Sunday, September 26, 2010

Those Who Are Willing to Pay Higher Taxes Now Could've Rejected the Bush Tax Cuts in 2001



Linda McGibney responds this week on CBS Sunday Morning to Ben Stein's commentary last week "Raising My Taxes Is a Punishment" :

"I am an American. I am in the highest tax bracket. I also work in entertainment - which is what Mr. Stein does as well. I am fine with the tax increase. I think it patriotic that I am taxed in this way. I want to help my country.

I believe the fact that I can have a job this year, and hopefully every year to come, is a privilege. Mr. Stein, there are Americans who qualify for this tax increase under the proposed plan who don't feel "punished" by it. We feel it is our duty in hard times to help the rest of America.

I am a "have." I am willing to pay this tax increase. I'm not going to whine about it. I won't feel punished. I will understand it's the cost of doing business."

It should be noted that the current "Bush tax rates" are NOT the MAXIMUM tax rates on income, they are actually the MINIMUM tax rates. Anybody, including Linda McGibney, who wants to pay more in taxes can do that right now, and they could have been doing that all along. Ms. McGibney and others could have personally rejected the "Bush tax cuts" and continued to pay at the 2000 Clinton tax rates above in each year starting in 2001 instead of paying at the lower rates.  

In case there's any problem with the IRS accepting the additional tax payments for the higher tax rates, here is the link to the Department of the Treasury website "Gifts to the United States Government" for "citizens who wish to make a general donation to the U.S. government."  According to Treasury, "This account was established in 1843 to accept gifts from individuals wishing to express their patriotism to the United States."

Ms. McGibney and her supporters can express their patriotism immediately by making a gift to the U.S. government - there's no need to wait to see if the Bush tax cuts expire.

36 Comments:

At 9/26/2010 9:38 PM, Blogger pakurilecz said...

so if she is so in favor of the tax increase I wonder if took full advantage of every tax break available to her during the past 10 years or did she ignore them and pay more in taxes than she should have. I would listen to folks like this if they were to open up their check books and voluntarily pay more in taxes.

 
At 9/26/2010 9:59 PM, Blogger Cabodog said...

Hey Linda, feel free to write the government an extra check with your millions.

This option is always available for those of us who feel the patriotic need to help Uncle Sam spend even more money...

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127412092

 
At 9/26/2010 10:15 PM, Blogger Benjamin said...

Actually, most people in higher tax brackets are able to shield at least portions of their income.

Effective tax rates are mower than this.

That said, I think we should trim back federal spending to 18 percent of GDP, by wiping out the Agriculture Department, cutting military outlays by 60 percent, eliminate the Department of Education and HUD. The VA needs to be wiped out and recipients folded into Medicare. Retirement age for all federal employees, including military employees, raised to 67.

Military outlays have more than doubled since 2000 in real terms, the the Pentagon was a swollen, ossified hunk of lard then. Even divine entities blanch at what goes on now.

 
At 9/26/2010 10:37 PM, Blogger T J Sawyer said...

I believe that she said:

"From each, according to their means. To each, according to their needs."

And who would argue with that?

 
At 9/26/2010 10:42 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

What is it with these entertainers? Why is it so many think that just because they have a highly developed talent in one narrow area, and are highly paid for that talent, that they are qualified to speak as experts in some other area they obviously know nothing about?

 
At 9/27/2010 12:43 AM, Blogger Bill said...

Who the heck is Linda McGibney?

Also, I thought people in Hollywood were supposed to be attractive.

 
At 9/27/2010 5:16 AM, Blogger juandos said...

Apparently liberals are incapable of feeling a sense of shame regardless of how totally inane their rantings are...

Again Warren Buffett blathers on: Buffett to taxpayers: Get over your anger

I wonder if either Buffett or McGibney have sent some of the 'extra and apparently unneeded' personal wealth to Treasury Direct?

