May 09, 2003
FUN WITH DIVIDENDS....Via Charles Kuffner and Gorilla-a-Gogo, here's a fun chart taken from Henry Waxman's study of the effect of a dividend tax cut on ordinary Americans. It's an excellent presentation of a complex economic argument, no?
Other fun facts from Waxman's study:
In 2002, Fortune 100 companies paid $309 million in dividends to their top three shareholder officers.
Over ten years, these 300 execs would save $1.3 billion in dividend taxes.
In the 2002 election cycles, these same 100 companies
made $81 million in campaign contributions and 64% went to Republican
candidates. Pretty good bargain!
So, what are you planning to do with your 29 bucks?
Posted by Kevin Drum at May 9, 2003 09:12 AM
Kevin, the chart is cute, but I think it misses the point. After all,
there is nothing intrinsically unfair about a tax cut in which the rich
get back more money -- the rich get more money back because they are
The question is, what do we (as liberals) want done with that $550
billion? What specifically do we want to the governement to do with it
(health care? money to states? education? foreign aid?) that outweighs
the social effects of individuals spending their own money? And how does
it outweigh it?
In absence of specific proposals, the resistance to the tax cut comes
across as "let's figure out how to keep the money; we'll think of how
to spend it later". I do think there are lots of worthy proposals; its
just that we don't hear any visionary policies from the Dems' side to
rival the visions from the GOP side.
Well, I think homeland security would be a start....
Besides, we're running a huge deficit right now. We don't have to
figure out how to spend the money because we don't *have* the money.
We aren't over-taxed, nor are we under-taxed. We are, in my opinion,
ready to pay taxes, possibly even more, when we can see either the
benefits to the general welfare or the consequences of not paying them
to that welfare.
We also have to begin to think beyond cliches presented to us and to
enlarge our concept of the general welfare. People dying in Africa is
as much a part of the general welfare as are parents without medical
insurance for their children.
> We don't have to figure out how to spend the
> money because we don't *have* the money.
Fair enough. But "we can't afford a tax cut" is a qualitatively
different argument from "the rich are getting more money back". I
suspect you would not support a $550 billion tax cut even if it is
heavily weighted towards the sub-$100,000 income groups.
Gautam: You have not been reading carefully. The proper tax cut
would be temporary and widespread. The proposed tax cut is neither
(well, it does sunset, but that isn't part of the political calculation.
Bush'll come back next year and ask for the sunset to be
A temporary tax cut broadly spread is what has been proposed by the
left (either payroll taxes, or a proposal to exempt $500-1000 of
And, this is a value judgement because the rich pay more in some
taxes but not all (percentagewise). The GOP seems to only care about
those that the rich pay more of, and not that hurt the poor more
(payroll taxes, steel tarriffs).
I think you all make valid points, for the record.
Liberals really need to recast this debate in terms of the other
priorities (e.g. education, health care, etc.) that Americans say they
hold in higher regard than tax cuts.
However, I also think it makes sense to point out that the money the
top 1% will be getting from this tax cut is out of proportion to the
amount they pay (even assuming they *shouldn't* be paying more as a
percentage if income, which is ridiculous considering the huge share of
the income pie the top 1% currently earns).
And no, Sebastian, the current levels of income mobility in the U.S.
don't come close to rectifying the situation (just anticipating the
I believe that the fundamental question on tax cuts such as these, is how much tax should the rich pay?
According to the CBO, in 1997, the last year they provide data, the
top 1 percent of households had an effective federal tax rate of 33
percent. Whereas the bottom quintile has an effective federal tax rate
of about 7 percent, with the second, third, and fourth quintiles being
The rich are paying more taxes than the poor. And in my view, a
reasonable share. The proposed tax changes do not change this
mynameisfred, obviously you haven't done your homework, or even bothered to search around kevin's site.
The fact is, it is simply ridiculous to discuss the federal income
tax as though it is the only tax. This is merely a game being played by
The total tax burden in America - federal, state, local, payroll,
etc. - is very close to flat (search out Kevin's charts - i don't have
the time to do so myself).
Meanwhile, stir yourself to look at income distribution charts and
you'll discover that income is increasingly concentrated in the upper 1%
of wage earners to the point where the upper 1% earn more than
percentiles 2-5% combined.
And, as Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, two great investors and
great capitalists will tell you, there is no way that the top 1% are
worth that much more than anyone else.
Now, that doesn't change the other aspects discussed in this column,
such as that it's not enough just to oppose continuous giveaways to the
upper 1%, but falsehoods of the nature of the top 1% pay so much more in
taxes must be challenged every time they are spread.
I find it difficult to agree with Fred that the rich are paying a
reasonable share, given the fact that the same report he cites indicates
the real income of the top 1% has increased by close to 140% from 1979
levels, whereas the middle quintile has seen sub-10% real income growth
in the same time.
Something must be done to stem this concentration of income, and greater progressivity in the tax code would help.
According to some studies, if you take into account payroll taxes,
state property taxes and sales taxes, the total tax burden is not
progressive at all---the poorest pay about the same percentage of their
income to taxes that the rich do.
Nationwide, middle-income families pay almost 10 percent of their
earnings in state and local taxes and poor families pay more than 11
percent. But the richest people effectively pay only 5.2 percent of
their income in state and local taxes.
What always seems to get lost is that the rich are able to make
'their own' money because there is a massive government infrastructure
that allows them that opportunity.
The rich, by definition, are getting the most out of the government.
Aesthetically speaking, I think this chart is pretty bad.
First, all the chart conveys on first read is that some number is
much larger than some other number. To actually understand what the
chart is referring to, you have to read lots of information in small
Second, I think it's pretty much the consensus in the left
blogosphere that Democratic partisans who refer to the (top, bottom) X%
of taxpayers should be thanked for their work and then locked in a
closet so that they do no further damage. If a reader isn't reasonably
familiar with some statistics regarding the income distribution in
America, that reader is very likely to guess wrong as to where on the
income spectrum he/she stands. (Compare "I'm not in the 'bottom'! I'm
at the 'top', or I'm soon gonna be! Yay, me!" with "$300,000! Holy
s---! I don't know anyone who makes that kind of money!")
Accordingly, I'd rewrite the chart as a two-line table (I'm making up the income data, but it seems about right):
AVERAGE FAMILY SAVINGS
UNDER BUSH DIVIDEND TAX PLAN