be happy just to know 1) whether they believe their philosophy does include upper limits (on grounds of liberty, morality, or justice) on what can be taken in taxes from an individual (even someone from the richest 1%), 2) where those limits actually are or how those limits can be discerned, and 3) whether they have ever considered outright whether justice itself limits the range of appropriate uses of funds collected under threat of imprisonment or as a condition of working in the United States.

  76. I’ll join with with the other lefties and, as one enlightened commentor here put it, “nitpick” about this outright distortion of facts.

    I looked for nitpicking. I looked real hard. I found no nitpicking, just a lot of whatever it takes. You did not deliver on the nitpicking.

  77. I am genuinely curious and I appreciate Klintron for coming forward with fairly honest answers… thank you!

    It does seem that much of the logic is based on the “fact” that increasing the power and size of government can actually have a positive impact on the economy and general well-being of society as a whole. And we need to increase to whatever levels are necessary (levels which still haven’t been defined) for everything to be better (another lacking definition, better in what way?). I don’t know if I agree with this, or any of the resulting logic, but I do appreciate the honesty.

  78. “Like Johnston I’d focus on getting the rich to actually pay their taxes, with possibily a return to pre-Clinton levels of taxation of the rich.”

    Given the figures Balko set forth, the rich are actually paying their taxes, maybe not as much as you would like, but since you’re not really giving an answer as to what you’d like, why should we care if you think it is not enough.

  79. “Currently, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans make 19 percent of the country’s income and pay 37 percent of the taxes. The top 10 percent pay 68 percent. The bottom 50 percent of earners pay 3 percent of taxes. (Note: These figures don’t include payroll taxes.)”

    So why not include payroll taxes? Do these numbers include sales taxes and property taxes? How about all the little gouging fees that state & local governments pile on?

    I’m sympathetic to Radley’s point, but I hate this common tendency to consider “taxes” to be identical with “federal income tax”. If you count all taxes, the richest 1% pay far less than 37%. And the notion that the poor don’t pay any taxes is just not true.

  80. Tony sez Premise: large middle class means fewer people requiring social welfare programs + more tax revenue. Can we agree on that?

    Nope, because most social spending is not directed to just the lowest 10 or 20 percent. Social welfare is directed at, get ready for it, THE MIDDLE CLASS. Show me ANY politician, left, right or moonbat that doesn’t kowtow to the mighty American middle-class. Throwing the burden up the income curve just adds more to the middle class who expect the govt to provide more for them. You are in an open-loop (or positive feedback) system. Those usually end up failing spectacularly.

    Tony also sez What income tax rate should the richest 1% pay? I dunno exactly. More than they’re paying now

    And when you ask them, “How much should we give?”
    Ooh, they only answer More! more! more! yoh,

    It ain’t me…

  81. it must be frustrating engaging with intelligent opposition…every liberal on here so far has been an evasive, snarky little bitch

  82. ? Progressive Taxation 20%

    ? Inflation 1%

    ? National Debt as a Percentage of GDP 20%

    ? Federal Spending as a Percentage of GDP 20% in peace time 30% during times of war

    ? Unfunded Liability of Entitlement Programs

    0% fix it now

    ? Income Equality

    Richest 1% can own 50%…but if taxes are as low as i will accept and all the other things i listed are true the % would actually go down

    ? Individual Tax Rates 15%

    ? Average Tax Rate 10%

  83. I just love the lefties who mock bible people for believing in an all benevolent old man in the sky while devoutly believing in an all benevolent man in Washington DC.

    Theocracy, Fascism, Communism, Socialism.. none exists except in the religious mind. They all devolve (and rapidly) into crony capitalism/oligarchy, which of course is the purpose of collectivist ‘philosophies’.

    Regardless theocracy isn’t a risk in the US, never was. Obama is bringing us via the fascist route.

    Amen!

  84. The primary challenge that progressives face is pesky things like human rights getting in the way of their social engineering.

  85. “Let’s just all admit that the past 30 years – Reagan, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Clinton, Bush, Bush – have been a fucking mess. How, precisely, the progressives bear responsibility for this is beyond me.”

