Comments on: “The Choice” as explained by The New Yorker Blog, news, books Thu, 02 Feb 2017 18:43:00 +0000 hourly 1 By: Max Lybbert Sun, 31 Oct 2004 01:27:40 +0000 Briefly, the reason Social Security is a regressive tax is because workers who make less than $87,900 pay 6.2% of their wages (and their employers match it). People who make more than $87,900 pay $5450. There are no tax credits, deductions, or shelters for Social Security, you pay it on all wages.

I pay 6.2% of my wages to Social Security, while people making $200,000 per year only pay 2.725% of their wages (and their total income may consist of things other than wages, like capital gains). Millionares pay less than 0.545% of their wages. Simply put, people who make more than $87,900, pay a smaller percentage of their wages in Social Security tax than everybody else in America.

My wife and I own two cars, and drive a total of about 40,000 miles per year (20,000 each). We get roughly 25 mpg, so we buy 1600 gallons of gas per year. IIRC, federal gas tax is roughly 18 cents a gallon, so we pay $288 per year in federal gas taxes. If we made twice as much money, we might drive more, but not twice as much (where would we find the time to drive 80,000 miles a year?). We would pay more gas tax, but not twice as much, so a smaller percentage of our income would go to gas tax. Other sales taxes, such as cigarette tax, are regressive for the same reason.

Oh, and don’t forget that rich people hire lawyers and accountants to structure their earnings in such a way that they avoid as much income tax as legally possible. I think this is legitimate, but it is something to remember when talking about raising the tax on people who make more than $200,000/year, since they are precisely the people with the most tax advice available.

By: Max Lybbert Sun, 31 Oct 2004 00:36:07 +0000 I think there was some misunderstanding of my post. Perhaps people neglected to follow the link.

Here’s the executive summary for those who have trouble operating a mouse button, or didn’t realize the word “Really” was a link:

After the Bush income tax cuts, poor and middle class people pay a smaller portion of overall income tax than they did before. More people are actually exempt from income tax altogether. To quote from the linked-to article:

The way to read this is that the wealthiest 10% of taxpayers pay 67.9% of the country’s individual income taxes. And yes, that 103% is not a typo [referring to a chart that states 60% of taxpayers pay 103% of income tax] – the bottom 40% in income as a group pay negative personal income taxes (because of the EITC).

This leads to the following fascinating conclusion: Half of the people in this country pay more than 100% of the personal income taxes. The other half get, as a group, a free ride. …

Without the Bush tax cut, the top 60% would have paid 99.9% of all individual income taxes. Now, after the tax cut, they pay 103%, meaning the bottom 40% have gone from paying about 0% to actually getting a bunch of money in net EITC. …

However, other payroll taxes — notably Medicare and Social Security — are wildly regressive, as are gasoline taxes, cigarette taxes, and other “sales” taxes. So the statistics get skewed enough that Kerry is correct when he says that the total tax burden has shifted off of the middle class. Simply put, the income tax is a progressive tax — it burdens the rich more. All other payroll taxes are regressive — they burden the poor more. If you cut the progressive tax, the regressive taxes will have a larger effect, and the overall burden becomes regressive. If Kerry cuts the progressive tax even more, the burden will be shifted even more firmly to the middle class. The only fix is to change Social Security, Medicare, and any other regressive federal taxes to a progressive system.

By: Tayssir John Gabbour Sat, 30 Oct 2004 16:28:45 +0000 Incidentally, I am not flaming. I am honestly curious. Simple mathematics tells me that if one person makes $5 mil/year, and 99 make $50k/year, the wealthy person will pay more in taxes than the rest combined, even if taxed the exact same percentage on pure income. And of course the wealthy person will be able to accumulate more savings.

Since there’s a progressive tax, the percentage is not equal, but we all know it’s shockingly simple to be fooled by statistics.

By: Tayssir John Gabbour Sat, 30 Oct 2004 15:39:05 +0000 Does anyone know how much taxes the wealthy pay RELATIVE to their assets/income? I mean clearly, if you are shifting everyone into Walmart-poverty jobs, guess who’ll have the money to pay taxes.

