Alan Briskin’s HDR photography involves multiple shots at different exposures combined into one image so the viewer can see more of what’s actually there.




Becoming Conscious Of Capitalism

The Death & Rebirth Of Prosperity’s Dream

Chapter Thirteen, Part Two

My Own Little Tea Party II
Talking About the Concentration of Wealth
Time Range: Present Times



The issue of taxes appears to be quite a touchy subject.  The people at my party feel they have good reason to be concerned.  They made extraordinary gains regarding cutting their tax burdens over the past half-century.  As recently as 1960, the top bracket for the very wealthy was 91%.  Even in the 1970s, the top bracket was 70%.  With rates like that, it was necessary to pay accounting professionals to find every possible loophole, even if it meant paying lobbyists in Washington to create them.

In comparison with these past rates, the Buffett Rule, recently championed by President Obama, is relatively meek.  It would affect approximately 450,000 households (1%) who earn at least $1 million.  Under the rule, they would pay an effective tax rate of at least 30%, almost double what Buffett and presidential candidate Mitt Romney paid in taxes, but still less than the 35% paid by Buffett’s secretary.  And some analysts have taken it even further.

Robert Reich writes that Yale professors Bruce Ackerman and Anne Alstott have proposed a 2% surtax on the wealthy.  This would be for the richest one-half of 1% of Americans who have more than $7.2 million of assets.  They estimate that the tax would generate approximately $70 billion a year, or nearly $750 billion over the decade.  This is equivalent to about 50% of the savings that the unsuccessful Super Committee of Congress had sought as a goal for reducing the deficit. (source)

Some at my party are becoming quite agitated.  What about all those people who pay no federal taxes?  One man in particular is incensed by the fact that the bottom 50% of the nation, whose collective assets are roughly equal to those of the 400 people drinking Earl Grey tea with me, pay no federal taxes.  How dare they?  Some of those sympathetic to Buffett’s way of thinking argue that it’s because this group has no money, but to others at the party, this still sounds like a free ride, and it makes them upset.  “The poor need to find themselves jobs, and they need to share some of the responsibility,” grouses one.


An argument ensues, with one person from the Buffett side saying that the half who pay no federal income tax do pay sales taxes, federal payroll taxes, state and local taxes, and — if they own a home — property taxes.  And the total of those taxes can actually be more than what the very wealthy pay on a percentage basis.  “Bull” is the response, and “That’s pathetic,” says another.  “What about the 50% of us who do all the heavy lifting in this country and foot all the bills?” says a third.  A fourth says we need to cut spending and broaden the tax base so that there is not an unfair tax burden on the shrinking minority who are taxed.  I offer everyone cookies, but the party spirit has dissipated, and some look like they will be going home early.



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Becoming Conscious of Capitalism by Alan Briskin is a serial journal of cogent reflections and irreverent insights on the social effects of capitalism and the roots of partisan politics.  Pairing prose with HDR photography and “flash points” drawn from current and historical perspectives, the author seeks to recover lost wisdom and courageous action beyond the shouting and noise of today’s headlines. 




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