 
At 9/27/2010 9:05 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

what really pisses me off is the line about "i feel privileged to have a job" like somehow that largess flows from the government.

what a disturbing repudiation of the notion if individual rights that is.

the government exists to serve the people. rights and powers devolve to we the people, not they the rulers. having a job is not a privilege that we somehow need to pay for.

 
At 9/27/2010 9:20 AM, Blogger Sean said...

I'm not going to defend the liberal mindset as correct here, but shouldn't it be correctly interpreted?

The notion that you can willingly donate money to the government does not negate the argument for taxes any more than the fact that one can donate to a community theater negates the argument for a ticket price.
I know the implicit point here is that those making the argument for higher taxes are really trying to donate other people's money, but I don't see anything wrong with a member of a club saying "I'd pay higher dues if everyone else would too".
I will agree that it's telling that many of those making these statements, rather than giving to government, give to charity and then take tax deductions for that.

 
At 9/27/2010 10:02 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"The notion that you can willingly donate money to the government does not negate the argument for taxes any more than the fact that one can donate to a community theater negates the argument for a ticket price"...

Ahhh sean, there's a huge difference...

The fact is that one can elect to donate or go to the community theater...

If one likes what the community theater then one voluntarily gives a piece of their personal wealth towards community theater...

Taxes on the other hand are tantamount to an extortion scheme where one has to pay for services whether one wants them or not...

Otherwise one can face civil and or criminal charges brought on by an entity that can use the wealth of a nation, state, county, or city to finance a vendetta against the individual that the state claims hasn't paid their supposed fair share...

I ask you, how many of these federal programs would you voluntarily pay for?

 
At 9/27/2010 10:41 AM, Blogger Jason said...

This is a woman who believes she works for the government, and whatever compensation she receives, however meager, is because of the gratious benevolence of our overlords in Washington and the prefectory in whatever locality she has the pleasure of residing in.

I'll say it again: The government(s), and enablers like this clown, believe WE work for THEM.

 
At 9/27/2010 11:19 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Sean, the other part of your comment about paying higher dues to a club is also faulty.

When you chose to pay dues to a club, you are deciding that that is the best possible use for that money. Can you say that about taxes? Do you feel that when money is ripped out of your pocket, those in government know better than you do how to spend your money?

 
At 9/27/2010 11:54 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

there is one flaw in this "pay more if you feel like it" argument.

i'm not advocating higher taxes nor anything like the government spending that we already have, but if you look at the whole picture it looks like a tragedy of the commons.

saying "so pay more if you want" is like saying "so don't graze your sheep on the commons or go plant some grass there".

many efforts only work if everyone participates. to be the one guy who pulls your sheep off the green to save the grass is not going to be effective.

that said, i am sick to death of the 47% of Americans who pay no net federal income tax constantly barracking for those who do pay to pay more and squealing with dismay when they don't get "their share" of tax cuts. you have to pay taxes to get a tax cut...

a democracy in which half can vote for the other half to pay for them starts to look an awful lot like a tyranny.

if you were forced to buy groceries that cost a % of you income, you'd find it terribly unjust.

why is it reasonable to price government that way?

 
At 9/27/2010 12:12 PM, Blogger Sean said...

juandos,

I agree with the point that government is a "non-voluntary service". This is the primary libertarian argument I accept: that the role of government should be as small as we can practically make it, because the funding of government is non-voluntary. The only alternatives to accepting its authority are to defy it or leave.

 
At 9/27/2010 12:18 PM, Blogger Sean said...

morganovich,

I sympathize with that perspective. I also hold that law is essentially a contractual agreement. The reason we must accept some effective transfer of wealth is that if a poor person sees no path to a successful life within the law, they will rightfully reject both law and mainstream society. Taking aside any moral considerations, The cost of dealing with rogue elements in society through force is generally higher than the cost of making some accommodation with them.