    You just have to love how “progressives” (about as big of a fucking misnomer that there is) conveniently leave out Jimmy Carter. That piece of shit president was the perfect embodiment of “progressive” principle and he pretty much destroyed the country economically. His foreign policy was disastrous as well, unless you consider his record of tyrant appeasement motivated by his hatred of Jews a smashing success. So please, quit arbitrarily beginning at Reagan when you discuss economic problems that have plagued this country.

    “Factoring in state and local taxes, the average tax burden on the wealthiest Americans in some states will approach 60 percent if the Democrats’ health plan passes”.

    Because nothing says liberty liking having to give more to the government than what you keep for yourself.

  86. “A part of the traditional argument is that the richer you are, the more of societies resources you use, therefore the more you should pay.”

    An argument that is ludicrous on its face. I don’t know where this argument is coming from, but I think it is the individuals not paying taxes and suckling at the government teat that are using more resources than wealthy individuals who pay the bulk of taxes. And the last time I checked, most welfare recipients and poor people weren’t exactly starting new businesses or providing the capital to do so. The above quote is pure bullshit, plain and simple.

    I am glad this blog post was written because liberals need to be called out on their bullshit. Because a person has worked hard and is now in the position to earn more money should not mean that the government has the right to take however much of their money it wants. When is enough enough? It shouldn’t matter how much you make, having to give more to the government than what you keep for yourself is fundamentally unfair.

  87. “It’s also a bit tiresome to keep hearing this “left-leaning people are Obamabots” meme. It’s untrue and silly, and you all have better sense. I voted Obama to keep theocracy a couple steps from the White House, nothing more.”

    You thought that McCain if elected, would only be a couple of steps away from instituting a theocracy and you have the nerve to call someone else silly? And those on the left are actually mocking people who refer to Obama as a socialist? I would use the words hilarious, pathetic and hypocrisy in the above sentences but they are so fucking obvious I don’t need to.

    Amazing how fucking retarded some of the rationalizations were for electing a grossly underqualified absentee Senator who is quite clearly out of his fucking depth.

  88. “If you count all taxes, the richest 1% pay far less than 37%.”

    I just love how this little “factoid” is put forth as some brilliant rebuttal. How much is “far less”? Is it 30% instead of 37%? Regardless, the top ONE % are still paying around a third of all taxes. You aren’t scoring any points.

  89. “A lot of things progressives want done, we believe, will result in massive savings.”

    Yeah, and I believed in the tooth fairy and Santa Claus until someone proved to me they didn’t exist.

  90. “A lot of things progressives want done, we believe, will result in massive savings.”

    Please name one massive government program championed by progressives (an odd moniker for people who constantly champion legislation that was tired and stale seven decades ago) that has resulted in massive savings. The programs that immediately spring to mind are fast bankrupting this country.

    “What exactly is the libertarian alternative?”

    This whole fucking site is full of them dumbass. This question reminds of me the old reliable strawman that Obama always attacks: the people he claims attack his proposals without offering any alternatives, even though a few days before he was dismissing those very alternatives with a condescending “We won” or some such other arrogant bullshit.

  91. “Well, there’s already a pretty glaring problem with your first question. You admit that you’re leaving out payroll taxes, and of course there are lots of other taxes you’re leaving out. My best recollection of efforts to take into account all taxes at all levels of government is that they’ve ended up reporting that, on average, people pay about the same percentage of their income in taxes regardless of their income (actually a tiny bit less than average at the very top of the scale). As a liberal, I’d be ecstatic if our tax system overall actually were as progressive as our income taxes are in theory, and I think most of my fellow liberals who want our taxes to be more progressive probably have similar thoughts.”

    Hey, there’s supposedly a glaring problem with the first question, so I think I won’t answer any of the questions. Amazing how liberals, when asked to actually put a figure on how much they think is fair for the government to confiscate from someone, can never do it.

    “What’s an appropriate upper limit on that figure?”

