Politics Posts by Subject

Mitt Romney paid taxes at a rate of at least 13 percent. And he’s proud to say so.

Can we stand back and pause a short minute to take in the spectacle of a man who wants to be President of The United States, who wants us to seriously regard him as a paragon of the American civic ideal, declaiming proudly and in public that he has paid his taxes at a third of the rate normally associated with gentlemen of his economic benefit.


Am I supposed to congratulate this man?  Thank him for his good citizenship?  Compliment him for being clever enough to arm himself with enough tax lawyers so that he could legally minimize his obligations?

Thirteen percent.  The last time I paid taxes at that rate, I believe I might still have been in college.  If not, it was my first couple years as a newspaper reporter.  Since then, the paychecks have been just fine, thanks, and I don’t see any reason not to pay at the rate appropriate to my earnings, given that I’m writing the check to the same government that provided the economic environment that allowed for such incomes.

I can’t get over the absurdity of this moment, honestly:  Hey, I never paid less than thirteen percent.  I swear.  And no, you can’t examine my tax returns in any more detail.  But I promise you all, my fellow American citizens, I never once slipped to single digits.  I’m just not that kind of guy.


This republic is just about over, isn’t it?



  • Tax is bad and shouldn’t exist. Everybody should take care of themselves. People who aren’t able to take care of them self should rely on family.

    • Anything more on this? Or is that blanket statement on your part a serious one.

      If you are not simply trolling, you might consider moving to Eritrea or certain provinces in northern Pakistan. It’s my understanding that government interference in your endeavors will be at a decided minimum. I am quite sure you can build whatever economic concern you wish in such places free from the constraints of representative government and any awkward social or socioeconomic compact. The lack of personal security or any societal infrastructure whatsoever also come with the territory. But then again, you get the society you pay for and you don’t seem willing to pay for anything at all.

      Again, perhaps you are trolling, in which case, well done, sir. But if you are serious, you should really rethink, for a moment, the fact that there is no difference between your political philosophy, as an grown adult, and whatever half-formed impulses govern the behavior of a four-year-old unwilling to share any toys. Enough of you gathered together is something akin to a libertarian political party. And such a party, empowered, is the end of any nation-state as a first-rate society. We aren’t there yet, but have heart. There are already too many Americans who are too selfish to allow citizenship and patriotism to impede their personal progress. You may one day find whatever paradise you think you are seeking.

      • Bravo good sir. Although Frank could also move to somalia if he really wants to get away from the government. I hear it’s lovely this time of year with the warlords and the pirates.

    • So what if you don’t have family and you are old and disabled? or have cancer and no insurance? What is your answer for that?

  • I am a guy who focuses on ideas rather than prose. But I am witness to the power of the irrational, fate and our feeble attempts to alter same.

    There has always been a conflict throughout US history between the extractive and integrative forces described in “Why Nations Fail”. From the good-ol’-boys of the South to the laboring homesteaders’ attempts to achieve inependence by breaking new ground, we have a traditional dichotomy in our national soul, and these opposing forces have become embodied in our Republican and Democratic parties.

    The good-ol’-boys attempt to set the rules to their advantage (hence Mitt’s 13% tax rate) while the workers, who are the creators of all things of intrinsic value, periodically rise up and take control of the ship of state in order to avoid the reefs.

    In 2008 everyone lost. This is a clear example, not only that our society is in decline, but that it isn’t simply a zero sum game and by changing to a better course, we can all win again. It is up to the workers to rise up again, enabling the creation of another new deal to rescue our ship of state once again.

  • But the most bizarre part of his statement was that had he added his charitable giving, it would be near 20%. There is something even more seriously wrong here. It is early 20th century noblesse oblige. This was revealing. It harks back to the time when those on the ‘outs’ of society had to depend on private charities for whatever safety net they could provide. I think this is a basic, if hidden, viewpoint that drives the anti-tax crowd. Taxes, at least those for anything besides defense and infrastructure, is like giving to charity. But it’s not voluntary and the donor can’t decide where it goes.

  • “No David, the Republic is not almost over. It has survived much worse. Every once in a while, pessimists like you will talk about how our country is going to hell in a handbasket. Just remember, that the garbage bin of history is filled with people who have underestimated the strength of the United States.”

    It’s funny, I have always believed this basic idea. People love a good doomsday scenario, and conspiracy theories help make dull lives more interesting and lively. Yet, why is it that doomsday is always in the eye of the beholder? I know so many people who said, “if Obama wins in 2008, goodbye America.” Yet – what’s this – I’m still here, with a working computer, posting my opinion on the Internet without fear of being arrested. And now I’m hearing from these same people, “well if Obama wins 2016, THEN it’s all over for Americanism and freedom.”

    The point in my mind is about quality of living. America will likely stand for quite some time to come, just as it’d be nearly impossible to kill all human beings. But obviously if nukes drop, living isn’t gonna be quite the same thing. And in the same manner, countries are not static. They do change, and sometimes for the worse. Sometimes in extreme ways. And sure, they can bounce back. Germany is a great example of this… I’ll avoid the Nazi references but just look at the starting and ends points and everything in between 1930-1950. Look at Rwanda, or hell, look at Great Britain pre-9/11 and now. The Aztecs are a great example of how a society can actually just completely end, as well. Ever been to Tenochtitlan? I hear it has wonderful weather around this time of year, and that it’s one of the great technical marvels in all of human history.

    In short, for all of America’s problems, it CAN get worse – significantly worse. Inequality can grow. Freedoms can be restricted. The checks and balances on which this country is founded can be removed (and I believe we’re ultimately founded on the idea of checks and balances, not “freedom” as that’s too nebulous of a word without clarification).

    And if you look at the past 30 years, I’d argue the worst case scenario has already happened in some regards. The middle class has taken a beating. People my age (20s) who are just now entering the working world are working harder and longer for less. Glass Steagall is kaput and I’d argue we paid for it dearly in less than a decade since 1999. The Patriot Act continues to survive and it costs money and puts us on a very slippery slope that could lead to even larger changes down the road. Our deficit is at 15 trillion and growing. I’d say quality of living has gone down for the average American. Is that something to be proud of? No. Is it the end of America as we know it? Of course not, but then again, very few things in life come to sudden dramatic ends. Usually it’s one step at a time, and each step hurts but isn’t vital. And after a few decades you look back and ask, “how did we get here?”

    Nothing lasts forever, regardless of the fact that some people are too eager to believe we’re always at the end. We can’t just say, “thank GOD for the founding fathers that they created this great system.” We should say, “if we didn’t have this system, could we have created it from scratch?” Because it’s that kind of thinking that helps move a society forward rather than backwards. In my opinion a first world country is literally first world because of the strength of its middle class, and the small size of its lower class and its ability to decrease poverty and to not want to accept poverty as status quo. Almost every country in the world – even the worst of the worst – has a rich class or a class in power that’s doing alright for themselves. You pretty much have to go to Somalia levels to find a place where this isn’t really true (as far as I know), and even there – hey, at least there’s no pesky government to hold people back, right?

    I think as long as we culturally value the idea of power over compassion, we’re going to keep heading the wrong direction. Poverty will grow, the middle class will shrink, a sense of community will fade except for vague mentions of religion, and the country will be a worse place to live, to grow up, to make a life for yourself. We also have to stop using money as a way to define a human being’s value. Being rich doesn’t make you a bad person, but it doesn’t make you a good person. It’s irrelevant to ones morality and impact on the world. There are all sorts of ways that a person can be “successful,” and some of them don’t involve being famous or making millions of dollars or climbing the corporate ladder. A man like van Gogh would be completely worthless in the eyes of some Americans, and I think that’s a shame. We don’t all think the same way, and just because we all have goals we want to reach doesn’t mean we all have the same goals.

  • Romney’s IRA features over $100,000,000. Yet, we were told when we opened our IRA’s that the most we could deposit per year was $2,000. That number has been gradually increased over the last few years, though it is more likely to build your own rocket ship and fly to the moon than it is to grow your IRA to more than one hundred million dollars in a lifetime. Of course though, the rules are a bit different for the ultra rich… they can (for instance) buy a company, issue stock and value it at next to nothing (even though that’s not what it is really worth) and then deposit this obscenely misvalued stock into their IRAs in order to have a nice ‘nest egg’ to draw upon come retirement.

    Obviously this is the system Romney used.

    He’s as corrupt as the political system that gives us the phony ‘democrat/republican’ 3 card monte game. I’m sure as hell not voting for Romney, but I’ll have a very difficult time voting for the other ass who still thinks nothing of locking away Americans and Foreigners (humans!) in far away prisons until they are forgotten by all but their fathers and mothers and children; the ass who takes joy from selecting targets for the US’s drone war campaign on humans; the ass who is fundamentally a clone in many respects of the evil bastard Georgie Junior.

    As usual, the establishment gives us Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee candidates and tells us to choose the best of the worst to ‘lead’ us for another 4 years.

    Thanks anyway.

    I want this decades vesion of JFK.

    I just don’t think he or she exists in American politics today.

  • No David, the Republic is not almost over. It has survived much worse. Every once in a while, pessimists like you will talk about how our country is going to hell in a handbasket. Just remember, that the garbage bin of history is filled with people who have underestimated the strength of the United States.

    Please stop being a partisan hack and stick with what you are good at.

    BTW, I recently watched an old interview you did at USC from 2008, I believe. It was amusing to see you insinuate that bloggers were incompetent and spent all their time in their basements while incapable of replacing “real” journalists. I said then that you would have a blog within 5 years and would be proven wrong.

    How does that humble pie taste?

    • Remarkable.

      Some read words and sentences and paragraphs and glean all the complexity and nuance. Others read the same words and sentences and paragraphs and parse only the components they require in order to win a righteous argument with themselves.

      Blogging is indeed incapable of real journalism. Journalism is a paid profession, undertaken as a career by those committed to the daily process. I have never wavered from that position and I do not waver now, and the fact that I have a blog has exactly nothing to do with that opinion.

      From an April 2009 interview with Bill Moyers: “The Internet, while it’s great for commentary and froth, doesn’t do very much first-generation reporting at all. The economic model can’t sustain that kind of reporting.” I’ve been saying exactly that for the last six years in various venues.

      Get it, brother? This blog is commentary and froth. You are engaged, in this exchange, in commentary and froth. Mostly froth, in your immediate case, I’m sorry to say. It is not first-generation reporting at all. Whatever reported material you find on this site is actually reprinted from professional news organizations that paid me — as a professional — to do the work. Or in a few rare cases, it involves essays written from some interior knowledge of certain dynamics that are residual from the years of professional beat reporting in my past. And those pieces do not constitute the rigorous reporting necessary to stand as first-generation reporting. That you can’t see the distinction is embarrassing.

      You will not find any quote from me ever that denies the relevance of the internet with regard to commentary, or that doesn’t acknowledge the great democratization that the internet has created with regard to opinion and commentary. But reporting is something very, very different. And you will not see me eating humble pie over my statement that until we pay professional journalists to acquire and synthesize news on the internet, the web will not generate a first-rate news report, now or ever.

      As to your first point, let me ask you a question: When you hear someone say, “It’s the end of the world as we know it,” do you begin contending with that person’s premise and arguments by debating the probabilities of the actual obliteration of the planet, or do you understand the role of comic hyperbole in civic discourse? Obviously, the republic will not rise or fall solely on Mitt Romney’s tax returns. An actual end of all republican thought and value in these United States and its replacement by oligarchical institutionalism would require much, much more. For example, it might require a couple generations in which capital is able, under corrupted Supreme Court rulings, to purchase wholesale the levers of government and kill the possibility of populist, utilitarian representation. Or a couple more generations in which profit is mistaken as social policy to the point where labor is completely marginalized, or in which the growing numbers of poor are monetized by a for-profit prison-industrial complex that continues to jail more human beings — both per capita and by raw numbers — than any other society on the face of the globe, or…

      To get there, we have work to do, I know. Lots more work. From your simplistic reading of the material on this site, I am confident that you have the skill set to soldier on in this fight, however. Certainly, the trend is those who are content with the status quo and accepting of the growing and entirely empirical inequities, and not with those of us who are worried about such things.