 
At 9/27/2010 12:49 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

sean-

i hear your point about rouge elements, but i'm not sure it stands up in terms of cost.

if your poverty strategy is essentially buying them off forever, that's a VERY high cost.

it also encourages living off the system. (get a job and you lose your welfare and benefits and may be worse off)

i agree that i have no interest in living behind walls like a south african, but the way in which you structure programs matters a great deal.

our current system gets us more people on assistance with more kids that we would otherwise have.

poverty wasn't any higher back when there was no safety net.

providing opportunity and perpetual assistance are not the same thing.

 
At 9/27/2010 12:50 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

oh, also-

don;t you find the notion that you have to buy off the poor to be able to live in peace somewhat morally repugnant?

how is that any different from extortion?

(give me free meals at your restaurant and i won't break your windows at night)

 
At 9/27/2010 1:00 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"if you were forced to buy groceries that cost a % of you income, you'd find it terribly unjust."

Especially if the percentage you were forced to pay increased progressively as your income increased.

 
At 9/27/2010 4:17 PM, Blogger Sean said...

morganovich,

"i agree that i have no interest in living behind walls like a south african, but the way in which you structure programs matters a great deal."
I agree: they matter immensely. Free education is a massive subsidy for the poor, and an effective one. And was it Milton Friedman that argued for the earned income tax credit? (If you're going to have welfare, at least make work pay). There are exceptions, but my understanding is that we at least make an effort to structure assistance programs to minimize moral hazard.

"don;t you find the notion that you have to buy off the poor to be able to live in peace somewhat morally repugnant?"

I find the idea of subsidizing education and other programs that allow anyone with the will and natural capability to fully contribute to society rather than work through a dead-end job for a generation very moral. I feel much the same about supporting those who contribute to the greatest extent they can, but who would otherwise have to pool with several others to afford an apartment. I would (and do) offer some of my own money towards those goals. I'm a little more conflicted about forcing everyone in the nation to do the same, but I don't lose too much sleep over it.

But more to your question:
If we truly lived in a society where large numbers of those on the bottom rung were truly trapped there, I would see nothing wrong with those folks demanding access to opportunity, and if they were refused, forming gangs, etc. is a response I could not fault them for. And if the problem is that people think wrongly that they have no opportunity, I have no problem with them demanding examples that prove otherwise, that show they have a way out. There is little more important in a human life than perspective: that's why I spend so much time trying to see all sides of every issue I practically can.

 
At 9/27/2010 4:29 PM, Blogger Sean said...

morganovich,

For the rest of the question: I do find it morally repugnant that someone capable of supporting themselves with food, clothing, and shelter in a secure fashion would demand that someone do it for them. And we have to be firm against such requests. However, I don't think most of those who give up on society really think in those terms. They just see people walking around with stuff and think: why can you have everything when I feel I have nothing. If asked coherently, I think that question deserves an answer, even if it's not the answer they're asking for.

 
At 9/27/2010 4:36 PM, Blogger Sean said...

morganovich,
I had a post that seems to have gotten deleted. Perhaps it was too long?

Basically I say the education subsidies, etc are great and well-structured answers to provide opportunity while minimizing moral hazard. Just handing out money to anyone who asks isn't. I think most of what goes on from government is the former, and I give to charity personally to support that kind of thing. I'm more conflicted about everyone being required to support it, but I don't lose sleep over it.

 
At 9/27/2010 5:05 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

sean-

i still don't buy this.

"why can you have everything when I feel I have nothing. If asked coherently, I think that question deserves an answer, even if it's not the answer they're asking for"

there are lots of answers to this that don't involve extortion.

equal opportunity is not equal outcome.

what is it about this that you think needs answering?

why do the entitled feelings of those who have given up on society demand a response? i don't mean to sound callous, but why should i work so that others don't have to?

i have no issue with helping those who have hit a rough patch, but i take great issue with paying for lifestyle welfare recipients no matter what they feel about being entitled to my stuff.