Look at Warren Buffett, a frequent critic of taxes that “supply major aid to the rich in their pursuit of even greater wealth.” Or Bill Gates’s father, who exhorts us to, “Ask how well they would have done if they had been born in Nigeria,” speaking of privileged Americans.

So sure, let’s drive everyone even deeper into poverty, so the wealthy can brag about paying even a higher percentage of total taxes.

By: zephyr1256 Sat, 30 Oct 2004 14:12:42 +0000 A very excellent article. Well written and covers many of the important issues about the case against GWB.

I see some have objected to the characterization of the Bush tax cuts as favoring the wealthy and the ‘reverse Robin Hood’ effect of them. This concern is legitimate, and it is largely a matter of interpretation. One can legitimately argue that the tax cut should have favored working class families even more, because they will spend that money, helping the economy move along; therefore, the tax cuts favor the wealthy too much. But it is also legitimate to say that the wealthy already pay the most by far and that’s why they get most of the cut. Neither statement is false; it is a matter of opnion about how progressive you think our tax code should be.

Personally, I think the tax cut should have been almost exclusively to the middle-class and lower income people. This is the most effective place, dollar for dollar(and since we risk higher deficits with a tax cut, we at least want to make sure the tax cuts are targeted to be as effective as possible), to help the economy by letting people keep more of their own money. But that does not mean I think people who say otherwise are lying.

By: Tayssir John Gabbour Fri, 29 Oct 2004 21:26:38 +0000 Well, sure he’s not Bush. What else is the reason to vote for Kerry? Many people formulate the issue as Nader vs. The Least Worst, with interesting analysis.

Incidentally, looking at this blog’s recent, hopeful, and optimistic endorsement of Kerry, I’ve noticed signs that the apocalypse must be arriving, as written in the holy books. “The earlier generation will be more idealistic than the later ones.” Check.

As far as I can tell, the micro-scrutinization of two fairly similar candidates is a waste of time. The only issue is making sure that the winner doesn’t get too much in the way of all the hordes of important people making good things happen.

By: Dan McGuire Fri, 29 Oct 2004 21:01:30 +0000 The only argument presented by this article is that one should vote for Senator Kerry because he is not President Bush. The article sets forth in great detail its complaints about the current administration, many of them valid, many of them ridiculous hyperbole (e.g., the discussion of the Bush tax cuts). There are only passing references to any legislative accomplishments and no mention of any specific proposals put forth by Senator Kerry. The entire pro- Kerry case can be summed up in these 2 quotations:

“John Kerry has demonstrated steadiness and sturdiness of character.”
“In every crucial area of concern to Americans (the economy, health care, the environment, Social Security, the judiciary, national security, foreign policy, the war in Iraq, the fight against terrorism), Kerry offers a clear, corrective alternative to Bush�s curious blend of smugness, radicalism, and demagoguery.”

The former is subjective character assessment which, although perhaps true, finds little support in the article. The latter is a gross generalization with absolutely no support in the article. The article makes mention of not one proposal by Senator Kerry. Not to mention the fact that suggesting Senator Kerry has put forth a clear, corrective alternative with respect to Social Security is laugh out loud funny.
If you prefer Senator Kerry because he is not President Bush, this article is a nice read. It presents no case in favor of Senator Kerry. Given the current state of the war in Iraq and the fact that the current recovery hasn’t yet reached the middle class, I believe the lack of a case in favor of Senator Kerry is the principal reason the election remains a toss up.

By: b_real Fri, 29 Oct 2004 20:30:00 +0000 uggh. max.uggh
(i think you spend far too much time thinking of what to say and not enough just thinking)

By: Max Lybbert Fri, 29 Oct 2004 19:47:37 +0000 OK, two more. Sorry to all those who wish to simply skip on by.

/* Kerry has made mistakes (most notably, in hindsight at least, his initial opposition to the Gulf War in 1990), but�in contrast to the President, who touts his imperviousness to changing realities as a virtue�he has learned from them.

Sorry, but Bush is open to learning from mistakes and changing his mind. He simply doesn’t change his mind, then change it back, then change it yet again. Flip-flopping is different from simply changing your mind.


/* While Bush has pandered relentlessly to the narrowest urges of his base, Kerry has sought to appeal broadly to the American center.