      In fashioning any further response to what you read here, I would encourage more ambition on your part. One of my favorite dictums belongs to Fitzgerald, something about a first-rate mind having the ability to hold two seemingly contradictory ideas at the same time and make sense of them. Let’s start small: The internet is a marvelous democratization of commentary and blogging is one fundamental of that process. And, blogging and so-called citizen journalism has shown almost no capacity for consistent first-generation reportage on public issues and institutional society. Could both things be true and consistent? Or, could American tax policy be regressive and unfair and an affront to republican principles and worth a civic and civil discussion, and is the American republic still viable, yet threatened by such growing inequities?

      Again, if you’re coming to this site to engage, come with some greater ambition than you have thus far brought.

      • I want to thank the guy that invoked such a thoughtful response from my favorite show righter of all time. Really, thank you.

        You dont do more with less people, you do less with less.
        As far as Mitt Romney goes he was the Gov of My home state as I was just getting into the work force. How did he win Gov of Massachusetts by the way? The commonwealth is probably one of the most liberal states in the country.

      • Oh Davey,

        Where to begin?! Well, as to the internet not sustaining first-generation reporting…you couldn’t be more wrong. When I want to know the gritty details of what is happening in Latin America, Central Africa, or the Middle East, I will NOT turn to the Baltimore Sun…or even solely the New York Times. I will turn to people who have covered a specific region their entire lives, have lived there, and have learned the languages and have gotten to know the people. These people can do a deep dive into a topic on the internet far better than they can in a newspaper. Michael Totten is just one of many who run circles around mouth breathers like you.

        I challenge you to look at some of these people like Totten and say that they are not “professionals.” Just because they are not interested in reporting on your corrupt friends in City Hall doesn’t mean they are not “first-rate.”

        Nice try backtracking on your ad hominem attack on Romney. It won’t fool people with more than two brain cells however. Keep believing in that hope and change.

        And no, I’m not content with the status quo. I didn’t vote for the “hope and change” you slavishly follow.

        Just answer me this, in all your years of constantly attacking the “status quo,” of lambasting the police and government…have you made any difference whatsoever???

        • First of all Christian, it’s worth pointing out that you’re fortunate to have been able to post such a simplistically dismissive argument on a blog such as this one. Many other writers who have their own blogs do not have the tolerance for the kind of borderline ad hominem you’ve demonstrated here. Though Mr. Simon could have easily defended himself if he had so chosen to, my guess is your choice of words spoke for itself. There are a few things I can’t help but point out however…

          David Simon never claimed that the internet was not capable of anything “first-rate.” You may have mixed it up with his previous usage of the term “first-generation” but I don’t thing they necessarily mean the same thing. Even if the internet provides more advantages than a newspaper would for writers such as Michael Totten working in different parts of the world and different areas of expertise it hardly means that Mr. Simon is incapable of respecting their work. You both seem to have differing viewpoints as to the standard of journalism, but to call Mr. Simon a “mouth breather” seems rather ironic if you actually take the time to understand the things he worked very hard to research and write about while you yourself don’t support your own arguments with much else besides your differing viewpoints and certain word choices that border on useless name calling.

          I personally did not view Mr. Simon’s commentary on Mitt Romney in his initial reply to your first comment as a “backtracking” of his feelings about the man. He acknowledged that the situation concerning taxes is bigger than Romney, but I do not believe that this alone constitutes his own described feelings about the man as you seemed to imply. Nobody’s trying to fool anyone here. It’s just a matter of personal opinion, and despite his animosity toward Mr. Romney nothing he wrote here truly reduces him to a mere caricature.

          You on the other hand seem pretty quick to do that very thing to Mr. Simon with hardly any real grasp on his own accomplishments in life. You have no proof as to the extent he truly buys into President Obama’s previous campaign of “hope and change,” and if you looked around this blog I think you would see that he has some criticisms to offer of Obama as well as praise.

          Finally, if you truly believe that all Mr. Simon has done over the years was to “lambast” the police and the government it calls into question just how much you truly understand his work over the years. Personally, I found the my own perception of the people who work in such positions was changed and enlightened by Mr. Simon’s works. If he had the insight to acknowledge the humanity (flawed though it may be) of such people than I would argue that yes Mr. Simon has helped to make a difference in our understandings of the ways in which things work. But I guess that’s another argument for another day.

          In the meantime however, why don’t you give Mr. Simon’s works a little more consideration before you further your simplistic arguments against the man? They are neither very clever nor very insightful.

  • David,

    Have you read this article yet?


    Thought this passage (among others) was interesting:

    “Maraniss, the Obama biographer, believes that the President’s attitude toward money is complicated. “There is a misimpression that his family was alienated from the capitalist system,” Maraniss says. “Not so.” He points out that both Obama’s grandmother Madelyn Dunham, a vice-president at the Bank of Hawaii, and his mother, Anne Dunham, an anthropologist who developed a microloan program for Indonesian artisans, worked in the financial realm. But it’s also true that Obama never had any interest in business, and that instead of pursuing more lucrative opportunities he chose to become a poorly paid community organizer in Chicago. While attending Harvard Law School, Obama spent his one summer at a corporate firm debating fellow-associates about the need to “give back” to society.

    Obama met his wife, Michelle, at the firm. Although the two were Ivy League graduates, it’s often forgotten how atypical their economic backgrounds were in those circles. The First Lady emphasized this at a recent campaign event in New Hampshire, explaining that Barack “knows what it means when a family struggles,” for “he is the son of a single mother who struggled to pay the bills and put him and his sister through school.” Michelle herself, as a child, lived in a bungalow on Chicago’s South Side which was so small that her parents slept on the living-room couch. While she was at Princeton, her aunt worked nearby, as a domestic servant. According to Jodi Kantor, the author of “The Obamas,” Michelle and Barack shared an early conviction that the gap between the rich and the poor had less to do with hard work and merit than with “opportunity, power, access and wealth.” Obama continues to see economic success as the result of many factors besides individual effort, and, consequently, he may be less awed by wealth than others…”

    Also, keep up the great work with Treme! I was already a huge fan of The Wire–in part, as someone who is from Washington D.C., and the son of two print journalists. There’s more journalistic integrity and value in the fictional narratives of Treme and The Wire than in 95% of what passes for news today. Blogospheres and 24/7 cable news coverage be damned. Thanks again.

  • […] It seems like a week doesn’t go by without a media frenzy over some politician’s latest foot-in-mouth moment, but rarely are these gaffes or poorly chosen words uttered in such a way as to make the general public notice. For those of us who follow the daily infighting and political jostling, Joe Biden making his remarks about the GOP wanting to keep the people “in chains” is funny, because it’s so predictable that once a month or so, especially in an election cycle, Joe Biden will say something stupid. Mitt Romney said last week that he has paid at least 13% in taxes every year, which as absurd as a comment as that is on its face, it doesn’t really cause me to recoil in anger. Sure, it’s frustrating, and laughable at the same time, but it’s again, par for the Romney campaign’s course. For more on Romney’s tax insanity, I believe David Simon said it best. […]

  • Josh, you keep banging on about the fact that the rich pay a greater proportion of the taxes than do the middle-class and call this a progressive tax system. Don’t you understand that this is simply the outcome of the rich capturing a greater portion of the national income? Middle-class incomes have been flat for decades while the incomes of the rich have grown by – I don’t have the numbers handy – but it’s on the order of doubling in the last 20 years. So the outcome you would expect is that they would also pay a greater share of the taxes.

    It is scandalous that so much of the country earns so little that they can’t even pay taxes on it.

    Your argument that raising tax rates will shift the burden to the middle class completely ignores the relative share of the income between the classes. If in the Eisenhower era tax rates were higher on the rich and they paid less of the total taxes does not at all mean that raising these tax rates now would cause them to pay less now. This is a post hoc fallacy. This had nothing to do with some unintended consequences of higher tax rates on the rich and everything to do with them earning less

  • 13% of what? Is that his federal tax rate or the accumulated taxes (city, state, properties, etc. )? He didn’t say did he, the artful dodger. Fucker probably paid less than 10% in federal rate.

  • Mr. Simon, just some food for thought for you, and anyone still following this wonderful discussion after so many comments.

    “Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan” is an anagram for “my ultimate Ayn Rand porn”.

  • I make mid 5 figures a year, and if I had such luck to only pay 13% of my wages for just ONE YEAR, I’d be wealthy enough to BUY a house, not throw my money to over-inflated rent.

    I wasn’t born into any sort of wealth. I can’t complain, no doubt, as I have a decent job. But it’s EXTREMELY hard to to get into the 13% tax bracket, as this bracket does not include salaried employees, who pay, on average, 30% of their pay checks to the government.

    Is this fair? Not even close. Does fairness matter? is the question, in this 2012 election.

    Romney never had to worry about a salary one day of his life.

    So what exactly is 13% of $250 million dollars???

    Probably enough to hire back every teacher and every POLICE officer who was laid off between 2009 and 2012

  • Interesting discussion.

    On the one hand Dave is correct that the tax rate isn’t just the savings rate. Corporate compensation since the rules changed in the 90’s (largely causing the internet bubble btw) made the stock option route the high payee method of choice vs multi-million dollar salaries. On the other hand, the use of the word Ponzi scheme referring to the rules embedded in the tax code that allows such compensation to occur in place of salary points to my concern about this coming election.

    While the focus of the discussion is on how naughty Mitt Romney is by limiting his tax exposure by following rules the truly rich can use, I’d be much more interested in a discussion about congress actually addressing the real Ponzi schemes that are in our lifetimes going to come crashing down around us..

    40 cents of every federal dollar spent is borrowed. Taxing the rich, while a feel good mantra, doesn’t dent the problem. We have a federal government breaking it’s own laws operating without a budget for years now. We have a tax and debt commission this president urged congress to appoint early in his term that came out with recommendations which this president has ignored. Those recommendations would largely make the current tax system broader and fairer without all these rich people being able to ‘skate’.

    It’s sort of like the Clinton era. I really don’t get into distractions like this post that focus on what an individual candidate does in their personal lives. I’m much more concerned with their policies and how they’ll govern.

    Our eye is not on the ball.

    It is illegal for a candidate to pay you money for your vote. It is, however, legal for a candidate to promise to tax your neighbor and give you your neighbor’s money for your vote.

    This nation has been about vote buying for a couple of generations now. Once the vote buying gets past 50 percent as we are approaching, the rest of the slide to ‘Greecedom’ won’t take very long.

    This 40 cents borrowed for every dollar spent and the largest debt holder being the Federal Reserve debasing our currency and destroying my kids and grandkids future is much more a concern to me then red-herring, irrelevant posts about a candidate legally paying their taxes. I don’t like the current tax system either. That tax system would be something to get riled up about, not a candidate following it’s arcane twisted convolutions to minimize legally their personal tax burden..

    Sorry, Dave. This whole post is just so off what is important or worth paying attention to in my mind.

      • I think you’re wrong. Ive listened to the argument about taxing the rich more not denting the problem for decades. It would make a difference to people who are homeless and starving. I’ve listened to people speak of their fear for their grand children but when those people, Ronald Reagan, get elected they leave behind debt far in excess of what they started with. It isn’t a question of legality or red herrings, it’s a question of morality. Some serious decisions need to be addressed and I’m convinced someone hiding behind the letter of the law isn’t the right man to be in charge.

  • For all who threw Obama in the conversation (pro or contra), I don’t get it. Shouldn’t a presidential candidate be worthy on his own merits?

