So today, Mitt Romney made some headlines when he was asked about his tax records. “It’s probably closer to the 15 percent rate than anything,” said the man whose net worth most people estimate to be around $190 million to $250 million. He explained this low rate (much lower than the tax rate paid by the “middle class”–whatever that phrase means) by saying that most of his income comes from investments: “For the past 10 years, my income comes overwhelmingly from investments made in the past, rather than ordinary income or earned annual income. I got a little bit of income from my book, but I gave that all away. Then, I get speakers fees from time to time, but not very much.” “Not very much” means different things to different people, apparently. He earned $374,327 from speaker fees last year alone….
So I mean, whatever…. To a guy with a quarter of a billion dollars, $374,327 might not seem like very much–I get it. And I don’t begrudge the guy for making that money. I’ll tell you this right now: If someone cared enough about what I had to say to pay me $50,000 to give a speech, I’d sure the hell take it. And I get the idea of paying less taxes on money earned through investments. The idea behind a lower capital gains tax is that people have already been taxed on their income, and they don’t need to be taxed on it again–At least not as much. What IS pretty gross is when private equity executives (like Romney was) use a tax loophole to get “paid” with capital gains as an “investor” instead of taking a salary so that you only have to pay taxes of 15%. The cool thing is that “Happily for the executives, any investments that go belly up and lead to bankruptcy and mass layoffs can be counted against the earnings, which amounts to a tax subsidy for failed projects.” —HufPo Pretty sweet deal, if your family has the money to get it for you.
People’s views on taxes are one of the biggest things that divide us from each other in this country. People are all over the spectrum on the legitimacy of taxation. Some people look at taxes as a necessary burden for members of a society to bear; others look at it like some sort of armed robbery committed by the government…. And everywhere in between–The Tea Party, for example. The Tea Party, of course, took its name from the famous Boston Tea Party where, as we all know, they protested taxation…. (wait for it) WITHOUT REPRESENTATION!!! I hate to break this to you, guys, but YOU HAVE REPRESENTATION. Some people think that the way to get more jobs in this country is to tax the rich even less, while others have a more “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” sort of view. Wait, that sounds familiar….
I know, I know, Jesus wasn’t talking about taxes when he said that. Settle down.
I just wish people could talk sanely to each other about this issue. For example, nobody likes waste in government. Nobody–not even democrats. Nor do they like it when people take advantage of Welfare. Also, collecting taxes to provide for the common good is not tyranny–it’s just not. Stop it. And there are things taxes should rightly be used for other than the military and making sure nobody takes our stuff. One of those things, believe it or not, is to protect the members of the society from giant companies who get too powerful. Our current tax burden is historically low–In fact, against the backdrop of the highest national debt ever, our taxes (as a share of income) are the lowest they have been in over 60 years. And yet we still have just about every republican in Congress refusing to even consider more taxes–even for the super-rich–as part of a compromise moving toward functional governance.
Now, it should be mentioned that I am poor. So far in my life, I have never (that I can remember, at least) had to pay when it comes time to pay my taxes–I have always gotten a return. I credit this to general poorness. The addition of three kids makes tax time a time that I actually look forward to instead of dread. So the opinion of a person who qualifies for the YMCA’s poor people’s rate (I doubt that’s what it’s actually called) on this issue can and should be taken with a grain of salt. But I think of our society kind of like paying for a YMCA membership: You get a nice gym, some tennis courts, a couple of nice pools, and a Zumba class or two, but we have to pay for it. And if you can afford it, you should pay a little more so people who can’t afford it can take a spinning class. FDR once said that “Taxes, after all, are dues that we pay for the privileges of membership in an organized society.”
It actually has been briefly encouraging today to see people on both sides of the aisle get all pissed off and active today over this whole SOPA/PIPA business. Initially, I didn’t know much about it–I couldn’t figure out why Wikipedia was protesting a South American dessert pastry…. Then I was like, “I’m thinking of sopaipilla.” The more I looked into it, the worse it looked, so today I called both of my Senators and my Representative today to complain, and I had to call about 20 times before I could get through. And the cool thing is I was probably waiting while someone on the exact opposite end of the political spectrum bitched about the exact same thing I was getting ready to bitch about. It was something small, but it felt good. I don’t know–Maybe we can look to this time as a reminder that we still have some things in common.
But probably not.