The truth about Taxes....

Sam Hart

2010-04-16 00:50:52

I really should be writing about my game which I released second footage of today, but I'm not going to.

I'm not going to write about my game because I am mad as hell. I'm absolutely livid. I sit here, and all I see being tweeted, blogged, broadcast and shat out around me is a torrent of idiotic anti-tax bullshit. All of it incorrect and uninformed. It's not the torrent of anti-tax bullshit that's pissing me off, either, it's the fact that so many people blindly allow themselves to continue to be so rabidly ignorant about the facts.

So, in my own feeble way, I am going to write something on this. I am going to vainly try to insert some modicum of sanity and reason into this white-knuckled scream-fest of right-wing idiocy, libertarian fantasy, and plain-old-fashioned fact manipulation by the wealthy.

Read on for more...

Point One: Taxes- Easy to hate

First, let's establish a baseline: Taxes are a very easy thing to hate.

I mean, really, no one likes paying them. No one likes taking a percentage of what they earn and handing it over to a government agency. The act becomes even less palatable when they see their hard earned dollars go towards things they don't agree with. Personally, I'm very much anti-war and I've really disliked watching my tax dollars go towards the death and destruction that the nearly constant wars since I started paying taxes in my first job as a teenager have caused. I'm uneasy at the thought that my money has contributed to the death of 100,000 civilians in Iraq since 2003. For others, I'm sure there's plenty of things they don't like seeing their tax dollars spent on.

So, at the end of the day, taxes are an extremely easy thing to dislike. This is an important fact; remember it.

Point Two: The gap between the very wealthy and the rest of us is very wide- and getting wider all the time

Next, let's establish a verifiable fact: There is a monumentally huge divide in the United States between a very small percentage of citizens who control the bulk of the wealth, and the rest of us.

In 2007, 50% of the people in the United States of America control only 2.5% of the wealth. Let me restate that, because it's important, half of the people in the US account for only 2.5% of the wealth.

Furthermore, the top 1% of the people in the US control 33.8% of the wealth. Let me restate that, because it is also important, in a nation of 307 million people, 3 million people control 33.8% of the wealth.

Statistically speaking, this means that if you are reading this page in the year 2010 and are a US citizen, you most likely are part of the majority of American's with 2.5% of the wealth. Unless you are doing very well for yourself, you are part of the rest of us "middle-class slobs" who constitute half of the country but account for only 2.5% of the money.

This is a divide of Valles Marineris proportions. And this divide is getting wider all the time.

In 1973, the year I was born, the top 1% of the people in the US only controlled approximately 9% of the wealth. In my lifetime so far, we have seen their control jump from 9% to 33.8%.

Further, since 1990 the top CEO's in the US have seen their pay increase by 298.2% while the Federal minimum wage has decreased by 9.3%.

Average hourly earnings for employees also haven't increased in 50 years. This means that, if you are in your 30s you are making roughly the same hourly wage that your grandfather or father was making 50 years ago, in spite of inflation and cost of living increases during the same period.

During this same period of time, we have seen the average personal savings of a US citizen decrease to 1.4% from 10.9%.

What's worse is that the probability of upward mobility to upper middle class has drastically decreased since 1940. Meaning that the chances of you, dear reader, moving from where you are now into the realm of ever so slightly more wealthy are slim to none.

And to add insult to injury, unless you are in that top 1% of people controlling the lion share of the wealth, you are getting fucked. Since 1979, that top 1% have seen their incomes balloon by 90%, while the rest of us have seen our incomes shrink.

Point Three: The rich are very good at avoiding taxes!

Our final point of interest is that wealth and money in this country tend to give you a free ride in the tax system.

In 2009, Exxon Mobile earned a record $42.5 billion USD, but wound up paying nothing (or next to nothing) in taxes. Between 1998 and 2005 two out of every three US corporations paid no federal income tax.

Cold, hard reality One: We actually need taxes

Center for America Progress has a really handy interactive graph explaining the current federal government's budget. I'd recommend everyone take a good, hard, look at it. Dive into it, see everything in it.