    Say Obama was God (any god, your personal god) or the evil himself, would it make any difference on the other candidate’s capabilities?

    I understand that for most of you guys come November and it’s either/or (or not fulfilling your patriotic duties or having your vote “lost”), but Obama being better of worse shouldn’t change your view about the candidate at hand and his actions.

    One can even criticize Romney for his tax controversies and still vote for him. (Or vice versa.) Arguing against a critique of one candidate with criticizing the other is childish and usually the farthest from the point of discussion. (Unless you are the [representative of] the first candidate and this not-so-witty comeback is the best you can do)

  • What’s even more astounding to me was his comment “and if you add my charitable contributions, it’s more like 20%.” Huh?? Does he actually think his 7% tithe to the church is considered taxes?? Last I heard, charitable contributions were a WRITE OFF! He’s a complete ignoramus!

    • Something bugs me here. If he’s paying a tax rate of 13%, and with his “charitable contributions” (i.e. tithe to the Mormon church) his liability goes up to 20%, then he’s only tithing at 7%. The required tithe to the Mormon church (for all the working stiffs anyways) is a minimum of 10%, so it would appear Romney is under-tithing the church. If a man is willing to cheat his God in order to further his own agenda, how can we possibly believe he wouldn’t do EXACTLY the same to the people he seeks to rule?

  • When Romney says he paid 13% in income taxes, he’s boasting. He is saying that he knows exactly how to extract the most personal gain from an annual income of $21 million. It hardly matters that the way he did this is legal; it’s shameful that the system makes it legal, to the detriment of millions of hard-working Americans for the benefit of a very few.

    If Romney made $21 million and paid 13% in income taxes (roughly $1.7 million), his monthly income is approximately $1.6 million a month. Just for giggles and grins, if Romney made the same amount but paid a 50% tax on his income (it used to be this way, folks), then the Romneys would have to scrape by on a paltry $875,000 a month. However, and this is the important part, our country wouldn’t have a revenue shortfall, there wouldn’t be a widening gap of income disparity, our tax system would be fairer, and quality of life for all Americans would be better. But he’s not willing to give up a dime more than he has to to support his country. In fact, he’s willing to park his money outside of the US to save on taxes. Romney has made it abundantly clear that it’s up to the rest of us (because we are all doing so well) to make up for the roughly 35% he doesn’t have to pay in taxes, but should. That’s nothing to be proud of, but proud he is.

    • Laurie, unfortunately your math doesn’t work. Unfortunately too many people don’t understand tax policy or economics and think this way. Lest it was so simple that you could increase the rate like that and the collections would just increase pro rata. When the rate was 50% we collected less (in absolute dollars and as a % of GDP). Behavior changes. What you are saying is like saying, if Walmart just doubled their prices they could double their profit. No, if they doubled their prices, then would go out of business cause people would stop shopping there. The only reason our country has a revenue shortfall is because we’re spending 25% of GDP, which we have never come close to bringing in no matter what the tax regime has been (when we taxes at 90% top bracket we brought in less than 20% of GDP). And because GDP growth is awful (our tax revenue growth is way more closely correlated to GDP growth than it is to tax rates). If we followed your advise, our budget issues would be worse not better (according to all our historical data).

      I’m not a Republican. I’m not a social conservative. I’m not a super Mitt guy. But this tax rate populist nonsense is the biggest red herring out there. We already have the most progressive system in the world and are collecting more from the rich than we ever have in our history. Sadly, raising Mitt’s tax rate on investment income won’t make us any better off. If you want to be better off, focus on policies to increase GDP growth and decrease spending. That’s the only thing that will ever balance the budget and allow us to spend more of our taxes on good causes than on debt service.

      • Why is there no way to vote down comments that don’t have a consistent reference to scale? Yes we’re collecting more money than we ever have. Our currency is also worth comparably less than it has been since the great depression. From a PERCENTAGE standpoint we’re collecting far less from the rich than we ever have since slavery was prevalent. Yes, spending is out of control, but the majority of our spending is in foreign markets during and after the time that we carpet-bomb them into the stone age. No, a 20% increase in GDP will not cover the 25% we spend, but that 20% increase isn’t the only money coming in, and if we stopped starting wars all over the world we’d probably have a little more money in the coffers to act as a buffer when emergencies presented themselves. I was under the impression that’s what responsible adults do when they have money; They store is away for emergencies instead of dishing it out for their friends and pay to launch full out wars on countries that haven’t even looked at us funny in 20 years (coughcoughBushcoughcough).

        The solution is a multi-tiered one, but trying to say that raising the marginal tax rate on the wealthy to be in-line with or even more than the tax rate on Waiters and Waitresses won’t help is just bad logic. Also, all the other problems that are causing our social inequity are all things Mittens wants to exploit, not deal with, so this hardly matters in the scope of financial reform.

        Also, the U.S. has one of the most progressive tax rates in the world? Compared to Quatar, yes. Compared to ANY OTHER FIRST WORLD COUNTRY, not so much. Our tax rate, in case you missed the part in the article where people earning 25 million dollars a year pay 13% and the rest of us shmoes pay around 30%, is what is known as REGRESSIVE. Progressive means the wealthy pay more. Maybe you got your Latin roots mixed up?

        Back in the 20’s we had a policy in place to increase GDP and decrease homelessness and poverty. It was called The Civilian Conservation Core. Another great thing that saved thousands from starving to death was Walfare. They’re hard to fund, though. Man, if only there was some way we could get a large chunk of money annually to pay people to work on infrastructure, which was what wound up stabilizing our economy so that we were able to participate in the industrial growth for WWII… But where could we possibly find a group of people with disposable income who are drastically over taxed…

        • The solution is a multi-tiered one, but trying to say that raising the marginal tax rate on the wealthy to be in-line with or even more than the tax rate on Waiters and Waitresses won’t help is just bad logic. Also, all the other problems that are causing our social inequity are all things Mittens wants to exploit, not deal with, so this hardly matters in the scope of financial reform.


          This is what has me up at night. That we will be exploited to extinction.

      • Josh – I actually think you are mistaken in one key area. While I won’t argue the majority of your post, the one position you take:

        “When the rate was 50% we collected less (in absolute dollars and as a % of GDP). Behavior changes”

        While I won’t argue one way or the other about your basic premise, I will tell you that this point has nothing to do with Romney. He makes the majority (I assume all but I don’t know for sure) of his income from investments and other forms of capital gains. Beyond trying to work the current tax laws as best he can, his income behavior will most likely not change at all.

        It is up to debate whether or not increases in the tax rate actually change the behavior of people who own a small business or receive their income from working for a particular company. But even my state university masters in accounting is enough for me to know that Romney’s earning behavior (and the very small percentage of people who reside in his “tax bracket”) is very unlikely to change if he were to be taxed 13% or 30%.

        Having said that, I appreciate almost all of your points and happen to agree with many of them. And if I am misunderstanding your “behavior changes” point, then please let me know.

    • Re-do your MATH, I figure he paid 2,730,000.00 in taxes a year. How much did you pay??? NOT %. but actual dollars??? This for Laurie, Aug 18th post.

      • What part of the word “proportional” eludes you? Tax equity begins and ends in a discussion over the affluent paying their proportional share for the maintenance of the republic. What $2 or $3 million mean to Mr. Romney, with all of his income, is indeed less than what 20 ot 25 or 18 percent of someone’s income means to them when they only make $100,000 or $200,000. That’s inequitable and damaging to the fundamentals of citizenship and republicanism. And that is the systemic corruption from which Mr. Romney and others have benefited, and it is the one that Mr. Romney says he will not reform if elected president.

      • Since you seem to be insinuating that I don’t have the right to complain, the answer is an effective tax rate of 33%. That’s after the tax attorneys and accountants have waived their magic wands. That’s after taking the measly tax breaks given to small businesses into account. That’s after all the smoke and dust blows away.

        Surely, you must be thinking that I am some kind of stupid to be paying an effective tax rate of 33% when Romney pays 13% on his annual haul of $21 million. Let me enlighten you, because this really needs to be said, as a small business owner, I didn’t get to take that remaining 66% and put it in my pocket.

      • Since you are insinuating that I have no right to complain, I paid an effective tax rate of 33%. Least you think that I am living high on the hog on the remaining 66%, only 7.5% actually landed in the bank account, the rest went back into reinvestment. Whoa! How can that be? Allow me to enlighten you.

        Welcome to my world as a small business owner. In my opinion, they are the most burdened and abused group in the US, yet they are absolutely essential to our economy. They are the answer for more jobs. They are the answer for more manufacturing in the US. They are the answer for better education. They are the answer for better technology. They are the answer to getting the economy going again.

        Romney only loves the financial sector and huge corporations — make no mistake — which is why he will never close the loophole that allows his ilk to pay tax rates of 13% and corporate rates of zero, along with subsidies, while off-shoring jobs. Meanwhile, small businesses pay more, a lot more, than their fair share. It’s crippling them. Congress blocked legislation that would have provided tax breaks to small businesses, the backbone of our economy and the fabric of American life.

        As the owner of a global high-tech manufacturing company based here in the US of A that is committed to providing high-paying jobs with generous benefits to 200 employees and their families and investing in the future health and growth of that company, is it too much to ask of our government and the public to show some support for small business? At least a little hug?

  • First time visiting this blog – like the thinking going on here and may have to stick around. However, I do think one point is being ignored or overlooked generally in this whole tax return issue. When Romney actually PAYS 13%, that is his effective tax rate. Only the top 20% have an effective rate that high.

    Most Americans pay far less of an effective rate – but they usually are comparing their marginal rate and exclaiming “What! Romney pays less that I do!?!” But that is not true. The average effective tax rate in the U.S. is 7.2% – so the emphasis on this issue by Obama is pure demagoguery.

    • How’s this? My effective tax rate hasn’t been as low as thirteen percent or even lower than twenty percent since I published my first book a couple decades ago. My effective rate is double that of Mr. Romney. I don’t bedgrudge my government, or more fundamentally, my fellow citizens, any part of that fact, or any part of that tax obligation. And there are millions of Americans — fellow citizens of Mr. Romney who I believe feel as I do; the liberties of republican citizenship come in harness with responsibilities, for all of us.

      But let’s face it, if Mitt Romney woke up tomorrow with David Simon’s income, he’d kill himself. And that man is paying half the taxes I do proportionately. And he is paying half or less the tax rate of millions of others who did not, cannot or would not avail themselves of the inequities of the tax code. And again, it is one thing for Mr. Romney to personally avail himself of those legal inequities, and quite another for him to accept his good fortune as his due, and to assert for the status quo. If he spoke with any sense of the unfairness in play, or with a willingness to address the reform of such inequities, it might be another story. But no, he thinks it fine that he does less than his share to support the republic.

      Is that too much demagoguery? Or do you need that fundamental truth draped in even more sober verbiage?

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  • Ahhh yes…the politics of envy.

    Mr. Simon being the math wiz he is must recognize that whenever dealing with a percentage both operators in the equation are significant. Well…significant to people who understand the fact that Mr. Romney’s 13% represents him “legally” extracting $millions more in taxes from HIS money that HE earned than HIS “fellow American citizens” . Funny, that there are people who can look at the number 13 and piss all over themselves about how unfair that is, yet fail to comprehend that (for example) the $3000000 or so he reportedly paid in 2010 represents more taxes than the vast majority will pay in their lifetime. Maybe Mr. Simon can document for us what additional benefits Mr. Romney gets from the government because of vastly higher monies he affords it.

    Mr. Simon, being the historical scholar he is, surely remembers that one of the foundation principles of our “Republic” is that “all men are created equal”. Now he may need to refresh himself on the meaning of this phrase has his concept of equality seems honed in France’s foundation and not Americas. What was the federal income tax % again when this “Republic” was created? What did the founders thing was “appropriate”?