    I suspect you will never get a concrete answer as to what the top limit for the tax rate should be because it would require liberals to admit that they indeed think it is fair for the government to take more than what a person keeps for himself, and that would be an implicit admission that they believe your paycheck belongs to the government and you are indeed privileged to keep any of it. That is why whenever those on the left deride tax cuts, they are always eager to discuss how much it “costs” the government. We always hear, from liberals (I refuse to use the bullshit term progressives)how the progressive tax system is so morally superior, yet I can never really remember a liberal defend the notion that it is moral or fair for a person to give more to the government than what he keeps for himself.

  92. “…and various other progressive measures that redistribute wealth back to the middle class would reduce the govt’s social welfare costs while increasing its revenue.

    Or we could continue with the trickle-down theory. That’s served us so well all these long years.”

    Yeah, and those massive resdistributions of wealth such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, how are those working out? Last time I checked, they were pretty much bankrupting the country. I just love it when dumbfucks like you defeat your own pathetic fucking arguments. That anyone could look at the costs and huge debts of those programs and claim that similar programs would actually decrease the government’s social welfare costs is staggeringly retarded.
    You know what they say: Fool me once, shame on you, fool me four or five more times and I am an ignorant dumbfuck.

  93. “…and various other progressive measures that redistribute wealth back to the middle class would reduce the govt’s social welfare costs while increasing its revenue.”

    I just love the principle that underpins this entire “argument”: the notion that it is fair to take money from the people who worked for it and earned it and give it to people who have no legitimate moral claim to it at all. Christ, how huge of a fucking underclass does all of those Great Society programs have to create before you people quit clinging to the notion that government dependency is a desirable and morally superior outcome?

  94. “Or we could continue with the trickle-down theory. That’s served us so well all these long years.”

    Indeed. If only we could turn back time and get rid of the unprecedented economic growth of the Reagan and Clinton years and replace it with the economic awesomeness that was the Johnson and Carter years.

  95. “A part of the traditional argument is that the richer you are, the more of societies resources you use, therefore the more you should pay.”

    An argument that is ludicrous on its face. I don’t know where this argument is coming from, but I think it is the individuals not paying taxes and suckling at the government teat that are using more resources than wealthy individuals who pay the bulk of taxes.

    Wow, B, you sure are a verbose little shit.

    I’m not the “lefty” foil that you might hope for; I won’t even try to defend the economic ignorance that spews from many lefties. That said, you’re guilty of similar levels of ignorance if you “don’t know where this argument is coming from”.

    Adam Smith didn’t think it was “ludicrous on its face”. Neither do most U.S. economists. In the U.S., an overwhelming majority of economists (81%) support progressive taxation.

    My “argument from authority” beats your “argument from bald assertion”. I think you have a bit of work to do to justify your opinion. I look forward to your tightly reasoned rebuttal. 😉

  96. In the U.S., an overwhelming majority of economists (81%) support progressive taxation.

    Then let them have it. And I’ll do what I want.

    But that’s not “progressive,” that’s free.

  97. Oy vey, just vote them out of office.

  98. I think this sums it up pretty well.

    *_Bar Stool Economics _*

    Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten

    comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it
    would go something like this:

    The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
    The fifth would pay $1.
    The sixth would pay $3.
    The seventh would pay $7.
    The eighth would pay $12.
    The ninth would pay $18.
    The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

    So, that’s what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every
    day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the
    owner threw them a curve. ‘Since you are all such good customers ‘, he
    said, ‘I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20. Drinks
    for the ten now cost just $80.

    The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the

    first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But
    what about the other six men – the paying customers? How could they
    divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his ‘fair share?’
    They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted

    that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would
    each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested
    that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by roughly the same
    amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

    And so:

    The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
    The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% savings).
    The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% savings).
    The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
    The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
    The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

    Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four
    continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men
    began to compare their savings.

    ‘I only got a dollar out of the $20′, declared the sixth man. He
    pointed to the tenth man,’ but he got $10!’

    ‘Yeah, that’s right’, exclaimed the fifth man. ‘I only saved a dollar,
    too. It’s unfair he got ten times more than I!’

    ‘That’s true!!’ shouted the seventh man. ‘Why should he get $10 back
    when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!’

    ‘Wait a minute,’ yelled the first four men in unison. ‘We didn’t get
    anything at all. The system exploits the poor!’

