Graphing their tax proposals

Here's an excellent and simple graph comparing the differences between Obama's and McCain's tax proposals. Kevin Drum comments:

Bottom line: If you're really rich and think that George Bush's tax cuts for the rich didn't go nearly far enough, John McCain is your man.


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It truly boggles my mind that, as wealth distribution imbalance increases, you could actually be a viable candidate with a tax cut proposal that most heavily favors those who are already amassing an ever-greater share of the national wealth. Yeah, democracy!

Jesse | Thu, 06/12/2008 - 12:41pm

That's because a high percentage of Americans think they are in a higher quartile than they really are, or more think they can attain the upper percentages than really can.

crazymonk | Thu, 06/12/2008 - 1:02pm

I had to go back to the PDF to figure out where the quintile breaks are. One of his charts listed this breakdown (the charts all seemed to use similar numbers):

"(2) The cash income percentile classes used in this table are based on the income distribution for the entire population and contain an equal number of people, not tax units. The breaks are (in 2008 dollars): 20% $18,981, 40% $37,595, 60% $66,354, 80% $111,645, 90% $160,972, 95% $226,918, 99% $603,402, 99.9% $2,871,682."

Based on that, as of election day, I SHOULD be at an income level where Obama's plan will cost me somewhere between 5% and 10% over McCain's plan. It's a lot of money. It means my hundreds of thousands of dollars of loans won't be paid back for a long(er) time.

I'm not necessarily against it, but it's worth considering.

RumorsDaily | Thu, 06/12/2008 - 1:08pm

100% of them CAN attain the top quintile with lottery tickets, luck, and shrewd investing. Very few of them actually will, though.

RumorsDaily | Thu, 06/12/2008 - 1:09pm

Why wouldn't you be against it?

Jon May | Thu, 06/12/2008 - 1:43pm

yeah, fair enough, but if you make it into that bracket, you *will* be able to pay off your loans (esp. given that you are also upwardly mobile, no?).

Jesse | Thu, 06/12/2008 - 1:44pm

"That's because a high percentage of Americans think they are in a higher quartile than they really are, or more think they can attain the upper percentages than really can."
-is that documented, survey-wise or whatever? It's hard for me to make sense of, but I guess it's like inflated self-esteem or something?

Jesse | Thu, 06/12/2008 - 1:46pm

Yeah, I've seen a survey of it. I tried tracking it down for a few minutes with no luck. It's something like 30% of Americans think they are in the top 10%. It's like when Charlie Gibson at the most recent ABC debate said that $200,000 per household was average in America.

crazymonk | Thu, 06/12/2008 - 1:56pm

Um, even in Obama's plan I get a tax break. I don't need a tax break. I could afford at least $500/year to go to national health care. Think about it, you pay $500 and the entire country gets health care, why are people so stingy.

Not that its a good campaign issue, but we need higher taxes all round so that infrastructure and great works can happen. Congress apparently agrees as they passed a huge bill expanding amtrak. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/11/AR200806...

ps. $500 is an arbitrary number

Brooklynboi | Thu, 06/12/2008 - 2:15pm

I think it's less like low self-esteem than wishful thinking.

Speaking as a self-employed person who pays her own social security etc., I still don't understand why the anti-tax people are so worked up about something so basic.

Lorelei | Thu, 06/12/2008 - 11:29pm

Obama says it will cost taxpayers 50 to 65 billion a year. (Hillary's plan is offline). That's about $215 per person per year.

We currently spend 15% of GDP on healthcare, or $2,076,573,750,000 (13,843,825,000,000 * .15), or about $7,000 per person per year.

I have a hard time believing that we can maintain a comparable, or even vaguely comparable, health care regime at 2% of the cost, or even 5% of the cost, as suggested by brooklynboi.

I don't know how much it's going to cost each of us, but it will be more than $200 or $500... probably a lot more.

RumorsDaily | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 8:17am

Lorelei, what do you mean by "something so basic"?

RumorsDaily | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 8:38am

I couldn't even begin to guess how expensive a universal health care plan should be, but one thing I'll say is that there are some enormous savings gained by transitioning into centralized electronic medical records. The VA system has been doing this for years with great success.

crazymonk | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 8:41am

Well most of the cost is because of the uninsured using emergency rooms for preventable problems. Like say the splinter I got as a child that got infected sent me to the emergency room instead of to my regular doctor. There would be an entire paid staff looking after me as well as valuable space being taken up.

As well, we pay so much on the HMO bureaucracy that we didn't have to pay when doctors were in charge directly. The goal is also to cut down on this cost.

And then we have to cost of liability protection for our hospitals and doctors. This definitely needs to be dealt with.

I also the average cost per person is so high because those of us with insurance probably abuse the system a bit, going tot he doctor for problems that are treatable with over the counter drugs. I see technology, especially email, being key to doctor patient communication. As well, electronics paper work will cut down on bureaucracy.

The pockets of the HMO are deep and there is lots of room to save. LOTS.

Oh and I think people think they are wealthier than they are because they compare themselves to their neighbors not to people they don't know. If people in KY new in a very real fashion how wealthy an average suburban town was in NYC, they might reconsider. Part of the problem today is that the rich and the poor are super segregated.

Brooklynboi | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 8:54am

that being about the ONLY thing the VA system is good at...

leum | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 8:56am

Not really. The VA system has become one of the premiere health care systems in the United States in the past few years, despite being really really awful in decades past.

