A Factual Compendium of Taxation Unfairness, Wealth and Income Concentration

I. Taxation of the Wealthy
1) IRS data shows that the 400 wealthiest households in the United State paid 18.1 percent of their total income in federal income tax in 2008; in contrast, they paid 51.2 percent of their total income in 1995.

2) The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that the effective income tax rate for the top 400 taxpayers declined by nearly half in just over a decade, even as their pre-tax income had grown over five times larger.

3) The wealthiest 400 households paid 16.6 percent of their incomes in federal income tax in 2007, down from 30 percent in 1995.

4) MIT economist Peter Diamond found that in 2007 the top one percent of taxpayers paid an average 22.4 percent of their incomes in federal income tax.

5) The Congressional Budget Office has reported that the gap in after-tax income between the richest one percent and the middle and poorest fifth of the nation more than tripled between 1979 and 2007.

6) The Institute of Policy Studies calculates that if those earning $1 million or more paid taxes today at the same rate as they did in 1961, there would be an additional $716 billion annual revenue for the national government.

7) There is general consensus among economists that those in the 35 percent tax bracket pay an average of 18 percent of their earnings in federal income tax. In 1961, those in the 91 percent bracket paid an average of 42 percent.

II. U.S. Wealth Concentration
1) The wealthiest 400 households own more wealth than do the bottom 40 percent.

2) The bottom 60 percent of the U.S. population own less than two percent of the wealth and the bottom 40 percent own 3/10s of one percent.

3) The Walton family owns more wealth — $89 billion — than does the bottom 40 percent.

4) The economist Leon Friedman has calculated that the top one percent owns 35 percent of the nation’s wealth and the top five percent owns 62 percent.

5) The economist Joseph Stiglitz says the top one percent owns 40 percent of the nation’s wealth.

6) The Ecomic Policy Institute calculates that the richest five percent owns 63.5 percent of U.S. wealth and the richest 20 percent owns 84 percent.

III. U.S. Income Concentration
1) After adjusting for inflation, the IRS has concluded that the top 400 households reported incomes in 2008 that were 20 times the comparative incomes a half-century before.

2) Joseph Stiglitz says the top one percent takes in a quarter of the annual income. He further says that the incomes of the top one percent have risen 18 percent since the year 2000.

3) According to U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’ newsletter, between 1980 and 2005, 80 percent of all new income created in the nation went to the top one percent.

4) The economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Riketty have found that 93 percent of the earnings gains during the 2009-10 recovery went to the top one percent of earners. The top 0.01 percent captured 37 percent of the total recovery pie, with a rebound in their incomes of more than 20 percent, which was an additional $4.2 milllion each. IRS data shows that the top 0.01 percent earned 7.9 percent of the national income in 2009.

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Obama’s “Grand Bargain” Is Deja Vu All Over Again

The “fiscal cliff” melodrama being played out should be creating a sinking feeling of deja vu all over again among Democratic Party leaders, as President Barack Obama continues to pursue a Grand Bargain with Republican House and Senate leaders. Obama is vowing that this time Social Security will not be on the table, as it was in the debt ceiling standoff; however, Obama has also said that all options are on the table.

At least 42 House Democrats have signed a letter to President Obama, strongly urging him to not cut benefits for current recipients of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), fresh off her impressive showing in increasing the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate, has taken an adamant stand against putting any of the three major social programs on the table.

The Republican Party leadership is firmly against any change in tax rates, offering only to close tax loopholes and cut tax preferences, none of which are specified. President Obama has yet to begin making the case for how far short closing tax loopholes and cutting tax preferences would fall from meeting even relatively modest goals for ten-year revenue increases. The Tax Policy Center has calculated that eliminating all of the tax preferences for the wealthy — an extremely unlikely possibility — would reduce the deficit by no more than $1.7 trillion over ten years. If all of the Bush tax cuts were allowed to expire, it would have little or no effect on the 47 percent of households that now pay no federal income tax, and those who now pay relatively modest amounts of federal income tax would not suffer a lifestyle-changing reduction in their federal income tax.