$152 billion for US military personnel. I said before I'm not a big fan of the military, but that $152 billion provides jobs for a huge number of people. I may not agree with the majority of the uses of our military might, but I wouldn't dream of denying these people their income and their jobs.

$12.2 billion for the US educational system. Personally, I feel that number is way too low. I'm sure others think it's too high (those people are idiots). The fact is, we have an educational infrastructure in this country that isn't free. We have teachers, facilities, and staff who have trained and studied to do what they do. Axing that part of the budget is unpalatable to even the most cynical of the libertarian-types.

$718 billion for Social Security, $456 billion for Medicare, and $293 billion Medicaid. Sure it's easy to discount these institutions when you're under 50, but ask a retiree living on a fixed income sometime if they'd willingly give up their Social Security or Medicare so that you can pay less taxes. And wait until you are in their shoes, chances are you will want these institutions alive and well.

Look through the budget. Really, honestly, look through the budget. While you can argue out this program or that institution, you simply wont be able to carve it down into something that doesn't require taxation.

What of the Health Care overhaul elephant in the room? Well, many others have argued reasoned, logical, and fact-based arguments for why it needed to happen and how it will help us, so I wont belabor it with any further discussion other than to state that under the provisions of the health care bill recently passed into law, my father would have had gotten the surgery he needed in 2007, but did not actually receive until fall 2009. Had the healthcare bill been in place in 2007, my father wouldn't have suffered for two years with a failing pacemaker, and chances are good he would still be alive today.

Cold, hard reality Two: Your taxes today are at a record low

Taxes for a median-income family of four are actually the lowest that they have been in decades.

This is perhaps my biggest irritant at the majority of people who were out protesting taxes today. Chances are, those people are part of that 50% of US citizens that only have 2.5% of the wealth and who are paying the lowest taxes of anyone in their tax-bracket since 1955.

You idiots are paying record-low taxes... and yet you'd think you are being asked to bear the brunt of the US federal budget on your shoulders. The disconnect between the perceived reality of your average tea-bagger or libertarian and the actual reality is staggering.

Cold, hard reality Three: The "Tea-party" is being funded by disingenuous wealthy persons

While there is no real central "tea-party", and they are more or less an amalgam of many different smaller "tea-parties", if you trace the money behind these movements, you find some pretty startling things.

First, you find that most tea-party organizations can be tracked back to an organization known as FreedomWorks. FreedomWorks funds and organizes many tea-party events, and were behind the vast majority of anti-tax protests that occurred today, at least, the ones significant enough to be mentioned on the news.

But who funds FreedomWorks? Well, a lot of right-wing and conservative forces for one. One pretty significant donor to FreedomWorks is a company I mentioned above, Exxon Mobile.

You remember? Just a few paragraphs back I pointed out that they paid practically nothing in federal income taxes in 2009?

So, looking at the wealth and money funding these guys, who do you think they are really trying to protect?

Are they trying to protect honest, hard-working, Joe Sixpack with his $75k/year job whose taxes are at an historic low since 1995? Or are they trying to protect John Q. Bajillionaire and his CEO cronies who have seen their incomes raise 90% since 1979 (while Joe Sixpack's has dropped) and whose companies pay no federal income tax?

The. Mother. Fucking. Truth.

The truth is, the vast majority of people going to these tea-party, anti-tax protests are people who have historically low federal taxes. They are people who, when asked about Social Security and Medicare actually like them and don't want them to go away.

But they are being manipulated and whipped up into a fervor by those wealthy, rich, assholes who have held them back for decades. They are being lied to by people who are experts at pushing people's buttons. Worse, they are accepting and believing those lies because they are lies propped up against something that is very easy to hate: Taxes.

You who went to these rallies today, you who protested at anti-tax demonstrations today, you who were manipulated and lied to by the rich, arrogant, assholes who care little for your well-being.... You, I pity.

I pity you not because you had to pay taxes, but because you allowed yourselves to be manipulated by charlatans posing as your friends, and because you didn't have the skepticism to look past the trigger-mantra of "TAXES, BAD!" and see reality for what it is.