    The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

    The next night the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks, so the nine sat
    down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill,
    they discovered something important. They didn’t have enough money
    between all of them for even half of the bill!

    And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our

    tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most
    benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being
    wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might
    start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

    “David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D. Professor of Economics, University of
    Georgia”

    For those who understand, no explanation is needed.
    For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.
    ** *

  99. Actually the original post is FULL of the usual right wing misinformation. By limiting the discussion to federal income taxes only, while ignoring payroll taxes, state and local income taxes, excise taxes, sales taxes, gas taxes etc. Radley is deliberatly distorting the tax picture. The truth is that the bottom 50% of people pay a much higher percentage of the tax burden than the 3% stated above. Yes, it is collected in different ways and goes into different pots, but it is part of total funding of our system. Many of his other stats are just as bogus – calculating SS liability for the infinite future is another one.

  100. How people cheer for the state to steal people’s money is a mystery to me. You can call it “redistribute wealth”, but I think you’d have a problem if a burglar “redistributed” your car or a pimp “redistributed” sex with your wife. Without a doubt, Americans have made this what it means to be American…and I want no part of it.

    “Fair” is to each according to his ability. There is no logically justified reason to force this idiotic redistribution of wealth. This is insanity.

  101. Ooops. I need to write more plain. Anything other than a single tax* is retarded.

    *Single tax: everyone pays exactly the same amount…not the same percentage…the same amount. A burger costs everyone $4 and taxes cost everyone the same amount, too.

    Of course this will never happen, which is why humanity’s only chance for growth lies in anarcho-capitalism.

  102. And now, for something completely different:

    Kara

  103. Shorter bobzbob: answering questions hurts my vagina!

  104. Coming from poor folks and probably never rising above lower-middle

    Sorry, bro. That’s a YOU problem. Not the upper classes. Class status in this country still remains limited by one’s own ability, and more importantly, desire to pull themselves out of the sludge pit. And income mobility, upwards and downwards, is documented well enough if you feel like looking up the census data. OR read some Thomas Sowell. He has it all right there for you.

  105. “I just love how this little “factoid” is put forth as some brilliant rebuttal. How much is “far less”? Is it 30% instead of 37%? Regardless, the top ONE % are still paying around a third of all taxes. You aren’t scoring any points.”

    So your argument is “Bogus statistics are fine, as long as they’re in the ballpark and suit my ideology?”

  106. Thanks, Joshua, for being the only one with the cojones to honestly answer the question.

    Bobzbob deserves special mention for a particularly whiny avoidance of the question. You can’t even supply qualified figures, ie “50% but only if…”.

  107. Someone probably already mentioned this, but:

    The whole “wealthiest 1 percent of Americans make 19 percent of the country’s income and pay 37 percent of the taxes. The top 10 percent pay 68 percent. The bottom 50 percent of earners pay 3 percent of taxes” in ignoring payroll taxes – FICA etc – you make mockery of your point. Social Security taxes are among the most regressive so be honest and quit misleading with the numbers.

    Another point: consumption taxes (sales tax, sin taxes on booze, cigarettes and (depending on where one lives) fuel) are also regressive.

    Radley, you’re my favorite, please don’t be a douche and ruin my opinion of you.

  108. “Bobzbob deserves special mention for a particularly whiny avoidance of the question.”

    Actually, Bobzbob made a well-reasoned, factually correct objection. The fact that several posters have attacked him personally without addressing the content of his post does not reflect well on the libertarian side of the debate

  109. Adam Smith didn’t think it was “ludicrous on its face”. Neither do most U.S. economists. In the U.S., an overwhelming majority of economists (81%) support progressive taxation.

    Yep all the Keynesians whose policies caused this collapse agree. All the AES economies whose predictions have actually been accurate don’t support it I can assure you.

    Progressive taxation accomplishes it’s goal very well.. to make sure the rich stay rich without competition from the uppity middle class and the uppity middle class disappears. It recreates the class immobility that the collectivists miss so much. It ensures that the most fair way to become rich.. hard work and frugality.. is in fact the least effective way and the only practical way is to curry influence with the rich or the government (same thing).