The tax and spend debate is taking place in a small conceptual arena. When President Obama presented his 12-year tax and spending plan, he proposed to raise $1 trillion in additional tax revenue. He now is proposing to raise $1.6 trillion over ten years, however, eliminating the Bush tax cuts for the top two percent of taxpayers would increase revenue by only $800 billion over ten years and Obama does not have any additional tax increases in the works. In addition, Obama proposes to cut the corporate tax rate, which will result in an additional loss of revenue for the national government.

President Barack Obama and the Democratic legislative leadership could have avoided the many problems created by the Bush tax cuts by passing a new tax structure when they controlled the legislative and executive branches of government. I previously proposed a tax rate plan with a top marginal tax rate of 60 percent, which would have taxed earned income more in accordance with the richest taxpayers’ lion’s share of it. If a single payer health insurance plan were financed through the federal income tax, most taxpayers with health insurance would have experienced an annual financial windfall, because their increased taxes would be less than their health insurance premiums, not even counting deductibles and co-pays.

In summary, President Obama’s taxation plans are too small to meet his goal of @1.6 trillion in additional revenue over ten years. Considering that we will continue to run large budgetary deficits for years to come under current projections, $800 billion in new revenue would cover only a quarter of the projected ten-year Pentagon spending of nearly $6.5 trillion.

Rape Definitions Through the Ages

The following definitions of rape are presented unedited from: Erika Eichelberger, “Mansplaining Rape,” Mother Jones, November/December 2012.

* c. 1780 B.C.: The Code of Hammurabi defines the rape of a virgin as property damage against her father. Married women who were raped were considered adulteresses. Punishment? Getting thrown in the river.

* 7th century B.C.: The book of Deuteronomy says if you rape a virgin, you have to give her father 50 shekels and take her to the alter. If you rape an engaged woman, it’s the death penalty.

* c. 250 A.D.: Raptus, the Latin root of “rape” (literally “seizure”), refers to the abduction of a woman against the will of her husband, father, or master. If the woman was raped, her “owner” could choose between receiving payment or seeking criminal penalties.

* 13th century: Under Saxon law, the severity of punishment varies according to the victim’s social status. If she is a virgin, the rapist is castrated; if she is married, a widow, nun, or prostitute, it’s up to the discretion of the courts.

* 1290: One of the earliest British legal texts presages Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO.): “Without a woman’s consent she could not conceive.”

* 1670: English judge and lawyer Sir Matthew Hale writes marital rape doesn’t exist since “the wife hath given up herself in this kind unto her husband, which she cannot retract.”

* 1814: English physician Samuel Farr asserts that a woman can’t conceive without “the enjoyment of pleasure in the venereal act”; therefore, “if an absolute rape were to be perpetrated, it is not likely she would become pregnant.”

* 1889: Echoing Farr, Dr. Lawson Tait, an eminent English gynecologist, says he’s “pefectly satisfied that no man can effect a felonious purpose on a woman in possession of her sense without her consent.”

* 1929: The FBI defines rape as “the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.”

* 1993: North Carolina is the last state to update its law so that rape includes violating your spouse.

* 1998: Mississippi becomse the last state to ditch a provision holding that statutory rape isn’t really rape if the girl is not of “chaste character.”

* 2011: House Republicans push to limit taxpayer funding of abortions after rape by specifying that only “forcible” rape is covered. (Yhey fail.)

* 2012: The FBI expands its 83-year-old definition of rape to include date-rape, partner rape, and instances where the “victim is incapable of giving consent because of temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity, including due to the influence of drugs or alcohol or because of age.”

* 2012: Akin declares, “if it’s a legitimate rtape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.”

The one addition to the above is the statement by Richard Murdoch, Republican candidate for U.S. Senator from Indiana, that rape is part of God’s plan.

Abortion Scofflaws Hall of Infamy

There have been so many anti-abortion actions, ranging from alarming to utterly ridiculous, taken mostly in state legislatures in recent years, that it is hard to single out the most egregious. The brief list below is taken from recent Planned Parenthood fundraising mailings, as representative of what that organization wants to highlight.