    Mr. Simon, being the purveyor of what it takes to be a “good citizen”, besides dismissing Mr. Romney’s significant ongoing charitable contributions not to mention the fact that he gave all of his inheritance away to charity, certainly cannot dismiss choosing to quit his job to help bail out a corrupt and failing Olympics and turning it into an amazing , nor his serving as governor of Massachusetts, nor his serving as leader in his church, nor raising a fine family of which whose son’s are contributing similarly…or maybe Mr. Simon can because it seems to Mr. Simon it is the tax % one pays that make you a good citizen….and again not the $3000000 Mr. Romney put in the government coffers to be almost halved by government bureaucracy and then distributed, largely to people whose tax percentage of ZERO (those “people”, because Mr. Simon is the “purveyor”, were not created equal and thus should not have their citizenship or anything else assessed at the same level as this “fellow American”.

    Mr. Simon being the steward of righteousness (and whose own tax records I am sure are forthcoming (and with his dismissing the charity of others these I am sure will show vast contributions in this area) ) wants to ignore the fact the Romney has provided everything legally required of him by law yet Mr. Simon seems to have no problem with the leader of his party, Harry Reid, McCarthyesc, lying about such things on the floor of the Senate while he himself has already been proven to be a cheat and a fraud and of late it seems HIS own son has followed in his footsteps. But of course character and the spawning of such also has nothing to do with being a good citizen as long as the tax % is at the right level. In that same arena, to Mr. Simon, what Mr. Romney’s paid tax % is far more important than our President’s education records, our President’s relationship with the likes of domestic terrorists, and felons using under the table (probably illegal) methods to purchase his Chicago home, the padding of pockets of his political money bundlers and their failing and failed companies, not to mention the overall current disaster in leadership we have had for the last 4 years.

    Yep, its that pesky tax %, not all of the things above that bother Mr. Simon…because “God!”, he’s “not that kind of guy”

    • Envy? Really?

      Not sure what envy has to do with this, brother.

      I don’t have anything approximating the accumulated wealth of Mitt Romney, true. But if I woke up tomorrow with his money, his sense of himself and his place in the world, his outlook and arguments, his convictions regarding his place in society and that of so many of his countrymen, I do believe that I would put a gun in my mouth, or at least be sorely tempted.

      I want to live in a society that is something more than a Ponzi scheme.

      But I dunno. Maybe that’s just me.

    • I will say one other thing in response:

      Your ad hominems land coldly and to little import in this discussion.

      I am not, when last I checked, running to represent fellow citizens in any higher office, certainly not the highest office. So, no, you will not peruse my tax filings in the near future. And my unwillingness to hand them over to the crankiest voice on a blogsite should not be interpreted as a furtive act. On the day I do decide that Baltimore needs a new dogcatcher, you can be assured that I won’t have any problem sharing my entire tax history with anyone and everyone whose vote I intend to seek.

      I can tell you now, as I indicated in the original post, that my effective tax rate has been for at least a decade, maybe longer, at least double that of what Mr. Romney claims for himself. This doesn’t reflect well on me in any sense. It is not a point of any pride. It is, simply, evidence that on a proportional basis, millions of Americans are asked every year to do more to sustain and operate this republic — our American collective — than is asked of Mr. Romney and other captains of industry who can so readily avail themselves of inequities in our tax code.

      As to charitable giving, I am supportive of any and all such giving. I haven’t maligned Mr. Romney’s charity at any point; you conjured that, I’m afraid, from your own anger than from anything I’ve written. No, I have merely explained that charity has nothing whatsoever to do with mitigating one’s tax obligation. They are two unrelated endeavors, save for the fact that the tax code allows funds given to recognized charities to go untaxed. But what we don’t give, well, that is called income. And yes, on this thread, we were discussing not who gives what to worthy causes, but who pays what proportion of their income in taxes.

      Now then, you further raise — as a means of attempting to denigrate the substance of my criticism of Mr. Romney — your certain knowledge that if facts were known, I would surely be incapable of any comparable acts of charity.

      Well, first, as to your fulminant and passionate use of argumentum ad hominem, let’s be clear that everything I’ve written above would be true if I never gave a dime to help a fellow man, and all of your anger at me for making the argument would be no closer to unseating any of my ideas if I were a complete sonofabitch who walked down the street kicking dogs and small children. However, because you’ve gone out of your way to malign your opponent personally without knowing very much about me, the causes to which I am committed or uncommitted, or where I spend or misspend my money, I will only reply by noting that the Talmud argues that public giving, while entirely worthy, is less of a mitzvah, or an honorable deed, than giving in which the donor does not seek recognition for acts of charity. As again, because I am not seeking any higher office, my giving is my own business and I find an additional measure of humility in doing nothing to publicize that giving or to use it to advance myself in anyone’s estimation.

      Having said that much, I must now certainly urge you to fuck yourself with a rusted, military-grade entrenching tool for shamelessly presuming you have any clue whatsoever about the actual extent of my philanthropies, or lack thereof, about whether I give less of my income away than Mr. Romney or anyone else, or give away more as a proportion of my income. You don’t know shit, yet armed with not a single, solitary fact, you lurch straight into the petty ad hominem rather than addressing yourself to any part of the substance of the original debate.

      At this point — and based strictly on your performance on this website — I must do something I genuinely endeavor to avoid, especially since I am of the considered hope that this blog can become notable for a better class of open, uncensored public discourse and argument. Alas, in your special case, I must greet one ad hominem with another:

      You’re genuinely an asshole. Gaping, in fact. And, my friend, you are not merely an asshole, but more than that, you are a wholly ignorant fellow, unadorned with any of the necessary intellectual facets by which mature, reasoned human beings can successfully discourse and even disagree on matters. In terms of the argumentative back-and-forth on this blogsite — which is, after all, an existential part of its purpose — you are hopeless and useless, outclassed and without class. Truly, sir, it’s not that we disagree on matters of substance, because that would be fine. It’s that you don’t know how to disagree and argue your points without rushing to mischaracterize and denigrate your opponent by suggesting knowledge that you entirely lack. This makes you incapable for our purposes, not to mention dishonest. But good news, this incapability is the least of your problems. To reiterate precisely the first and greater obstacle to your continued participation here, you are, indeed, an asshole.

      Webmistress, please dust off and invoke the computer key that omits this fellow. We don’t do this often, but…

      • Wow…I guess in the end I hit the right button…or as I like the saying “Hammer meet nail.”

        Can you please point out for me the passage in which I became the gaping asshole? I may want to use that one again.

        Webmistress, please.

        • “…and with his dismissing the charity of others these I am sure will show vast contributions in this area.”

          You have no call to even imply that you have the slightest clue of my charitable endeavors or the lack thereof. If you did have a clue, you’d be ashamed of yourself for baiting people, even on internet forums, with that kind of rancid sarcasm. Or perhaps your capacity for shame and/or self-awareness is permanently impaired. Go fuck yourself, shitbird.

  • Why is it that people can’t seem to understand the concept of gaming the system? These tax laws are written by the wealthy to preserve and grow their wealth. It’s not that complicated. To say that Romney followed the law is pointing out the problem, not absolving him of responsibility.

  • Hmmm…

    Nathan Hale – “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”
    Mitt Romney – “I paid all the taxes I was legally required to pay.”

    It’s too bad Bob Dole is too old, because I think he what he says here would help out:

    Seriously, that speech is incredible. It’s too bad Clinton won…

    “Which is more important, wealth or honor?

    It is not as was said by the victors four years ago, the economy stupid. It’s a kind of nation we are. It’s whether we still possess the wit and determination to deal with many questions including economic questions, but certainly not limited to them. All things do not flow from wealth or poverty. I know this firsthand and so do you.

    All things flow from doing what is right.

    The cry of this nation lies not in its material wealth but in courage, and sacrifice and honor. We tend to forget when leaders forget. And we tend to remember it when they remember it.

    The high office of the presidency requires not a continuous four year campaign for re-election, but rather broad oversight and attention to three essential areas: the material, the moral and the nation’s survival in that ascending order of importance.

    In the last presidential election, you the people were gravely insulted. You were told that the material was not only the most important of these three, but in fact, really the only one that mattered.

    I don’t hold to that for a moment. No one can deny the importance of material well-being. And in this regard, it is time to recognize we have surrendered too much of our economic liberty. I do not appreciate the value of economic liberty nearly as much for what it has done in keeping us fed, as to what it’s done in keeping us free.”

  • David,
    You make very compelling arguments and deliver them in a simple, elegant, and gentlemanly way. It is quite refreshing to read something so well written. I will add one item to this discussion. There is only one reason someone tries to hide something……Any man unwilling to reveal his personal income tax is unfit to run for or be trusted in the highest office in the land. If he his willing to hide that, what else is he willing to hide?

    • Ummm… Obama hid his birth certificate, college financial forms showing who paid for his schooling, also tax records, the fact that people in his administration ordered the ATF to give automatic firearms to mexican drug cartels to promote his gun control laws, and gave billions of tax money to private companies as grants knowing they would go bankrupt ei. Solendra. So whos hiding what? One thing we agree on though, Romney is a major douche, worst choice of ALL the republican candidates, same as last time with McCain. Poor stupid Republican party…

  • Here’s one millionaire talking about another miliiionaire’s finances? If you (not you specifically, but any millionaire) are bonehead enough to make millions and pay ANY taxes, you don’t deserve to be in the conversation, period. Fire your freakin’ accountants and lawyers, cuz. The Republic over? We just got STARTED…As Frank Sinatra observed, “The best is yet to come,” even as the sea level rises.

    • Aren’t you clever. You’ve reduced what Lincoln called mankind’s last best hope to a Ponzi scheme for greedheads. We only get the America that we all pay for. And it’s getting uglier and less admirable by the moment.

        • If Romney lived in Pennsylvania, according to how he pays 13% federal taxes (and does so proudly), he would no doubt prefer to pay sales tax in the same manner. So, while you and I pay 6%, by his reckoning, he would pay 2.6%. Absurd? Maybe. These people never seem to be satisfied with the amount of money they have. Always the need for more.

          Please, please remember to vote November 6. Fine to comment/complain but vote. No excuses.

      • Not clever, mon frere. In fact my IQ is only 108. I’m just sayin’..#1) It’s the pot calling the kettle black, and B) America has always operated on such dynamic imbalances–all the way back to the founding of the Republic when our “forefathers” had slaves and the temerity to say privately that it was wrong.
        ???????? ?????????!

  • We don’t know what Romney’s gross and net income was for those years. His 13% rate may well be on a severely reduced net income, so without seeing his taxes, his statement tells us very little. And I agree, 13% is a pitiful rate, and far less than the rich used to pay.

  • Well said! I just discovered this blog. I’ve always greatly enjoyed your insightful interviews (and of course your shows). look forward to reading your other posts – keep up the great work!

  • When Rome worked at its best, a republic, flawed in almost as many ways as ours – it ultimately called on all of its citizens do their part regardless of birth. Noblemen were to fight and bleed and die alongside commoners. The greatest forgotten Roman hero Cincinnatus was offered kingship but relinquished his authority the moment he was no longer needed. Mitt Romney is the kind of man who (when he finds an opinion he sticks with for more than a news cycle) is so radical in both his ideology and speech that it baffles me that there are those who see this man as capable of holding the presidential office. The concept that tithe somehow removes his obligations as a citizen to pay taxes? Do you like to drive on highways? Do you like the mail that arrives in your mailbox? Do you like that there aren’t roaming gangs of bandits raping and pillaging the streets like this was feudal Japan? That’s called the government. Perhaps instead of denouncing it for all its ills we could take one specter of an instant to appreciate all that it offers us. Having said that this concept that Mitt Romney offers this nation more than a widening income gap and oil spills is beyond the pale.