    Mission accomplished.

  110. Actually, Bobzbob made a well-reasoned, factually correct objection. The fact that several posters have attacked him personally without addressing the content of his post does not reflect well on the libertarian side of the debate

    Ahem.

    Bobzbob wrote: Actually the original post is FULL of the usual right wing misinformation…Radley is deliberatly distorting the tax picture.

    Uh-huh.

    Now, Bobzbob does raise some actual points when he’s not personally attacking Radley, but he never offers any actual numbers. And if he disagrees with the question he could have chosen to reply with qualified numbers, taking his objections into account, ie “50% taking into account…”

    But he didn’t. And he threw the first punch.

    Fail.

  111. In the U.S., an overwhelming majority of economists (81%) support progressive taxation.

    Thanks for providing the link, as it allows one to check the veracity of the information. If you follow the footnote on the wikipedia page, you get to here: http://springerlink.metapress.com/content/w4q363786573275h/
    Where you get the following tidbits:
    “In voting, the Democratic:Republican ratio is 2.5:1.”
    And that only 264 of the 1000 surveys sent out were returned.

    Then, if you check out the wiki on the American Economic Association (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Economic_Association – one of these days I will read how to do links), you can read the section on ideological bias.

    So, with 2 minutes of tracking down the sources, it seems that that figure is largely bunk. Thanks for playing though.

  112. Really funny to read “libertarians” discussing how some taxation plan is more “fair and equitable” than others as if there was anything fair about taxation.

    Radley, I enjoy tremendously your posts but this one is below your standards IMHO. What is it in your questions that makes them more relevant to democrats than to republicans?

    Anyway’s here’s my questions:
    Which proportion of the current wealthiest 1 percent of Americans have accumulated their wealth through collusion with the governement? Which proportion is truly generating wealth instead of legally parasiting the system with the help of the government to bend the redistribution in their favor (insert countless examples of succesful lobbying to stiflle competition)? Among the top 1%, how many oligarchs for how many entrepreneurs?

    Which inflation rate are you talking about? The official one of 25% since 2000? I don’t know of anyone who still believes this number any more than the unemployment rate. Carter was probably the last president naive enough not to understand that numbers could be published to order.

    National debt and federal spending: why limit that question to democrats only? Republicans have governed over the biggest federal spending increase ever in the last 8 years and the Reagan administration made a dogma out of federal borrowing. In that regard and besides polical marketing, how is that much different from democrats?

    Why press so much on tax rates and not tax breaks, exemptions and other loopholes? And why are entitlements questionnable but not corporate welfare? Why the bias?

    Finally you mention the average U.S. tax rate. Now why do the Netherlands and Denmark have lower average tax rates while providing next-to-free (but top-quality) healthcare and education and much better benefits alltogether (unemployment, retirement, disablility etc…)? While the total tax rate in the US is comparable to many euro social-democracies the services and entitlements provided here are dwarfed by the ones provided by the euro governments. So if in the US much less (proportionally) of the tax revenue is redistributed in those services and entitlements, where is it redistributed then? To whom?

  113. …you can read the section on ideological bias.

    So, with 2 minutes of tracking down the sources, it seems that that figure is largely bunk. Thanks for playing though.

    Thanks for the substantive comment. I don’t know that I’d call the 81% figure “bunk”, but it clearly may be influenced by self-selection and reporting bias. If the figure was 40%, it wouldn’t change the point I was making.

    Note that I was not trying to justify progressive taxation, I am merely attempting to show that reasonable economists disagree regarding the merits of it. From my recent reading, it would seem that the arguments in favor hinge upon the marginal utility of increasing wealth, and an appeal to “noblesse oblige”. The arguments against hinge on a need for demonstrable mathematical fairness and a concern that legislating noblesse oblige is inherently political.

    As evidenced by the enormous number of erudite, well intentioned papers on the subject, neither view is “ludicrous on the face of it”.

    Thanks for playing. 🙂

  114. An additional point on progressive taxation.

    Due to the various consumption (sales) taxes, as well as the lower tax rate on investment income as opposed to earned income, in many states the real effective tax rate for the poor as a percentage of income is higher than the very rich.

