No more whining about the plight of the very rich

August 01, 2011

During much of the ongoing Washington wrangle-a-thon over our debt ceiling, Republican officials have repeatedly reminded us that our poor, overworked millionaires aggregate tax payments account for 26-27 percent of the government's tax revenue, while the bottom 50 percent of earners pay "virtually" no taxes at all. It's a scandal, but the representatives want us to be scandalized about the wrong thing. The fact that 50 percent of our country's earners don't make enough money to be taxed is an overwhelming scandal — imagine this half of our workforce living near, at or below the poverty level!

It makes the U.S. sound like a third world banana republic. House Speaker John Boehner et. al. would like to characterize this group as laggards, and stingy laggards as well. At the other end, the portion of the IRS' receipts appears an undue burden on the aforementioned wealthy, but what remains hidden is the percentage of aggregate American earnings that is paid out to this top 10 percent. The last I heard, this total was well north of 27 percent. That is a scandal too. It means, if my calculator is working, that the 40 percent of in-between earners are footing 73-74 percent of the country's expenses, in a situation that deals us a loss in living comfort that a proportionate increase in tax liability would not impose on our richer neighbors.

Let us hope, now that all tax increases and loophole closures have left the room in Washington, that we hear no more whining about the plight of the very rich. The rest of us have enough problems of our own.

Thad Paulhamus, Baltimore

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