    • The Republicans no longer look for candidates “capable of holding the presidential office”, at least not in the sense you mean. They look for the candidate who can be elected and who will, thereafter, do as he is told. They look for a “team player”.

  • I needed to read this rant today. Why? Because I just spent a good portion of my day research Ayn Rand and how she has influenced the Right Wing-nuts economic policies and their reverence for the self over the collective. She legitimizes sociopathic/psychopathic behavior and frankly an infantile view of the world. She called child killer W. Hickman a “superman”, the perfect specimen of humanity because of his lack of humanity – unfettered by such trivial things as love, remorse, guilt or a conscience. Taking care of anyone but yourself (even your own family), according to her, was weak and made you useless. Everyone for themselves. Hurrah for me and f- you!

    The list of people who follow this woman’s wackadoo thinking is not surprising: Paul Ryan (He makes Mitt look like a kind old man), Ron Paul (who even named his son Rand – cute), Justice Clarence Thomas (who apparently makes his clerks read FountainHead – that is just tragic), and Michelle Bachman (I don’t have evidence that she reads).

    Knowing that these people idealized a woman who called herself the greatest artist of all time and happily testified for the House of Un-American Activities Committee – should speak volumes about their character as believers. They don’t care about any of us. They wipe their feet on us. We are parasites to them and because we can be controlled by them they think even less of us. We are not people, we are objects, they only smile at you so long as they need you and then you are cast aside. Loyalty is not rewarded with anything but distain b/c all psychopaths have disdain for anyone who could be dominated.

  • […] Originally Posted by BlueWillowPlate Agree, but most would find some way to rationalize out of any sympathy or responsibility. You know when I wrote that I had to think to myself, yeah when it comes to understanding the criminal mentality of the inner city, conservatives need to watch the Wire, but then again I thought that its not just conservatives who need to watch, but big city liberals should take serious note as well regarding corruption and money in politics. For all the complaints about the federal government, noting it dirtier than municipal politics. On the other hand, David Simon just posted a blast at Mitt Romney, David Simon | Mitt Romney paid taxes at a rate of at least 13 percent. And he’s proud to say s… […]

  • The way Romney phrased it, that 13% could include sales and real estate taxes. Indeed, he could have paid NO federal income taxes and still have made the same claim.

  • Keep in mind, Mitt doesn’t “work”. He’s retired. He lives off the income generated by his savings. When you retire and do the same, you’ll pay the exact same rate (15% minus charitable deductions). No army of lawyer needed. No “loopholes”. It’s just the rate that every single American pays on passive income. What’s shameful about that? It applies to every single person who doesn’t work but has savings.

    • Josh,

      The more you post, the more I realize that despite the utter disconnect from the fundamental issue, you are not actually, by any precise, definition, a troll. You actually believe what you are writing, which I find all the more remarkable.

      Mitt Romney didn’t have all of that income taxed at a lower rate because he retired. For the love of all that is holy, man, he had it taxed at a lower rate because, as Fitzgerald famously wrote, the rich are different than you and me. And they have purchased enough of the legislative branch of our republic to effect a tax code that has left the back door wide open, so that mass amounts of wealth that would otherwise be categorized as corporate salary is actually redefined as investment income. They are cheating. By the rules, which they have written, they are hiding their payment for sitting at the top of the capitalist period under a name that does not answer to “salary,” and therefore, does not answer fully to anyone at tax time. Retirement? Whaaaat?

      The day that these people agree to close the back door and lock it is the day that I will begin to accept the arguments about the double-taxing of investment income. Prove to me — after all this kleptomania at the highest rungs of society — that investment income is actually that, and not a means for transmitting extraordinary rates of pay to corporate executives under another flag, and then, and only then, will I begin to seriously consider arguments against equalizing the tax rates on so-called capital gains and wages.

      • That sounds like a great novel, but conspiracy theories aside the data doesn’t add up.

        If the rich were truly writing the rules with impunity we’d have a much less progressive tax system. We wouldn’t have 50% of citizens paying no federal income tax (the highest in our history). We’d have a national sales tax like every Euro country (which taxes the poor much more heavily than the rich). The US has far and away the most progressive system in the world.

        I hail originally from Canada and we have a much less progressive tax system (the “rich” pay less). A national sales tax of 13% which hits every citizen on every purchase. A much lower corporate tax rate. The poor and middle class pay a much heavier burden of collections in Canada than they do in the US. Same goes for every Euro country. And if you look at collections history in the US, the “rich” pay a much greater share today than they did in the 50s when Eisenhower was president. If this great conspiracy of yours was true, who pays all the taxes would be different.

        If we wanted to be more like Europe or Canada and have free healthcare, we’d tax the poor and middle class more (like they do) and we’d slash defense spending. The rich not paying enough won’t get you anywhere other than a warm fuzzy that won’t yield much revenue in the end.

        Mitt pays the exact same federal rate on his investments as I do and you do. The only difference is his savings (and his tax bill) has a lot more zeroes on it.

        But the more intellectually interesting fact is that no more what the rates are, and how we distribute who pays, federal collections are always about the same at 18% of GDP over the past 50 years. Whether you tax at 90% top rate or 30% top rate, we’ll collect about the same cause behavior will change. The only thing that truly matters towards a healthy fiscal budget is that GDP growth exceeds spending growth, which for the current president and the last one it hasn’t. Clinton spent less than 20% of GDP. Obama spends about 25% of GDP. When you spend 25% of GDP every year and there is no possible tax regime that can bring in more than 20% of GDP into the coffers (no matter the rates) there is no possible outcome other than bankruptcy eventually. Railing against the rich won’t come close to any sort of real solution.

        • No, sir. There are other differences between Mr. Romney and his fellow taxpayers.

          He operates in a sphere in which he can be recompensed for his labors — for his labors, mind you, for his corporate services and participation — in a manner that categories much of the generated wealth as investment income. The rest of us get a paycheck. And we are paying more of our income to our government than Mr. Romney.

          Plug the hole at the back of your argument and then I’ll stop arguing to raise the capital gains tax. Leave the hole open and expect very little empathy, sorry. Cheating is cheating, whether it’s legal or not.

          And the fundamental fact that the rich have purchased more of the means of power than they ought is no longer the stuff on conspiracy theory. Open your eyes, if not your mind. The electoral process is so monied by capital as to be embarrassing at this point. And Congress has been purchased at wholesale prices.

          How many millions of dollars were arrayed against health care reform? How many millions are being hurled at even the smallest state and local elective races by singular ideologues? You’re still looking for conspiracies? Christ, man, look in plain sight.

          The worst Supreme Court decision since Plessy does not even hinge on the vile logic that a corporation is a person — which is a disturbing enough notion, but one that is at least rooted in one of the fundamentals of corporate law. No, the evil done by Citizens United was in equating money with speech. That, my friend, is an argument that any Athenian would have recognized as an existential threat to the demos.

          Capital has its arguments, but when capital wins the day unequivocally, without being tethered in basic ways to a social compact, to a utilitarian ideal of the collective, then human beings lose. Human beings are losing in this country. Time and again. And so, soon, we are all going to lose more and more of what we should be valuing most.

          • Of course politics is corrupt. Of course money buys elections and favors. Both sides are equally awful and the system is somewhat hopeless. The unions will bankrupt California. The corporations will get their favors and breaks. There’s plenty to be angry about. I’m sitting here in LA where I’ve had 6 flat tires in the past two years cause they can’t afford to pave the streets. I totally agree with plenty of that.

            But all that emotion aside, arguing for a tax policy that history shows would reduce government revenue (and hurt us) for the sake of feeling better emotionally doesn’t make any logical sense. You want to make us worse off? Be angry about the spending. By angry about the corruption. But don’t be a malcontent for the sake of being a malcontent. Don’t be angry about a tax policy that has yielded us more revenue than in our history at any other rate. That’s a good thing in a sea of shit. Raising the cap gains rate won’t help us. It will hurt us.

            • We have to end this. You just don’t accept the moral priority as being the actual priority.

              If it’s a choice between reducing government revenue yet at the same time having all Americans contribute fairly and proportionately to the maintenance and operation of the American collective, if preventing whole classes of people from cheating their way past the responsibilities of citizenship is a task that carries with it an actual financial cost, then I will argue and work for us to pay that cost on every fucking occasion.

              Failure to do so and do so at all hazards marks an end to what matters in the American experiment.

              If you can prevent the cheating and the inequity that results from the tax differential between salaried wages and so-called investment income — which is now synonymous with the preferred method by which our corporate elite pays itself — by other means, then goddamit, do so. And if you can’t, then the final arbiter of right and wrong — yes, right and wrong, because in a republic, inequalities and dishonesties among the citizenry are cancerous — is to make all income vulnerable to the same fucking rate.

              Do one or do the other. But to send back post after post saying everybody is a crook and this is just the best we can do is as ugly and self-fulfilling as a man running for president and standing in public to say, hey, I paid what I had to and yeah, I got off easier than most of you, and what, you want me to do something to reform this system? WTF?

              Sorry, Josh, let’s let this one go. You’re beginning to remind me of exactly what made me post up on Mr. Romney in the first fucking place.

              • I guess you missed my point. My point is that fairness towards contributing to the “republic” is how many dollars I can take out of the rich’s pocket. Not some symbolic rate.

                So what you are saying is: I will take less $$ from the rich at a higher rate cause that is more “fair”.

                I am saying I will take more $$ out of your pocket towards our republic and I don’t give a shit what the “rate” is. Pay up. Pay as much as possible into our system so more and more low end income earners can pay less. I like that 50% of people don’t pay anything now versus only 25% of people back in Eisenhower era. Cause the rich are paying more. You seem to want to go back to when the poor contributed a greater share but we could say the top rate was really high and feel good.

                Think about it. COLLECTIONS is the contribution to our republic. Not rate. Maximize how much they pay. Soak them for as much as you can. Don’t focus on a silly number that doesn’t correlate to results.

                • Heard your point loud and clear. Took it out of the wrapper, smelled it, smoked it. Nothing left to it I’m gonna fret about, sorry.

                  You have it backwards, friend:

                  First, address the moral imperative. Fix the tax code so that Americans are all contributing proportionally based on their income, and eliminate the semantic legalisms by which the most affluent are able to obtained a lower tax rate. Then, if in doing so — as you claim, not me — you find that the overall revenues from capital gains has declined as a result of this adjustment, then you can return again to change the metrics. If capital gains once accounted for X percent of all revenue and now only yields Y — and if that shortfall is necessary to the maintenance and operation of the society, then adjust the upper-brackets of the income tax rate up a notch.

                  Tax policy is always an adjustable dynamic dependent on revenue estimates, or at least it is in functional political environments in which merely suggesting that the rich ought to pay a bit more tax while we are, say, fighting a couple wars and battling back from a market collapse.

                  You seem to be saying, oh well, if we try to stop the grandiose tax cheating and return to an equitable levy on all Americans, we might lose some money doing so because the favored, affluent taxpayers will modify their behavior. So let’s just keep it inequitable and let those who can cheat their way through our loopholes do so.

                  And I’m saying that such a position is morally untenable, and that if — as you claim — my solution might reduce capital gains revenues, then the income tax rate — which is nowhere near anything remotely resembling its historic highs — will need to be adjusted in response. But in every sense, the adjustment of such metrics occurs in a tax system that is no longer a cancer on the idea of a republican collective.

              • You do realize that you just argued that it would be more “fair” if the rich paid less money in taxes (reduced revenue)? Somehow that would be more proportional. Wow. You can’t see the forest for the trees.

                • Again, we have to end this. You’ve become ridiculously obtuse here.