    I haven’t read if anyone has taken Warren’s money: Buffett will donate a million dollars to the favorite charity of any member of the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans who can successfully challenge Buffett’s claim that the average tax rate paid by the Forbes 400 billionaires is lower than the average tax rate of their receptionists.

    Of course, justifying progressive income tax as a way to balance out all the other regressive taxes / loopholes is a damning indictment of U.S. tax code.

  115. What is it in your questions that makes them more relevant to democrats than to republicans?

    He never said it was. The only mention he made of democrats was in reference to the dem health care market destruction plan.

    There’s nothing inconsistent with libertarians discussing better and worse taxation plans. By your logic someone against slavery (which is what taxation is) should not endeavor to free some slaves because all aren’t free.

    Or more aptly there’s nothing inconsistent with libertarians trying to limit how much of a person’s life is spent in slavery while fighting against slavery altogether.

  116. There’s indeed nothing inconsistent with libertarians (or anyone else for that matter) discussing better and worse taxation plans. I was merely pointing out that it is funny to read libertarians using words like “fair”, “equitable” or “just” when writing about taxation.

    As for Radley why is this a challenge for left-wing bloggers only? Many of those questions (even more so if they were formulated with less bias) would be equally if not more challenging for conservatives now that we’ve seen for 8 years what the current conservative principles are all about.

  117. I don’t think Bush’s spending spree could be considered conservative, or at least wouldn’t have been until now.. in comparison to the current spending hemorrhage.

    I think Obama won not because Bush didn’t talk about god enough, but because he spent like a liberal.. who wants a statist who spends, but doesn’t promise you free stuff?

    Obama was able to paint McCain with the same brush while the media let him paint himself as a moderate.. and laughably, fiscally responsible.

    Libertarians and moderates stayed home, thinking it was all the same.

    We screwed up.

  118. Bush spending spree was conservative. Conservative is an ever-shifting concept. Old-style conservatives (the fiscally conservative ones) would have been dismayed with Reagan’s administration’s borrowing. Reaganites were dismayed with Bush’s government expansion policies.
    Old-style conservatives fought for freedoms and government restraint. Modern conservatives are clamoring for more government oversight and less individual freedoms.
    Today’s “conservatism” is really just a brand to help republicans get elected. There’s nothing else but a few battle-rallying slogans (pro-life on the social side, fiscal responsability on the economic side) with absolutely no correlation with actual policies.

    After 8 years of republican policies for everyone to see (and endure) and the Paulson plan as the cherry on the cake, there is nothing left to comfort the belief that McCain’s policies would have been that much more thrifty than Obama’s.
    We’re going to hit the wall, we all know it and it has been proven over and over again that neither republicans nor democrats are willing to act before it happens. The sooner the Chinese, Japanese, Saudis and other bailers put a stop to it, the better. No need to prolong the agony pointlessly.

  119. What was conservative about Bush? Further blurring the line between church and state? Bigger government? Huge spending?

    ‘Conservative’ may have shifting meaning just like liberal does but it doesn’t change that quickly. The best reason I can see for conservatives (and liberals.. at first) going along with Bush’s crap is because they didn’t want to be ‘unpatriotic’ and not support the troops.. and in turn the war effort. Misguided but w/e.

    I don’t see any conservatives “clamoring for more government oversight and less individual freedoms”. Who do you see?

    Republican’s got in power and screwed the pooch. Which set the stage for the dems to get in power.. and remind everyone why it’s important to vote for the lesser of two evils.. the dems are making the republicans look like angels of liberty.

    My hope is that people will remember the Bush years and when they vote out the current herd of bastards.. and not just put the old bastards back in.

    Probably a futile hope.

    But you’re right, we’re probably going to hit the wall. Despite Bernie’s claims the fed is in way over it’s head in uncharted territory.

    You sound like you relish the idea of hitting the wall. Unless you know the address of Galt’s Gulch I must surmise you’re a collectivist who looks forward to the coming police state.