Really? I haven’t seen it.

On top of that, I find it intriguing that Bush actually does better in polls involving him, Kerry, and Nader than he does in polls involving just Bush and Kerry. It appears that some people hate Bush enough to vote Nader, but not enough to vote Kerry. That’s not what was expected.

By: Max Lybbert Fri, 29 Oct 2004 19:35:00 +0000 Sorry, I failed to balance my “blockquote”s.

By: Max Lybbert Fri, 29 Oct 2004 19:33:39 +0000

/* The new President�s main order of business was to push through Congress a program of tax reductions overwhelmingly skewed to favor the very rich.

Really? There was once a time when journalists would fact-check for themselves, especially when they got their information from a politically-motivated source.

/* In January, 2001, … the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office published its budget outlook for the coming decade. It showed a cumulative surplus of more than five trillion dollars. At the time, there was a lot of talk about what to do with the anticipated bounty, …

And Alan Greenspan backed proposals to give it back to the American people via a tax cut.

/* Even so, to the extent that Bush and Ashcroft have been thwarted it has been due largely to our still vigorous federal judiciary, especially the Supreme Court.

The same Supreme Court, BTW, that decided Bush v. Gore. Something tells me that they aren’t the boot-lickers the New Yorker tried to portray them as in the beginning.

/* The determination of ordinary Afghans to vote in last month�s Presidential election, for which the votes are still being counted, is clearly a positive sign. … Warlords control much of Afghanistan outside the capital of Kabul, which is the extent of the territorial writ of the decent but beleaguered President Hamid Karzai.

Were all the voting Afghans in Kabul? If so, why did the UN run the election?

/* The bottom line, as Bush�s former Treasury Secretary Paul O�Neill has said, was that the Bush-Cheney team had been planning to carry out regime change in Baghdad well before September 11th�one way or another, come what may.

Why not? It was US policy since 1998, after all.

/* In Bush�s rhetoric, the Iraq war began on March 20, 2003, with precision bombings of government buildings in Baghdad, and ended exactly three weeks later, with the iconic statue pulldown.

That’s amazing that he didn’t call all the troops home at the end of the war.

Or was he simply saying that the invasion stage had been finished? I seem to remember him talking about reconstruction, even before the war.

I won’t spend the time responding to the rest of the article. Some people would like to only need to hit “Page Down” once to get past my comment.

By: Max Lybbert Fri, 29 Oct 2004 19:06:40 +0000 Sorry, I had a hard time after “This Presidential campaign has been as ugly and as bitter as any in American memory. The ugliness has flowed mostly in one direction, … by a supposedly independent group financed by friends of the incumbent, to portray the challenger … as a coward and a traitor.”

I thought trying to run over Kathleen Harris was a little ugly. As was storming Republican party offices across the country. As was trying to interrupt the President’s speech. As were several ads.

If the New Yorker could overlook those kinds of ugliness, I wonder where their endorsement would go. Really, this is a lack of shame.

By: Leigh Chinitz Fri, 29 Oct 2004 18:33:41 +0000 The New Yorker article was excellent, pulling together as it did so many descriptions of how the policies of this administration are indefensible. The area that most concerns me, however, is the administration’s apparent disregard for the most basic tenets of American society. When the ABA says that administration memoranda “seek to circumvent long established and universally acknowledged principles of law and common decency,” and that “[t]he lawyers who approved and signed these memoranda have not met their high obligation to defend the Constitution,” and when a Supreme Court Justice says in a case in which the administration is a party “For if this nation is to remain true to the ideals symbolized by its flag, it must not wield the tools of tyrants even to resist an assault by the forces of tyranny,” there is a serious problem in our country. People seem to believe that the administration is good at “defending America”, but, in reality, it seems that they are quite comfortable with tearing out its heart. I wrote this up in more detail, if anyone wants to read it at

By: Brentmeister General Fri, 29 Oct 2004 18:16:15 +0000 BREAKING NEWS: Al-Jazeera broadcasts a videotaped message purportedly from al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Details soon.

Could it be that Osama Bin Laden will announce his endorsement of George W. Bush? Stay tuned!