                  I know exactly what I said. I said it matters more to me that all Americans pay taxes in proper proportion to their income. And if such couldn’t be achieved without the total amount of revenue declining — I don’t think so, but that was your earlier prediction, was it not? –then so be it. But economic fairness and what that means to the American collective is elemental to the health and survival of our republic. If you are saying we can’t achieve one without losing money doing it, then I am willing to forgo the money. Do I really believe we
                  can’t do one without the other? No. But I have pointed out to you that the moral imperative is as or more important than the end-of-the-day dollars. If our tax code is fair, then we will deal with the revenue it generates. If our tax code carries rules for two different Americas, then our republic itself is wholly vulnerable — which is I believe a far greater threat than a shortfall of revenues.

                  Which one is the forest? And which is a tree? Well, perhaps you are the kettle, this time.

                  • Alrighty, if you want to make our code less progressive (the rich pay less, ergo the middle class and poor pay more like in Canada or Europe) out of a belief that that is more “moral” or “proportional”, I can’t argue that logic. I respectfully disagree. It is a beautiful LA day so time to get out. Have a good one. And keep putting out great stuff.

                    • How is it less progressive if the proportions that we ask different earning brackets to pay remain graduated, as they do now?
                      Really not following…

                    • I’ll explain why what you are saying is less progressive.

                      Under the Eisenhower regime the code *appeared* super progressive. Top tax rate of 90+%. High cap gains. Yet under that system the end *result* was the poor and middle class paid a much greater share of total taxes than they do today. It was much less progressive than our current system (where the bottom 50% pay nothing). That is a fact, not opinion. Huh, you say? But if I just adjust the rate up on people they pay more. That doesn’t make sense. This is the flaw in the thinking.

                      All the data shows that with cap gains when you adjust it up they pay less, and when you adjust it down they pay more. Since cap gains is mainly applied to the top 20% the lower the rate, the more progressive our system has become (again fact, not opinion). You are encouraging them to do more of the behavior that generates cap gains so they do more of it. It’s like cash for clunkers. We encouraged people to buy more cars via lower taxes and they bought way more. The laws of economics and sociology say you can’t do what you advocate (just increase the rate and behavior won’t change at all so we’ll get more).

                      So what you are saying is you want the system to appear progressive (like Eisenhower) and what I am saying is I want the result to be as progressive as possible (like now).

                      Low cap gains increases the progressiveness of the republic. A VAT (like Canada or Europe) would decrease the progressiveness. Raising cap gains would decrease the progressiveness.

                      We have year after year of evidence of increasing the progressiveness when the rate went down, and decreasing the progressiveness when the rate went up. Get the “cheating” concept out of your head. Switch the paradigm and look at the data and realize they pay us more when we lower the rate.

                      Appearance of progressiveness is worthless. Actual result of progressive collections is our real goal. We want the same thing. I’m just saying you won’t get what you want under the policy you advocate. History shows us you get the opposite.

                    • Josh, my brother.

                      I’m not here to defend 1955 or any particular outcome other than the following, which I believe is the only metric by which Americans of all classes can believe in the legitimacy of citizenship in this republic, and can believe that all of us share a common future:

                      Whoever makes the most money, pays the most taxes. To the extent that plurality of Americans earn below the poverty level, they pay little or nothing. To the extent our middle-class earns, they pay at a rate commensurate with their earnings. And to the extent that the top 5 percent makes geometrically more in earnings, they pay at a rate commensurate with that outcome. And with regard to how people earn their money, we can no longer consider differing definitions and different proportional rates for investment income and salary.

                      Why not? Because we have a legislative branch that is incapable of reforming our tax code and preventing the top 5 percent from reconstituting what would otherwise be salaried earnings as investment income, allowing them to defeat the above proportionality. So if they can’t restrain themselves from legalized tax fraud and shameless fucking greed, then we certainly can’t maintain the separate rate for capital gains.

                      I don’t think that capital gains revenue will decline to the extent you believe. I believe the nature of the markets has changed over the last fifty years, and even over the last ten, to the point where buy-and-hold can no longer be the certain tactical response to an increase in the capital gains tax. Players are gonna play, as they say in West Baltimore.

                      But even if you are correct, the solution can’t be to let the rich folk continue redefining their income and paying less than their appropriate share to maintain the republic. To tolerate such makes all other American taxpayers second-class citizens and undermines every republican ideal. Either there is an American collective or there isn’t.

                      No, even if you are correct and the short-term tactical response to a capital gains tax bump is for more buy-and-hold portfolio strategies, then the solution is to find the shortfall elsewhere in the taxing infrastructure. If capital gains, by your argument, brought in X and now it brings in Y, then the difference between X and Y shoudl necessarily be achieved not by undercutting the proportional tax rates that properly differentiate between rich, middle-class and poor, but by maintaing that proportionality The poor are not going to suffer more to cover that shortfall, and the middle-class is not going to suffer more than proportionality should allow. The rich are gonna cover the lion’s share, until the difference between X and Y is met.

                      Again, I don’t actually believe in your scenario given current market climate and practices, but even if you are correct, the idea that this will somehow result in some rupture in the overall proportionality between rich and poor tax rates is a construct of your imagined narrative, not mine.

                      Now, do I really think our Congress is capable of achieving even as much tax reform as I am describing here? No, I do not. I think there is a better likelihood that eventually, as our republic is starved further of the support that it deserves from its elites and as the disparity between the top 5 percent and the remainder of America continues to grow, someone who is tired of talking sense to selfishness and greed is going to pick up a brick.

                      For that, go back in read the Kerner Commission report from 1967. Yes, I know the pages are yellowed, but the rates for African-American children living in poverty have now returned to levels unseen since the King assassination. It’s going to get worse, and even as it does, the greedheads will still be clinging to every perquisite of power and affluence, right down to bitching and moaning about the possibility that they ought to pay the tax commensurate with their higher earning. Either there is an American collective operating under republican principles or their isn’t. If there isn’t, if half the country wants to pretend in a new Gilded Age while the other half lives in ever greater desperation, then your practical arguments about why the capital gains loophole is somehow a reasoned approach aren’t going to heard by people who see the true margins for what they are. Inherited wealth, rigged tax codes and the deindustrialization of the labor force have combined to make America the most class-bound society since the early days of the Industrial Revolution in England, or our own age of the robber barons. From the point of view of those left behind, looking at two separate Americas operating by different rules and standards, a good, weighty brick begins to seem an entirely reasonable option. I mean, if we aren’t all tethered to the same future then why the fuck not?

                    • Just look around the world. There are plenty of countries that are doing what you advocate. Are any of them more progressive than the US? No, they are all less progressive. Every single one. So what you are advocating is a system where the rich will pay less and the poor and middle class will pay more, but you can say on paper it looks more “moral”.

                    • I’m not ready to suggest that I can’t name at least a dozen democracies are in every fundamental respect more progressive than the United States. We are going to need to define the term apparently.

                      And for the life of me, I have no idea how I went from:
                      1) saying Mitt Romney should pay more taxes and if the lower capital gains rate results in this kind of appalling inequity, it must be discarded and all income must be taxed at the same rate to
                      2) “What you are advocating is a system where the rich will pay less and the poor and middle class will pay more.” I don’t think I can imagine a mental construct by which any of arguments can be shaped into such a sentence.

                      I’m saying the rich should pay more, and that this “more” ought to be proportional to its greater earnings. And the middle-class rate should be significantly lower and proportional to its earnings. And the poor should not be taxed, proportional to their earnings. And no motherfucker should be allowed to semantically or legalistically cheat their way into a lesser rate or bracket. That you got what you got from that, I can only says: How the fuck how?

                    • Ha. How I got there is that the system you are advocating yields a less progressive outcome, despite your best intentions. If you study tax regimes around the world you’d understand that. We’re far more progressive than Canada, than England, than France, than Sweden, than Germany, etc. And you’re screaming “it’s immoral! it’s not FAIR! the elites are raping us!”. Yet, if we’re the most progressive taxed developed country in the world, I guess the entire world is unfair. France is even more unfair than the US! Or maybe we’re the most fair in the world, but just not fair enough for you. Your intentions are good. Unfortunately, your understanding of economics and tax policy are poor and won’t yield the simple outcome you crave (raise rates on people and of course they’ll pay a greater share of the pie, it’s so simple).

                      Read up.

                      The true immorality is the spending that has occurred under the last 2 presidents (much higher % of GDP than has ever been collected under any tax policy) which will have negative economic repercussions for generations. It’s actually not the elites fucking us. It’s the vote buying politicians. They trade votes for spending and it’s going to destroy us. Read the teacher union story in today’s LA Times. That should enrage you. Then multiply that out to every level of government. That’s where to place the outrage. It’s not the progressiveness of our system that is the problem (most progressive in the world).

                    • Ah, Reason magazine.

                      Now I understand. This is fairness as defined with a libertarian strain. All makes sense now. Thanks.

                    • I don’t read Reason magazine. I did a google search for progressive rankings by country. The data report is from the OECD. You seem to really really want progressiveness yet want to ignore that we are the most progressive country in the world and are currently the most progressive in the history of our republic. You’ve been sold a bill of goods about the rich “paying their fair share”. All of Europe taxes their poor and middle class at much higher proportional rates than we do. All of them. Stop buying the PR and look at the data man.

                    • Josh,

                      I’m sincerely at a loss to respond to your bald assertion that we are the most progressive in the world.

                      The UK has had a viable national health service since 1952.
                      Portugal has decriminalized drugs.
                      The rest of the world managed to affix their signatures to the Kyoto Treaty.

                      Are you referring only to the various tax codes, or is that blanket statement in any way defensible?

                      If it’s only the tax codes that you are comparing, I would ask two questions:

                      1) How are the rich taxed in those countries in proportion to those you classify as middle-class and poor?
                      2) What are the social services/economic opportunities/safety net provided to the population of these seemingly regressive states. In short, a nation that asks little of its poor in terms of income tax, but manages to regressively tax its poor in other ways, and then provides a marginal safety net, according its population little in the way of basic health care, housing assistance, etc. — is it really empirical to describe such a nation as the most progressive.

                      Are the apples all apples, in other words.

                    • The definition of progressive is who pays what. So in European countries for example the top quintile (20%) of earners pays a lower share of total revenue collected. And the middle quintile pays a higher percentage of the total collections than in the US.

                      The reason they can pay for free healthcare is because they a) tax their poor and middle class more, b) don’t spend all their money on “defense”, and c) spend less per capita on healthcare than the ridiculous system here.

                      Here we have spent a lot of our increasing progressiveness on reducing taxes for the middle class and poor. In Europe the top rate kicks in at the middle class. The middle class pays a national sales tax on everything they buy. If progressiveness is what you want (the rich pay a greater share of the pie), then you are living in the most progressive country, in the most progressive time period, in the history of the world. Enjoy it.

                    • And that is but one definition, is it not?

                      If middle-income Americans endured a tax rate that was say, a half-percent higher, and affluent Americans endured a two percent bump (just spitballing figures, of course) yet at the same time every last soul was able to obtain public health care of consistent availability and quality for free, would America be a less progressive or more progressive society?

                      Isn’t that part of any argument about whether tax policy is progressive or not? Or are you just concerned with the money paid and not the services provided.

                      “The reason they can pay for free healthcare is because they a) tax their poor and middle class more, b) don’t spend all their money on defense and c) spend less per capita on healthcare than the ridiculous system here.”

                      In a) I am sure you meant to acknowledge that tax everyone and it isn’t merely the poor and middle class who pay for healthcare, but beyond that, the above paragraph, penned by you, is to me, an argument that those countries are far more progressive. From a) to b) to c), I’d have little to complain about in terms of progressivism.