 
At 9/27/2010 5:21 PM, Blogger Jason said...

a democracy in which half can vote for the other half to pay for them starts to look an awful lot like a tyranny.

Morganovich, I could not agree with you more. This is the sole reason I've embraced the idea of a consumption tax.

The idea never set well with me until I realized that the tyranny of the majority (anchor class) will overwhelm the producers and tax them out of the economy. The last thing we csn have are wealthy tax refugees, renouncing their citizenship and leaving for Singapore or Switzerland. This serves no one any good.

Everyone has to pay something, otherwise our society will collapse.

 
At 9/27/2010 7:34 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"The only alternatives to accepting its authority are to defy it or leave"...

Hmmm, well isn't there another sean, the power of the vote?

Personally I don't think Thomas Jefferson was kidding when he said: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants"...

 
At 9/27/2010 7:39 PM, Blogger Jason said...

Juandos, I am afaid we may be approaching one of those Jeffersonian moments. I wonder if the Tea Party movement is the last gasp of the sane, an attempt to steer the American ship off the rocks. Unfortunately, we could be heading into a period, not unlike the time before the Civil War, when, like today, the system was so unsustainable, collapse was inevitable. Yet those in power COULD NOT take the steps willingly to make the changes that had to be made. Change was brought to them.

We may very well look back at this time and wonder "was this the tipping point?"

 
At 9/27/2010 7:55 PM, Blogger Sean said...

morganovich,

"why do the entitled feelings of those who have given up on society demand a response? i don't mean to sound callous, but why should i work so that others don't have to?"
I mean we'll be sorry if we try to enforce property rights but don't at least take the time to explain why they don't do folks with less property any good. The answer doesn't have to be a handout: it should be an explanation of the opportunities available (and there had better be some).

I don't think the government should support those unwilling to work, but it is practical to provide temporary assistance to help integrate them.

There was a homeless kid (older than 18, but he seemed like a kid) that offered to mow my lawn a few years back. I was going to sell my house soon, so I gave him every job I could think of, much more than I would have some random handyman. And he did them well. He was a good kid who didn't want any charity and had an independent streak a mile wide. But he crashed in random places rather than keep his job at the Jiffy Lube because he though he was mistreated there. If there was a program to help someone like that to get his head straight and get regular showers, I'd gladly pitch in for it.

 
At 9/27/2010 8:00 PM, Blogger Sean said...

juandos,

"Hmmm, well isn't there another sean, the power of the vote?"
Not really an option *to* government, more of any option *for* government.
After all, a vote can help influence government, but you're not exactly going to vote it into dissolution.

"Personally I don't think Thomas Jefferson was kidding when he said: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants"..."
True. That's one of the lessons I find reinforced in Afghanistan and Iraq, actually. No party, however motivated, can establish order solely through external efforts. But there's nothing our government is doing that I feel the need to kill or die to stop, thankfully. A vote and a voice are sufficient for me right now.

 
At 9/27/2010 8:48 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

sean-

helping those who need a hand is something i believe in as well and, i think, a completely different matter.

it's idea like this to which i am taking exception:

"I mean we'll be sorry if we try to enforce property rights but don't at least take the time to explain why they don't do folks with less property any good. The answer doesn't have to be a handout: it should be an explanation of the opportunities available (and there had better be some)."

rights are rights. you have them whether or not you use them. they are, by definition, universal. we all have the same property rights, independent of whether or not we own property (and pretty much everyone does, even if it's just the clothes on their back) just as we have the same rights to free speech regardless of whether or not we have anything to say and the same rights to not incriminate ourselves whether or not we get arrested.

i disagree with your notion that rights you are not using don't do you any good. you'll probably never use your fifth amendment rights, but they are of value to you anyway.

it gets really scary when you begin adding in concepts like "and there had better be some" (opportunities). that sounds like a thinly veiled threat and like we are steering back toward extortion.

you have much and i have little therefore i will threaten you until you give me some or take it by force is not a sound ethical basis for anything.

what exactly do you mean by "and there better be some"? or what?
and whose obligation do you propose it is to make sure there are "some" and on what ethical basis?

