“Smithers, release the hounds.”

A brilliant little piece of satire by the folks at Fair Share Tax Reform in New York.

Warren Buffet, in 2006 (via Jameson Foser at County Fair):

…Mr. Buffett compiled a data sheet of the men and women who work in his office. He had each of them make a fraction; the numerator was how much they paid in federal income tax and in payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, and the denominator was their taxable income. The people in his office were mostly secretaries and clerks, though not all.

It turned out that Mr. Buffett, with immense income from dividends and capital gains, paid far, far less as a fraction of his income than the secretaries or the clerks or anyone else in his office. Further, in conversation it came up that Mr. Buffett doesn’t use any tax planning at all. He just pays as the Internal Revenue Code requires. “How can this be fair?” he asked of how little he pays relative to his employees. “How can this be right?”

Even though I agreed with him, I warned that whenever someone tried to raise the issue, he or she was accused of fomenting class warfare.

“There’s class warfare, all right,” Mr. Buffett said, “but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning…”

[emphasis added]

A 2003 interview with Jared Bernstein on the inequality in income growth:  

The Multinational Monitor

May 2003 – VOLUME 24 – NUMBER 5

The Hierarchy

Income Inequality in the United States

An Interview with Jared Bernstein

MM: There’s clearly been a huge surge in salaries of top management at big corporations. Does that impact on the inequality measures or does it affect too few people to make much difference?

Bernstein: It’s more limited than you might believe. It is sensational and eye-grabbing. It is egregious in many cases, especially when you’ve got these guys, and they are mostly guys, pulling down huge salaries with falling stock prices and very little to show for it.

If you just think about the supernovas at the top of the income or wealth scale, you’ll miss the fact that real wages were falling for low-wage men and women for 20 years from the mid-seventies until the mid-nineties, and that there is just no obvious reason why that should have been the case. It is not just a very small group at the top pulling ahead, it is too little growth being fairly shared with workers at the middle and lower end of the income scale.

The real story tends to be more that the growth between the top and the middle, and the middle and the bottom, and how those different groups have grown over the years.

Why have real incomes stagnated at the middle and declined at the bottom over the long term? In a growing economy where people are more highly educated and they are working more hours, there is no obvious reason why their incomes should be falling. You might argue that you can see why their incomes wouldn’t grow in lock step with productivity because not everybody is equally productive, but, on average, an economy that is working appropriately should have incomes growing throughout the distribution.

To understand why a particular occupation pays less now than it did 20 years ago, you have to look at structural changes of the type we talked about before: higher unemployment, fewer union protections, lower minimum wages, large and unsustainable trade imbalances. Those are the kinds of factors that work against non-college-educated workers that find themselves with less bargaining power and thus are less able to claim their fair share of the growth…

Paul Campos at Lawyer, Guns and Money:

Working hard or hardly working?

One of my favorite bits of right-wing nonsense is the meme being replicated on the internets by Glenn Reynolds et. al. this morning about how the problem with taxing high income earners is that they won’t “work hard” if they have to give more of their money to shiftless people who don’t “work hard” (i.e., lower income earners being supported by government handouts in the form of income tax wealth redistribution)…

…All of which is to say that the idea that the rich are rich because they “work hard” and the poor are poor because they don’t is too idiotic for words. It is, however, perhaps the prime article of faith of contemporary GOP ideology…

So, the people who benefited disproportionately from the largess of society, in the Bush tax cuts, are those who will whine the most when it comes time to pay their fair share. Is this a great country, or what?

ABC News updates their story (referred to in the link above) with the following disclaimer:

Upper-Income Taxpayers Look for Ways to Sidestep Obama Tax-Hike Plan

President Would Slap More Taxes on Those Who Make Over $250K to Fund Health Care


March 2, 2009

Editor’s Note: Yesterday ABC News published a version of this story which some readers felt did not provide a comprehensive enough analysis of Obama’s tax code for those families making $250k or more. ABCNews.com has heard those concerns and after review has decided to post an updated version of the story below

[italics in original]

(Reference to the original ABC story via Jameson Foser at County Fair)