                      As to your conclusion, if indeed we had any rich people paying an actual 39 percent rate on their income, we would look damn impressive in terms of progressive taxation. But now, of course, I’m going to call us back to the very reason that this entire thread exists. On paper, we are most progressive in our tax policies. In reality, the holes in the back of the machine allow us to remain entirely regressive. And here, Mitt Romney stands, waving his 13 percent effective rate, putting the lie to your paper stats. So I ask again, these stats — are they based on actual breakdates of where actual revenue came to national treasuries, or are they compiled comparisons of who is supposed to get taxed what on paper. Because in that case, the U.S. — we all know from this notable moment — looks great on paper, but in practice, we do not actually tax our rich as we pretend to tax our rich.

                      Lastly, I’ve been to Europe. There are some glorious disconnects between what they say they do on paper and what happens in reality. In Italy, for example, there are two economies. Cash payments glean one price tag, all others pay more. Because no one pays a single tax on anything unless they absolutely have to. The reality of Italy and the life of the middle class there bears zero resemblance to middle-class tax obligations on paper.

                      In short, I am really skeptical.

                    • Just to be clear, when I say progressive, I mean a progressive taxation policy whereby the rich pay a greater share. I do not mean socially progressive. Clearly we are not socially progressive (unfortunately).

                    • You’re mixing progressive taxation (money coming in) with progressive spending (money going out).

                      You argue that the rich aren’t paying a big enough share and it’s immoral. I have showed you that the rich in the US currently pay more into the system (proportionally) than any other country or in any other time period in our country. We currently have the most progressive tax system in history of developed countries.

                      How we choose to spend that money, is a totally different topic. I completely agree our spending priorities are messed up. We have more than enough money coming in though to afford all the social services provided in Europe. We choose to give it back to the middle class and poor in reduced taxes (increasing tax progressivity) and to spend it on defense. Hell we could have free healthcare without any increase in spending. They all spend less per capita on healthcare than we do to offer a universal system. But that is a completely different issue.

                    • Okay, I was taking your characterization for more than you intended. No problem.

                      As to the second part, do we tax our rich on paper at a more progressive rate, or in practice. Meaning what are the stats measuring. Are they a comparison of tax codes? Or are they actually measuring where the dollars coming into the national treasuries actually originate.

                      Because on paper, we are quite progressive. On paper, I pay a rate of 39 percent. And on paper, that would be Mr. Romney’s rate for wages as well. But paper is, well, paper.

                      What are they comparing? Actual revenues and the demographic breakdown of their origin? Or tax codes and how they theoretically apply across demographic breakdown?

                    • And yes, the stats from the OECD are based on the actual monies paid into the coffers, not the theoretical rates.

                      It’s only logical that states that rely heavily on consumption taxes are going to be much less progressive than the US which has no national sales tax and relatively low federal sin taxes (alcohol, tobacco, gas, etc).

                    • If you read that Reason article you’ll see that on “paper” we appear less progressive than Europe cause we have lower top rates. But when you look at the collections, as the OECD did (among others), you see we are the most progressive.

                    • I am convinced of the relevance of your stats, and yes, of course, the European VATS and high taxes on gas and such would of course make them much less progressive in taxation than the U.S., which does more to sustain itself with income-based taxing. Systemically, we ought to do better.

                      So I agree with you that we are doing better than they.

                      Now you must agree that absolutely nothing in that suggests that there should be a back door to our tax code that allows our corporate elite the opportunity to pay at our middle-class rates on their upper-close earnings? If we are better than France or Italy, so be it. What might we be if our tax code actually assured that its intentions came to pass? To get back to our original discussion, it might be argued that if we close the backdoor siphoning off of wage-based earnings into investment earnings, either by prohibiting the legal transitive logic that allows such, or by eliminating the incentive through raising the cap gains tax rate, we could match or improve on our revenues and actually reduce the income-tax rates on brackets across the board, including the highest bracket. Nothing said thus far argues, in my mind, to sustain the legal frauds of the existing system. And certainly nothing justifies a presidential hopeful’s embrace of that status quo.

                    • Will do. It sounds interesting.

                      But again, not sure it mitigates the inequities we do have, as stated earlier. Mr. Romney did say 13 percent and that number is what it is, and More, it is indicative of how big the holes are in our tax code and how inequitably the responsibilities of citizenship are distributed, regardless of European tax policy.

                    • Let history be your guide. What we know is that every time we have reduced cap gains rate the tax code has become more progressive (good) and every time we have raised it the code has become less progressive (bad). So what you call a backdoor (bad), I call an incentive for the rich to pay a greater share of the pie (good). If you were an unemotional data scientist looking at the data, and your goal was to increase progressivity, the only logical conclusion would be to lower the cap gains rate (and measure what happens). I know that concept will blow your mind, so I won’t even suggest it, but it’s true.

                      If you look at collections data from the past 50 years we see that we are now more progressive than we have ever been. And we’ve skewed away from the rest of the world into hyper progressivity. Which raises 2 questions: who really isn’t paying their “fair share” (historically, the answer is me in the middle class), and why would you want to mess with that thinking that if you went back to old rates it would have a different result?

                      You need to let the rate thing go and follow the money. Rule #1 of tax policy analysis.

                    • I’m sorry. I’m still going to be guided by republican ideals. If we can’t lower cap gains tax rate without having our captains of industry and ruling elites using it as a backdoor to shepherd their earning past the front-door tax rates that promise all citizens a proportional equality under the law, then we are undone in myriad ways that matter more than mere collections data.

                      Josh, I live in Baltimore, blocks away from the other America that you are unwilling or unable to speak to in all of this. They are playing by different rules and encountering different outcomes. It is brutal. And unforgiving. And no one cuts anyone there a break, ever.

                      If our elites can’t figure out how to level the playing field enough so that a man running for a president — a man who claims to want to lead this nation as a whole — isn’t standing there in plain view explaining to millions of Americans how he, with all his wealth and income, has managed to pay less proportionately then they, how in hell do you expect ordinary Americans to have any faith in the idea of citizenship? Speak to that, because you go mute at the idea that there might be bigger things involved than meeting a fucking revenue forecast.

                      If we can’t manage to lower cap gains rates without our upper classes using that as a portal for the dishonorable abdication of the responsibilities of citizenship, then we can’t lower those rates. Sorry. And don’t tell me again that it necessarily leads to the poor paying a greater share, because that isn’t at all necessarily so. What we lose in cap gains revenue — if indeed you are correct in your suppositions about less stock selling — we can simply make up by raising the highest-bracket tax rates. Make ’em pay their share one way or the other. Class war, you say. Fuck, man, there’s been a class war going on in this country for thirty years, and as Warren Buffet correctly points out, my class has been winning. Time to call in the marker.

                      Rule #1 of policy analysis may be follow the money. Rule #1 of self-governance and republicanism is this: Are we acting for the common good? And by common we refer not just to the elites, but to all of America. As a viable society, we are slowly coming undone. And you stand there talking about the first rule of policy analysis. What am I supposed to believe, my own eyes of what is happening in the streets of my city or what you wish to point out in your revenue charts? Right and wrong, man. Government by and for the people is not an extraneous luxury, it is the existential argument, the the American experiment itself. And the Mitt Romneys of our world are slowly butchering it.

  • The central thesis of this post is about “fairness”, “shame”, “equality”, etc, etc. However, here’s why Mitt should be damn proud of his rate. If you look at the last 50 years of capital gains COLLECTIONS, the current cap gains rate of 15% is generating the highest amount of COLLECTIONS for the government than ever before (in absolute dollars and as a % of GDP). When the rate was 28% all through the 80s we collected less as a % of GDP than we do now. The thing about cap gains is, changing the rate changes behavior much more so than changing income tax rates (realizing capital gains is often optional). When the rate is higher, people sell less stock/businesses and realize gains less often (too much friction). So by lowering the rate we generate way more volume of transactions and that makes the government more money. If we raise the rate, we will collect less. There is 50 years of publicly available data to back this up. So Mitt is paying the rate that maximizes revenue to the government, which in turn this lower rate has financed (paid for) the highest number of Americans to pay zero federal taxes in history. It has allowed more and more people to get a free ride (more so than ever before). The data tells us your populist emotion will lead to lower revenues and less growth. Thinking about tax rates should be about data and logic and completely unemotional (I pay the same high income tax rate as you). This populist emotional argument will just screw us in the end.

    So Mitt is part of a capital gains system that is generating more revenue for the US government than ever before. There’s no shame in that.

    The Wire was absolute genius. This post is absolute rubbish.

    • So glad you enjoyed The Wire. You must watch it again, perhaps in a quiet room. There is more there, I think, for you to acquire, if you are so inclined.

      I do not believe for a moment that markets will dry up if capital gains are taxed at a higher rate. Where do you think the great pool of investible money in the world is going to go? Mattresses? Wall Street just led the world economy to the brink by manufacturing toxic, mortgage-backed commodities and then selling that shit as if it were gold all across the international economic spectrum, finding suckers as varied as mom-and-pop investors and whole governments.
      The hunger for higher yields on investible income — of which there is more now in the world than ever before with the rise of economies such as China and India — demands that more investment will occur regardless of how the resulting profits are taxed.

      Do you think it’s going to go into cookie jars? Or even CDs or savings accounts? Why? Even low-yield investing requires the same capital gains tax to be paid at the end of the day.

      No, Josh, fool no one with that crap. The rich — and even the near-rich or middle-class — will not run away from market investing because the government takes an additional bite. Where would they run? And for what? Money has been making more of itself for generations and the place to do that is Wall Street. That doesn’t change. What does change is that more Americans might look to their tax code as being a more honest reflection of the American collective and the responsibilities of citizenship for all of us.

      • I guess you didn’t understand my comment. The market will not “dry up”. Capital won’t flee. We will just collect less revenue. People often confuse RATE and COLLECTIONS. The two are often not highly correlated. My goal is to maximize collections (tax revenue). Yours seems to be to feel good about rates emotionally. You are from Venus and I am from Mars. I would argue that increasing rate and then collecting less is a bad outcome. For the past 50 years, consistently, the lower the rate the higher our collections have been. The data is public. Do the calculation yourself instead of calling it “crap”. I did. It’s not arguable. Tax policy changes behavior. When the rate is higher, folks sell their stocks less often creating less transaction volume and therefore lower collections (capital gains taxes are only triggered upon the event of selling). Capital doesn’t have to go anywhere to lower collections. In fact, capital just sitting there yields no capital gains. It seems you don’t understand how capital gains taxes are generated. Capital moving around is what generates capital gains taxes.

        ps. I am not the Josh who posted that birth certificate nonsense.

        • Sincere apologies if I equated my Joshes.

          I do understand capital gains entirely. I have investment income and have dealt with such for years.

          The transactional sale of commodities might well decline some. But the incentive to sell remains intact beyond the extra tax points: To lock in profits after a long-run up, to liquidate holdings in companies that can expect harder going, to rebalance portfolios, to mobilize assets for a more lucrative opportunity. Wall Street will not stop being Wall Street and the forces that influence markets are all still present. I don’t believe that capital gains tax issues operate in a vaccuum.

          More than that, if the purpose of investment capital is to underwrite economic development — as our business leaders and theorists all like to assert — then I ought not to be particularly concerned with how often the Wall Street players sell and rebuy and resell stocks and commodities. The casino aspect of Wall Street and all the speculation that it entails is in many ways unconnected to actual economic development.

          What would it mean to the economy in general if a hike in cap gains tax resulted in more deliberate buy-and-hold investment strategies? Would more capital be directed at companies and development that investors actually believe in, long-term. Would that capital remain intact in the marketplace, backing the growth of such companies? Who knows?

          Wall Streeters love to say that the markets are there to determine the true price of anything. But after half a lifetime of watching the markets, I no longer believe that the current, highly-speculative investment culture does anything of the sort. The speculation and day-to-day trading are predicated on a great variety of influences and manipulations, some of them truly relevant to value, some not at all.

          But as a tactical matter, I believe that capital still moves regardless of the tax rate. The market has been the market for a long time, and what alternative is there for all this cash to make more of itself, or be lost trying?