 
At 9/28/2010 1:06 AM, Blogger Sean said...

morganovich,

"rights are rights. you have them whether or not you use them. they are, by definition, universal. "
I don't think that's fully true. My view of ethics and morality is contractual. Honor and honesty are required, but beyond that, I think rights are whatever we agree on them to be. If you say you own something, and I agree, then you own it. If a third person shows up, he may dispute that unless you have a codified system and witness like government to resolve those tensions.
But generally, if there are rights that exist that benefit someone else more than you, you may not be a very good contract.

"you have much and i have little therefore i will threaten you until you give me some or take it by force is not a sound ethical basis for anything."
Assume you have a lot of land and property and I have a lot of people, and I say I need more land. That may be morally repugnant, but that kind of resource tension is the basis for most wars and revolutions.
Imagine you're dropped on an island where all the land is owned and nobody likes outsiders and wants to hire them for anything. What do you owe anyone on that island?
But if they accept you into their society and are willing to trade for your labor, the situation is much much different. It would be terrible of you to abuse that hospitality.

In the same way, if we at least seek opportunity for all, we should expect moral behavior from each other. If not, not. At least that's the way I see it.

 
At 9/28/2010 9:12 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

sean-

that strikes me as a very dangerous philosophy. am i to be angry with criminals that they use their miranda rights and i do not? can i deny them such rights (or could a police officer or a court) if i (or they" as you put it "dispute that"?

i'm not arguing that rights are somehow divine or discoverable like a law of physics, but rather that they derive from our constitution and set of laws.

failing to recognize the property rights of others unless they give you more property is extortion.

laws/rights apply to all. circumstances vary, but not rights.

your notions of "give me land or i'll war on you is thuggery.

your argument about "What do you owe anyone on that island?" cuts both ways. so what do they owe you? nothing. if you chose to live outside their laws, they can incarcerate, deport, or even kill you. if you do not accept the rights of others, they need not accept yours.

you are advocating some form of the war of all against all.

if my ownership of anything is predicated upon convincing each person i run into that it's mine, i am effectively at war.

i don't see any actual ethical basis in what you are proposing.

perhaps in a system like apartheid in which the majority are being deprived of rights such arguments could be made, but not here.

the very underpinnings of what you propose are inconsistent and self refuting. if someone with no land demands it of me, they will expect me to honor their ownership once they get it, but were not willing to honor mine before. that's as inconsistent as it is thuggish.

mostly, what you are saying sounds like the homeless guys in SF who demand a dollar to "watch" your car while you're gone. don't pay, and it gets keyed.

they would rage if someone tried to steal their dollar or extort it from them by threatening violence, but feel no compunction doing it to someone else.

you have to pick a side of the street and live in it. you cannot ask for protection of your rights while failing to respect those of others.

 
At 9/28/2010 11:25 AM, Blogger Sean said...

morganovich,

you are advocating some form of the war of all against all.
I am not advocating it: I'm describing life outside the social contract! How can you understand the value of the social contract if you don't understand what it comes from or what it entails?
It's true that you can't really buy into the social contract piecemeal, renegotiating pieces of it at will. You can't say murder or theft is ok today unless you give a reason not to do it, because that violates the social contract (again, I'm trying to focus down on social morality and leave aside personal morality for the moment).


What I'm advocating is that we recognize that a legitimate and sustainable social contract makes a concerted effort to integrate outsiders. If it does not, then we will end up with outsiders in our realm that do not accept the social contract, and that's very bad.
Everything else is a thought experiment to suggest that if a society finds itself in that position, it is generally to blame, not the outsiders.