  120. My my, big words these. I don’t relish the idea of national bankrupcy anymore than the fact we all die one day. But there’s no denying we’re getting closer faster. Anyway I agree with you, somehow the vicous circle republicans-democrats-republicans-democrats has to be broken.
    Unfortunately it’s like an addiction: once one party gets into power, their policies are so repulsive that the other party looks like a possible alternative, no matter how reminiscent you are that they are not.

  121. “And he threw the first punch.”

    Actually no, the first punch was thrown by the guy who’s questions are the equivalent of “when did you stop beating your wife”! Radley started with presumptions that were deliberatly false – because he knows fellow “libertarians” won’t call him out on them.

    For those who want some statistics, consider:
    When payroll taxes are included the top 20% earn 52% of income but pay 64% of all federal taxes. In other words the system is progressive, but only modestly so. When you throw in the often regressive sales, gas and others taxes and fees you can bet the system gets pretty close to flat.

    Another example: Inflation has a host of causes (oil prices anyone?), yet his question blames only government “printing money”- which, depending on the ratio of the money supply to the economy, might not be inflationary at all!

    When Radley posts honests questions based on honest assumptions rather than right wing talking points we can start a real discussion. But I won’t hold my breath.

  122. Just another point for “progressives” to consider about progressive taxation. California has a very progressive income tax, which is why the state is so inclined to a dynamic budget. Because as the top end income declines, tax revenue drops are escalated. Oops!

  123. Actual facts (Oops!) shows that CA personal income tax is not very progressive (everyone between $49K and $1M pays the same tax rate, and over $1M just 1% more- pretty flat). CA’s “dynamic” tax revenues are due to a greater reliance on volatile capital gains taxes rather than stable property taxes – hence the decline in income.

  124. Anyway I agree with you, somehow the vicous circle republicans-democrats-republicans-democrats has to be broken.

    Agreed.

    I intended no malice in wondering if you were a collectivist. You must admit there are a lot of progressive shills on the web posing as libs.

    I do understand the futility many people feel. Most likely the best we can do is swing the pendulum in DC again. The GOP loves to talk the lib talk when they are out of power.

    But what can we do? Capitulate to the collectivists?

    I think these may be the moments when we can educate. We have an opportunity to explain to disenfranchised conservatives ‘wow yeah those guys are awful.. but remember when you were willing to trample the freedoms of other people that you didn’t think they should have when you had power? That’s just what they are doing now isn’t it? So maybe that whole thing isn’t a good idea?’

  125. bobzbob – got a state with a more progressive structure handy? Yes, INCOME from capital gains is volatile, and hence the TAX realized from that INCOME. [I bolded to help your reading comprehension.]

    Property taxes generally aren’t brought up in a discussion on the progressivity (or not) in taxing INCOME. [ibid]

  126. I pay my property taxes out of my income. Don’t you? Pretending our tax structure is more progressive than it is by ignoring major parts of it is a deliberate distortion of the facts. Radley knows this, but he plays along with the right wing talking points anyway.

  127. I don’t know where that 106 trillion number comes from. Is it all liabilities going to 150 years? ‘Cause I’d like to know how much money is going to pass through american hands in that time. It’s a dumb number unless you can estimate how much of a percentage of income its going to be.

  128. I live in New York and I’m almost positive that most of my friends would gleefully support a top tax rate of 90%.

    I’m also pretty sure that they’d support the top 1% paying 100% of the tax, if they could. As to the effects on the democratic system of a society where more than half of the electorate pay no tax — if they could think that far ahead, they wouldn’t be left-wingers, now would they?

  129. “Name one area in Bush’s 8 years where socialcons gained any ground.”

    You don’t play poker, do you?

  130. Interrupting the crickets. (Click the link).

  131. Is it similarly fair to ask how little taxation is too little (or how brutal would the country have to be before you said, “OK, it would be worth raising taxes to try to end this throughout the country”)? I propose several of those questions here. Is it helpful to ask about theoretical extremes when no one is proposing them?

    For the record, no on federal ice cream cones and most modern Democrat nonsense, but yes on SS/Medicaid.

  132. Glad to see the left-wing’s use of semantic obfuscation is in full swing.

    Anything to avoid answering the questions, I suppose.

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