"An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted." - Arthur Miller

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Lessons from the Tax Income Gap Chart

Take a moment and study that graph to the left. That graph provides a lot of information with two very simple lines. It tells you why the Occupy Wall Street movement exists. It tells you why the GOP has focused on an agenda of doing everything possible to cut taxes for the rich at the expense of everyone else and probably more than that if want to get into the details of history.

The graph tells the story of how income has grown since post-World War II from 1947 to 2007, just as the economy was on the verge of imploding yet again. The blue line represents the median income of 99% of Americans. The orange line is the income of the remaining 1%, the millionaires and billionaires of this country. Most of who work on Wall Street. Now noticed how from 1947 to 1985ish, the income increase was more or less steady. Statistically they were right on top of each other, with a difference of .5% here and there. In effect the country rose together. Then in the 80s that orange line changed dramatically as it started to climb. This corresponded with the rise of "Reaganomics".

Reaganomics aka trickle-down theory basically says the more money you give the rich, the more it will help everyone else. The problem with the theory is it doesn't account for what happens if the rich do not actually spend their money but just sit on it. The easiest way to give rich people more money is to tax them less. Which the US has been doing for the last thirty years. There was one exception, during the Clinton years when their tax where increased. The result wasn't a hit to the economy but a period of huge growth, in part by the internet boom. That is why the line just sky rockets. Basically increasing the rich's taxes didn't harm them at all and had a positive impact on the economy (the opposite of what the GOP sells every day). During this same period the blue line enjoyed a modest increase too so everyone benefited, just the 1% more than the rest. A dip then occurs because the tech bubble burst of 2000.

This takes us to the 2001 tax cuts that were supposed to be this big boon to the down economy. If you are part of that orange line, it seemed to work as that line nearly goes vertical. But notice the blue line. It hardly moves at all. It doesn't increase one bit. There is a fractional decrease but basically the income for the 99% has not grown at all for years after those tax cuts. The 1% experienced these huge gains income, the 99% experienced none. The tax cuts did not lead to growth for everyone, it only led to stagnation and two recessions. The rich learned is tax cuts are an easy way to greater wealth. Here are the lessons this graphs prove.

1) Tax cuts do not help the economy.
Business decisions are simply not driven by taxes any more than your day to day purchases are. When was the last time you refused to buy food, a video game or whatever just because of the taxes you would have to pay on it? Probably next to never. The same with business. Proof of this is the 10 years of Bush tax cuts that have done nothing to help the average American.

2) Taxing the rich helps the economy, not hurt it
Again look at that huge climb in the last nineties, after George Clinton increases taxes on the rich. The GOP argues every day that the rich would help this economy but the high taxes are not letting them. Never mind taxes on the rich are the lowest in history and they pay less (around 18%) than the average American (27%) thanks to GOP sponsored loopholes. Even if you don't buy that argument, think about this.

A Friend gives You a hundred dollars on the condition you have to give $20 of it to Me in April. Would you refuse? Of course not because you would do the mental math and realize you made $80. Now imagine the Friend is the consumer, You are a business, and Me is the government. Now imagine that $100 is actually $100 million. The economics remain the same. Why would a business refuse to make $80 million in sales to avoid giving $20 million to the government in taxes (never mind most companies pay zero taxes thanks to loopholes)? The answers are the same as yours for that $100 dollars. They simply wouldn't. So why in the world are you listening to the GOP's argument that they would? It doesn't make any logical sense.

3) Trickle-down economics does not work
Again the graph proves it. From mid 80s on, trickle-down economics has been the driving force on the GOP actions to "help" the economy. The sales pitch is trickle down helps everyone. Look at the blue line. Almost zero growth in the last 30 years. Look at the orange line. Lots of growth. Trickle down does not work unless you are in the top 1%. For the other 99%, you are SOL.

4) Taxes have an influence on top 1% but not the other 99%
Then kind of goes back to number 1. Taxes just don't influence the average person's spending or saving decisions. For the rich, it can but only in the sense of the value in their bank account. The reason is an issue of issue of scale. Raising taxes 1% on say $30,000 ($300 tax increase) is a bit different than raising taxes 1% on $30 million ($30,000 tax increase). Now imagine if a large corporation or billionaire like the Koch brothers. You can see why they are highly motivated to fight for every 1% decrease in their taxes and prevent any increase no matter how small (like the 3% Obama is proposing and the GOP refuses). You can also see that scale is why increasing a tax on the poor (which the GOP supports) isn’t going to fix a damn thing with the economy.

5) The 1% keeps benefiting, the other 99% are getting screwed
This goes back to the Occupy Wall Street movement. No matter what, the 1% sees their income only go up while the other 99% get nothing. Wall Street cheats its way to greater wealth. At the expense of everyone else. If you or I make the investment mistakes Wall Street made, the response is that is just how it goes. Wall Street gets a bailout and record bonuses. You fail to pay your bills, your credit report plummets and the mistake follows you around for years. Wall Street gets a pass. You have to pay your taxes. Wall Street gets loopholes. Goldman Sachs made $2.9 billion in profits in 2008 (year of the bailouts) but only paid $14 million (1% in taxes). Exxon made record profits and was given back money by the government. Not just in subsidies but in tax refunds. In short the system is rigged and the GOP rigged it.

When it comes to fixing the economy, the GOP and Fox News are lying every day. The chart doesn’t lie. Those numbers don't have a political agenda. The facts are not liberal or conservative. That chart is something you would never see appears on Fox News. It doesn't look good. It doesn't help their "Rich First" agenda. Next time you watch Fox News, nootice they give you lots of opinions and poll data (based on opinion) but no genuine facts. That is because the facts show that a rich, the 1%, only focus simply does nothing to help the economy. It does not create jobs. It does not help small businesses, it does not help increase the middle class.

How about for the first time in nearly 30 years we insist the GOP and our political leaders do something different? Why not insist they focus on the other 99%? Why not insist their plan ignore the Fox News made up problems and focus on what will help the middle class and the poor? It is time, whether you are a lifelong Republican, conservative independent, or liberal look at that chart and realize that the GOP way simply is not working that we need something, anything new. Can the liberal way fix the economy? Maybe not but shouldn't they get the chance to try after 30 years of the failed conservative way? Shouldn't the 99% get the attention instead of the 1%?

The only way this can occur is to refuse to vote Republican for any reason in 2012. They are happy to lie to you every day to win the White House where they will once again do tax cuts for the 1% at the expense of the 99% and the consequences (that stagnant blue line) be damned. They don't care about you. The GOP only care's about the 1%. Let us try something new in 2012.

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