* Politicians in Indiana, Wisconsin, Kansas and North Carolina voted to stop funds from going to Planned Parenthood.

* Indiana’s Governor Mitch Daniels was even willing to reject Medicaid funding for all the state’s low-income residents rather than allow any funding for Planned Parenthood.

* Arizona now forbids trained and qualified nurse practitioners and physician assistants to provide abortions, including those procedures that require only the dispensing of medication. As a result, Planned Parenthood health centers in Arizona were forced to stop offering abortions in most locations and concentrate them in metro Phoenix and Tucson, due to a doctor shortage, severely penalizing rural women in the state. The state also gave pharmacists permission to refuse to fill birth control prescriptions if they believe birth control is a form of abortion.

* South Dakota legielators voted to require women to undergo “counseling” by anti-abortion activists and then wait 72 hours before getting aortion care, forcing women to take days off from work, since there is only one abortion provider in the state.

* New Hampshire legislators refused to renew a 40-year-long contract with Planned Parenthood in that state to provide family planning services.

* Texas cut $73 million in state planning funding from its budget and banned Planned Parenthood from participating in its Medicaid Women’s Health Program.

* Virginia passed a mandatory ultrasound bill, after seriously considering a more invasive probe of a pregnant woman’s body. Virginia also tried to shut down Planned Parenthood with deliberately hard-to-meet requirements about non-medical concerns, such as the size of hallways and janitor closets in health centers.

* Representative Cliff Stearns (R-FL), chairman of a House oversight committee, demanded 13 years of financial records from all of the nearly 80 Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country. Rep. Stearns would have rendered a greater service to the country if he had joined in the call to have Mitt Romney release several years of his tax returns.

Keeping Things Non-Baby on Abortions

Americans United for Life (AUL) us one of the most effective anti-abortion organizations in the country and its done it by keeping things non-baby. Instead, it focuses on getting legislation passed to restrict abortions, while pursuing a mission of ending all abortions in the United States. Last year, AUL was instrumental in getting 92 anti-abortion restrictions passed throughout the country. (1)

In 2000, the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research nonprofit, rated 13 states as “hostile” to reproductive rights; in 2011, it gave 26 states that designation. (2)

The U.S. Supreme Court opened a critical avenue in its 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, which upheld Rod v. Wade, while giving states more leeway to regulate abortions.

A New York Times poll earlier this year offered a shapshot of an electorate which Washington Post columnist, Ruth Marcus, calls “disturbingly skeptical” of abortion rights: 37 percent said abortion should be generally available; 23 percent said it should not be permitted; and 37 percent said it should be available but “under stricter limits” than currently in place. (3) Given the myriad of abortion restrictions that have been put into place in recent years, it is hard to fathom the thinking process of the 37 percent who support abortions but want them under even stricter limits. Nonetheless, the Times poll does not support the current claim that the nation is now majority anti-choice.

Finally, what is the incidence of unplanned pregnancies? Rape and incest account for a minuscule shiver of all pregnancies; yet nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unplanned: about 40 percent of those result in abortions. (4)

Footnotes

(1) Kate Sheppard, “Wham, Bam, Sonogram,” Mother Jones, September/October 2012.

(2) Ibid.

(3) Ruth Marcus, “One Debate, Two Untouchable Sides,” The Albuquerque Journal, August 25, 2012.

(4) Ibid.

Stand Your Ground,Civilian Military Employment and High-End Campaign Donations

I. Stand Your Ground
Stand Your Ground laws exist in some form in 25 states. (1) They are an extension of the Castle Doctrine, which gave protection for homeowners defending their homes against intruders. A person claiming self-defense is not required to retreat from a threat before opening fire; the burden is on prosecutors to prove that a claim of self-defense is not credible; and, finally, the shooter has immunity from civil suits relating to the use of deadly force.

Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which was put in the national spotlight by the gunshot death of Treyvan Martin, extended the Castle Doctrine to public spaces — parking lots, parks, and city streets. City and county governments are barred from banning guns in public buildings; businesses can’t forbid employees to keep guns in company parking lots; and doctors can’t warn patients about the hazards of gun ownership. (2)

Two years after the enactment of Stand Your Ground in Florida, the number of “justifiable homicides” by civilians more than doubled and nearly tripled by 2011. (3) FBI statistics show that justifiable homicides doubled in states with Florida-type laws and remained flat or fell in states that lacked them. (4)

II. Mitt Romney’s Military Additions and Military Civilian Employment
During the 2012 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney proposed to add $2 trillion to the Pentagon budget by commissioning six new ships each year for the Navy; adding even more F-35s to the 2,400 currently scheduled for future production; and increasing military troop strength by 100,000. Personnel costs are a major oomponent of Pentagon spending.

Not only does the United States account for over 40 percent of world military spending, but fully 64 percent of all 4.4 million employees on the federal payroll are already in the uniformed military, the Department of Defense, Veteran Affairs or the Department of Homeland Security. (5)

III. Big Donors Rule the Campaign Roost
Politico reported that 2,100 people had given a total of @200 million to the 2012 campaign by August 2012. This is $52 million more than the combined donations of the two and one-half million voters who had given $200 or less. By August, at least 33 American billionaires had each given $250,000 or more to groups whose aim was to defeat President Obama. (6)

Footnotes

(1) Mother Jones, July/August 2012.

(2) Ibid.

(3) Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

(4) FBI graph – 2000-12.

(5) Eric Alterman, “President Romney?” The Nation, August 27-September 3, 2012.

(6) Jane Mayer, “Schmooze or Lose,” The New Yorker, August 27, 2012.

America’s Romance With Firearms Co-Exists With Mass Shootings

The mass murder in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, coupled with a series of mass shootings in other venues, mostly workplaces, have been met with exclamations of “unimaginable,” “incredible, and “unfathomable.” Yet this reaction ignores the concentration of firearms in the nation, with nearly 90 guns for every 100 persons: an increase from about 200 million firearms in 1995 to about 300 million today. (1) The U.S. arsenal of firearms is the highest related to population in the world, with Yemen a distant second, at 55 per 100 persons. (2)

Roughly 85 people are killed every day by guns in the United States; (3) also, FBI statistics, year after year, show that about half of all homicides are committed by handguns and many more injured for every gun death.

Gary Younge links America’s high concentration of firearms and high level of gun deaths to the country’s high levels of inequality and poverty. This kind of linkage is not found in any other of the Western nations. (4)

Mother Jones identified and analyzed 60 mass shootings over the last 30 years — a mass shooting is defined as four or more people killed (not including the shooter) in a single incident. Mother Jones found an average of two mass shootings a year, except that 23 of the 60 mass shootings have occurred since 2006: an average of almost four a year. (5)

Yet, despite the high level of firearms violence, since 2009, 99 laws have been passed across 37 states making guns easier to own, easier to carry in public and harder for the government to track. Eight states now permit firearms in bars. Law-abiding Missourians can carry a gun while intoxicated. Concealed weapons are allowed in schools in Kansas and churches in Louisiana. Virginia repealed a law requiring handgun vendors to submit order records and ordered the destruction of all existing records. (6)

Gun rights advocates claim that arming more civilians might have stopped some mass shootings. Colorado has issued nearly 120,000 concealed-carry permits since 2003 and Wisconsin has issued more than 122,500 since enacting its law in 2011. Yet neither of the mass shootings in these two states was stopped by an armed civilian. In fact, in the 60 mass shootings investigated by Mother Jones, in only three did a civilian help in the apprehension and the number in which the killer was stopped while shooting by an armed civilian is zero. (7)

(1) Mark Follman, “One Nation, Under the Gun,” Mother Jones, November/December 2012.

(2) Gary Younge, “Another Mass Killing Shocks Americans. Why?” The Nation, August 13/20, 2012.

(3) Ibid.

(4) Ibid.

(5) Follman.

(6) Ibid.

(7) Ibid.