 
At 9/28/2010 2:02 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

sean-

i see your point, we may just be disagreeing about the BATNA.

absolutely, a social contract ought to be as inclusive as practicable, but i would argue that that needs to be in terms of opportunity, not outcome.

in terms of BATNA (used in the fischer and ury sense) i see people who are just unwilling to accept the rights of others under our social contract as having opened themselves up to the retribution of the society, not as deserving of more of its largess. you seem more willing to placate them that i am.

i i felt our society to be broadly unjust, i would feel differently about supporting it, but i am actually deeply devoted to our constitutional principles and this that the US bill of rights was a monumental milestone in human development.

the notion of individuals with inalienable rights deriving from their humanity, not the fiat of government is an amazing thing.

i do not accept that is a society finds a group pushing outside the law then it is the society's fault. sometimes there are groups that simply do not want to play nice with the others or want something for nothing. such things are their own failings.

 
At 9/28/2010 2:12 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

i guess what i'm really saying is that any society has to make a decision about how inclusive to be and that it is always a matter of degree.

justice also requires that some things not be negotiable.

depriving blond people of rights because there are fewer of them and we'd like their stuff may wind up being "inclusive" but it is not just.

this is what i meant (and i realize i did not flesh it out) by BATNA. there is a point past which you cannot negotiate and still be just.

this is the nature of rights. if they are negotiable, then they aren't rights anymore, just majority view.

justice must serve the popular and unpopular alike.

 
At 9/29/2010 8:08 AM, Blogger Sean said...

morganovich,

guess what i'm really saying is that any society has to make a decision about how inclusive to be and that it is always a matter of degree.
Well, that must be the case, of course.

depriving blond people of rights because there are fewer of them and we'd like their stuff may wind up being "inclusive" but it is not just.
I don't see how it's "inclusive" either.

the notion of individuals with inalienable rights deriving from their humanity, not the fiat of government is an amazing thing.
Yes, it's a comfortable idea. And it's true in human history that workable societies develop such rights, but it's also true that the basic idea of inclusiveness is developed in them also.

People do crave justice, but when they feel it is denied them, they feel justified in nearly anything. So hold to the idea of justice for all: just realize that people's natural meter stick for justice is in outcomes. Convincing someone they have great opportunities, they just don't deserve anything like what they see you have: that's a hard sell. That's why proper societies value both justice and mercy: because that's what's required for societal cohesion.

I'm not saying you have to give outsiders whatever they want: of course there's a line. But it's well worth making some effort for them.

 
At 9/29/2010 2:30 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

sean-

i think you are mistaking people's feelings of envy for some sort of ethical basis.

if you work very hard and i don't, we get different outcomes and that is just.

justice is equal opportunity.

equal outcomes is not justice as it allows the lazy to benefit from the diligent.

what you describe as mercy sound to me more like extortion and theft.

perhaps i'm reading too much into what you are arguing, but it sounds to me like you are proposing buying off those who are less successful in order to get them to play by the rules.

that seems a very questionable basis for ethics. i can see how it's attractive from a pure pragmatism standpoint, but how do you construct an ethical system that permits such "pay me to play" behavior and is not essentially based upon threats and extortion?

rights are by their nature inclusive. they apply to all. if i have to pay to have them recognized, they are not rights.

 
At 9/30/2010 9:29 AM, Blogger Sean said...

morganovich,

i think you are mistaking people's feelings of envy for some sort of ethical basis.
No, I believe that the social contract is consensual. The social contract has immense and obvious benefits. For someone to reject it, he or she must perceive immense injustice. Either that perception is correct and the injustice must be fixed or else it is incorrect and it is overwhelmingly in our interest to correct the perception.

I'm not talking about "He has two TVs and I don't have any". I'm talking about situations like in the "Grapes of Wrath". Pick it up somewhere, read the 1st few pages of chapter 5: that illustrates the type of mindset that must be addressed. Whether a similar analog exists today, I don't know, but the attitude described there reminds me greatly of the origins of the Tea Party in some ways. It depicts rage at an injustice that is felt but not understood.

 

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