          Whenever someone proposes even the most necessary of tax hikes, someone else rushes in to say the money will disappear. If you tax the rich, they won’t create jobs. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.

          They will create any job that they think will allow them to achieve greater profit, regardless of whether they have to give a dime and not a nickel of every dollar of that profit back to the government. They want the dollar first and foremost. And if they don’t see an opportunity to make money with economic investment, they won’t spend tax revenue returned to them regardless.

          I make television shows. They employ a lot of people when we produce them. I can only make so many, and HBO only needs so many made to fill their schedule and maintain their subscription base. If you cut my taxes and give me that money back, I can’t work any harder or produce any more than I am. And if you raise my taxes, I’m doing my job just the same. The mantle of job-creator and the exaggerated aura that surrounds such is one of the uglier frauds in our current economic and political dialectic.

          • Totally agree with a lot of what you said. But I look at it much more simply. What rate produces the most amount of government revenue, which we can then spend on worthy purposes? And if you look at the data, the current rate produces the most amount of revenue over the last 50 years of data. The 28% rate in the 80s produced less revenue. So clearly a lower rate creates higher transaction volumes, and is good for us. It incentives more day trading and rapid trading and whatever they do on Wall St. Set emotions aside and think about maximizing collections instead (cause that is what is truly good for us – not feeling good about a higher rate on paper that generates less revenue to the government).

    • Josh,

      You say an awful lot about collections. Can you please tell me about the wealth in the system? For examples, you’ve used the Eisenhower era. What was the total wealth vs. income available in the entire US at the time? How did the taxes break down? How does this compare with Europe at the time? Now can you do the same thing for say the last ten years? I don’t just want to hear about just the total collections, I want to hear about how the distribution of income vs. wealth broke down as well. Total collections mean nothing without a frame of reference for the wealth AND the income available within the system.

      What happens when you move beyond federal income and include state and local income taxes? How do state and local sales taxes compare to VAT taxes? What happens when you include fees like for something like park usage or on-street parking which once was free? How about property taxes? How about taxes on cigarettes, liquor, hotel rooms, car rentals, etc? How about the fees/taxes collected on basic services like phone bills, cable bills, 911 (used to be free), electricity, heating gas, etc. get added into the mix?

      How do the Medicare employee taxes and the payroll taxes factor into your platform?

      If you are stating the US is more progressive on an individual level than other nations then the entire system of taxes must be compared to those other nations you mention.

      Can you point me to the numbers you’ve run or the reports you’ve read which would reference your point on all taxes paid by US citizens compared to a citizen of the UK, France, Germany or even Canada broken down by economic strata?

  • David’s point are on target. I wrote this back in February:

    Romney’s ability to pay only 13% is not a lucky happenstance. He and his industry and now his campaign have pushed for the reduction in their tax burden. There is no good evidence that supports their central argument — that society was supposed to benefit by reducing their rate from 25% or higher down to 15%. But that doesn’t stop them from trying to keep such low rates and hoping to win the White House and Congress to reduce them further.

  • This is also a man who is calling Obama out of touch with the American idea. Everything he says, it’s like he’s saying it to himself.

  • Mr. Simon — I wish I had the time (and craft) to marshal my words as marvelously as you have, both in your original post and in your exceedingly generous replies to readers’ comments, most of which were well beneath you in tone and substance (the comments, not the readers).

    That you have gone to the trouble to explicate your points on citizenship and our republic is laudable and, apparently, close to thankless — but good on you, brother.

    So much of the myopic contemporary commentary (in the media, amongst just-folks, in this comment section, wherever) seems to miss the meaningful points. They decry the meanness of the campaigns without furthering the discourse, or they cling to hollow, intellectually-bereft fodder like “ok 13%, yeah but it’s legal” (but is it good?), or skew off into inanities like “why don’t YOU give all your money to the govt” or some such.

    Frankly, I wish I (and a lot of others) could hear more of your thoughts — lo, you have a vision, and shared vision has been sadly lacking lately. I felt the audacity of hope four years ago, and I don’t think Obama’s done too badly by us in the meantime, because I knew it’d be a hard job and he’s been vigorously opposed, but a little bit of vision goes a long way. A lot of well-intentioned people get flustered in trying to rebut or refute contemporary hard-right viewpoints… and too much fighting back just leads to a lot more fighting back.

    So I think it’s better when we can sidestep that melee and instead hear people articulate a vision. The gestalt underpinning your words hints at a larger vision of shared prosperity and shared sacrifice, of decency and accountability and integrity of thought and action. That’s part of why I sincerely hope you’ll continue to write about social and political America in this blog (I’m a new reader).

    Because I think that we — all of us — can do better than the “I can get away with this” attitude that Bush and Rove were so proud of and which Romney seems to have his own take on, as well. It makes me sad to see America viewed so cheaply by so many of its citizens — but I think we can do better, and you seem to as well. Thank you for making my day — and, by extension, this entire anxiety-ridden election cycle — more tolerable and a little more hopeful. Anyway, this has meandered, for which I apologize; but, once again, thank you.



    PS: And two spaces after a period is a useful visual affordance. Our visual system is not a beneficiary of these imposed so-called efficiencies (“duud, ur wastng spc!!!”). The one-space-after-period people need to step back and consider what they’re even fighting for — besides, it’s contrary to the ‘chunking’ that’s used throughout our vision processing.

    • As I’ve indicated, two spaces after a sentence is how I was trained to write screenplays and teleplays, so we must blame Tom Fontana, who argued convincingly that actors reading said pages would be aided by the implied breath between singular sentences, phrases and action.

      He was right. That I cannot easily roll from prose to scriptwork without leaving artifacts of one in the other is the cost of doing some business in both worlds at once.

  • Mr. Simon. thank you for speaking to the absence and appreciation revealed in Mr. Romney’s Self righteous statement on paying 13% in taxes for what our country made possible for Mitt Romney. It too sickened me when I read his remark. During the past decade the Bush Administration has criminally invaded and occupied two countries that pose no threat to the US just massive corporate global imperial interests. The Afghan invasion was already in the planning phase in 1998 by the Republicans on behest of the pipeline demand by UNOCAL and ENRON and the refusal of the Taliban to accommodate them. The minutes of this meeting are chilling as they reveal the depth of servitude of our government to US corporate giants. http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/intlrel/hfa48119.000/hfa48119_0f.htm

    US corporate welfare is what is bankrupting our country, Men like Romney who consistently availed himself of taxpayer dollars both as CEO of Bain Capital and as CEO of the Utah Olympics. In Indian Romney took more then $100 million of State tax dollars to spread his investment risk. He also insisted on infrastructure additions for his investment. The infrastructure upgrades for Bain were paid by thru increases to the property taxes of the county where the business was located. The rest was paid for thru increases to every working individuals State income taxes. So Romney’s 13% bravado is a slap in the face to the country and our people.

  • Did I miss something in the past few years? When was paying taxes something good? How much should a rich person pay or a poor person not pay? I know Mitt when he payed 13% one year he probably paid more than I will ever pay my entire life.

    • You missed a great deal, I’m afraid. This is about unjustifiable inequities in the American tax code and one Presidential candidate’s benefit from those inequities and his further insistence on defending them against any possible reform.

      • I can’t agree more with Simon. Are you awake, Jay? I’m not a left leaning zealot. I own a small business and pay taxes; I spend my time trying to grow my business; not optimizing my tax exposure. The issue here is on the egregious carried interest tax exemption that Romney uses to avoid ordinary income tax. and even though this is a legal tax exemption, anyone running for president, in my opinion, should not waste brain power, platform, resources on optimizing his/her tax bill. Moreover, this loophole is a joke: management fees get rolled into performance fees so these investment firms get a tax break solely because they manage the lp investment capital

    • Mitt also gets probably 10 times what most of us will get in our lifetimes from this society (which is the larger problem that the debate about tax rates masks). His wealth is dependent on an economic, political and social system it is not his alone.

    • I’d say you missed a great deal also. I’m happy to pay taxes, as I love my parks, lights, roads, education, etc. I’m happy to pay my fair share. I’m dumbfounded that a grown man of Mitt’s stature would not feel shame in announcing that of all his wealth, he paid only 13% in federal taxes. Or did he even say “federal taxes”? We really don’t know, do we. He may have paid more in taxes in one year than I’ll ever pay in my entire life, but I’ll never see that kind of wealth, either. He is a man without concience.

    • You sir, missed everything. Since 1980, the share of the nation’s income for people in the top 0.1 percent (like Romney) has increased 400 percent, while the share for the bottom 50 percent of Americans has declined 33 percent. At the same time, effective tax rates on the super-wealthy fell to 16.6 percent in 2007, from 42 percent at the peak of U.S. productivity in the early 1960s, and about 30 percent during the expansion of the 1990s.

      Paying taxes are necessary. Do you like having safe food and drinking water? What about a strong military?

      Mitt Romney claims to have paid at least 13% in taxes. A person making only $15,000 would have paid at least 15%. Romney’s 2010 adjusted gross income was $21,661,344 with an effective tax rate of about 14%.

      The middle class having enough of an income to purchase goods and services from businesses is the engine behind the U.S. economy. You can create the best company in the world and hire a few thousand people at the start, but if nobody can afford to buy your products you will go bankrupt. This feedback loop is the key. So taxing the middle class at rates double that of the super wealthy is not simply an issue of equity, it’s also bad economic policy.

    • Jay,
      how do you want to be remembered on the day you die, knowing that all the money you made will not come with you on that journey?

    • The number of dollars that represent 13% of one year of Mitt Romney’s income is dazzling, yes. Which is why it is important not to focus on the specific number, because it becomes hard to wrap your head around when dealing with such inequality.

      If you’re taking in $77K in a year in income from wages, working a salaried job that often requires you to put in extra hours(a fine, middle class salary, btw) your tax obligation is 25%.

      Understand that for Romney, $77K is the amount he *writes off* for ONE of his wife’s fancy dancing horses. He gets your salary as a DISCOUNT for owning a specialty horse. And that’s only from the ONE year release that he felt was least harmful, where he paid 13% in taxes. Someone earning the amount he wrote off for a random horse in his giant portfolio (which includes undisclosed amounts in Swiss bank accounts and Cayman off-shore holdings, two movie-villain tax dodges) pays almost double a percentage of than he did FOR THAT YEAR. Keep in mind, that was the *one* year he disclosed, so we must assume that was the one year he ended up paying the most.

      To put it into scale,. in the one year he released, Romney’s returns showed 22 million dollars in income. Compared to a good middle class wage of 77K, that is 285 times more. It is hard to understand that scale.

      Put it this way: Let’s say you are crossing a desert that will take you a year to get through. And you have enough water for 100 days of comfortable drinking. You’re gonna have to ration that water; each day’s worth is going to have to be divided by at least 1/3rd if you’re going to drink every day, right?

      But wait– before you enter the desert, you’ve got to give one quarter of your supply–25 days worth back, to go into the pool of resources that make the road through the desert possible at all. Now make it through the year on 75 days worth.

      Now here comes some slick-haired, socially awkward motherfucker right behind you, and he’s got water like you’ve never seen. He’s got MORE, but what he’s willing to tell you about is that in this one year desert trek, he’s got enough for SEVENTY EIGHT YEARS worth of drinking. And that’s just for this, his leanest year he’s willing to talk about. Now this guy, he’s got to give away 3,705 days of water into the same water fund you did, right. That seems, to you, like a vast fortune of wet. It’s more than your 25 by a damn sight; more than you are going to ever have at one time, so it seems like he’s putting a shit-ton of water into the kitty. But dude. Proportionately, you’re giving almost double a percentage of your more limited supply, and that sonofabitch STILL has SIXTY SEVEN YEARS WORTH OF WATER for the trip.

      This is a crazy analogy, but the reality is crazier.

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