Read this: http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2005/0501.longman.html

crazymonk | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 9:28am

Brooklynboi -

Savings under a national health care plan:
* Less profit
* Better negotiating power (if single payer)
* More preventative care
* Fewer emergency room visits (especially for the uninsured)
* Centralized record systems

Costs under a national health care plan:
* Government waste
* The "abuse" described above that formerly only applied to those of us with insurance will now apply nationwide to everyone.
* Poorer people will stop not seeking medical care

I don't see why liability costs would change... if anything they'd should be higher if more people are using medical services.

One other disincentive to a national health care plan is specifically that it will be cheaper. America has a very high number of doctors and medical facilities specifically because we tend to overpay. You'll notice that we import a large number of doctors, it's because we pay them well. A national health care system might destroy this incentive to have the most and the best trained doctors in our country.

This was a rambly thought. Sorry.

RumorsDaily | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 1:47pm

For those of you who are willing to contribute more for a national health plan: please do! Absolutely nothing (legally) is stopping you from forming nnprofit organizations that will contribute to low income earners. What you are suggesting, however, is a mandatory program that forces people (on pain of additional fine and possibly imprisonment) to give to a government program.

All of your policy arguments in favor of universal health insurance are great, but they are not arguments that per se support a government program. Before the government got involved in medicare, fraternal organizations, community groups, unions, churches, and neighbors helped care for the sick and needy. Much of that is now gone—and with is our sense of community.

I refuse to believe that government is the panacea for our ills. Look to people, first. Not to government.

MuppetKing | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 2:17pm

"What you are suggesting, however, is a mandatory program that forces people (on pain of additional fine and possibly imprisonment) to give to a government program."

I am fully aware of that. It means that it is of similar import as national security, public education, police and fire departments, and the national highway system. I guess we could turn the above into "charity" systems as well, but using a centralized government has worked pretty well. What hasn't worked is what we have now, where 40 million Americans are uninsured, and many more are effectively uninsured due to pre-existing conditions. There will be problems with universal health care, as with all things, but I believe it's morally imperative that we do it.

crazymonk | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 2:24pm

Why is it a moral imperative?

MuppetKing | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 3:03pm

zing!

Anonymous | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 3:06pm

dammit, i didn't want to zing the king!

Anonymous | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 3:06pm

So, was that zing against me, or no?

MuppetKing | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 3:11pm

I don't find the moral imperative argument persuasive, because I don't care for morality arguments, generally. They are far too subjective. Instead, a more convincing argument would be one about collective action. Public health is a public good. But in order to provide public health a collective effort needs to be undertaken (otherwise most every individual will defect--how many of you contribute to the local free clinic on a monthly basis?). Because of this Nash equilibrium of defection, the good will not be provided, unless some outside force (like government) steps in to provide the good.

Geoff | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 3:16pm

muppetking, your logic is impeccable!!

Thesis: Community is dead because our government has acted on social issues.
Solution: Kill government intrusion in social issues.
Result: People will love again!

(I'm guessing you also thought that New Orleans residents drowned and suffered because we formed FEMA?)

Actually, douchebag, Americans are still by far the most charitable people, due to religion and our incentivized tax structure. See, e.g.: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16638810/

your theory sucks.

Private charity is still doing as much as it ever has. The problem is that our crises are bigger. And charity is the problem. Republican tax policy - from Reagan on, including the Clinton years - has stopped working for the middle class & lower class and devoted its bloated, cronyist ideology to corporate welfare.

flea | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 3:21pm

Also: sorry I called you douchebag. Your ignorant comment got me worked up.

flea | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 3:23pm

Fleabag,

You misread my post, making it say something that is does not.

My words:
"Before the government got involved in medicare, fraternal organizations, community groups, unions, churches, and neighbors helped care for the sick and needy. Much of that is now gone—and with is our sense of community."

Your interpretation:
"Thesis: Community is dead because our government has acted on social issues.
Solution: Kill government intrusion in social issues.
Result: People will love again!"

What the fuck logic did you learn?

My point was going to be that anyone who cares about the health crisis is fully empowered to act on their own volition. But they don't (most of 'em). Instead, they want to use to force of government to strongarm the wealthy into funding social projects of questionable efficiency and effectiveness.

We so love liberty in this country; just not everyone else's.

MuppetKing | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 3:34pm

don't call me fleabag, dirthole. i know where you live.

you were clearly implying that community is apathetic to the sick b/c of medicare. that is bizarre, and i would personally finger prescription drugs and the teevee. and your mom. snoogins!
also, I think your, oops, Geoff's comment re: collective action is a very good retort as to why my $15 donation is an inefficient drop in the bucket. i don't think it's inconsistent to argue for government involvement in an area where you don't give charity - I recognize that what I could contribute is so insignificant is would be dwarfed by the cost of incorporating my state non-profit (about $390). I then lose my right to argue for particular tax policy? So, the poorest who could benefit from universal health care, but who also can't afford private charity, should shut the fuck up? strange logic yourself!

fleabag | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 3:53pm

Dude, you very clearly implied something along the lines of: government consolidation of areas traditionally tended to by "community" has brought about the demise of "community." As for the part about learning to love again, I think flea knew that flea was overstating your claim, but I think flea may have done so to highlight the overly simplistic formulation you offered.

So you don't like government, but you're OK with the thought that the system can remain broken in place, and the more egregious broken spots can be patched up with money from the "community," with that money ultimately still feeding the same broken, bloated system in the same fucked up way? I'm not saying you said that, I'm asking if that's what you're implying. Because it kinda reads like that's what you're implying.

Jesse | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 3:56pm

Oh, damn, flea beat me to the punch. Why am I not surprised?

Jesse | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 3:56pm

i'd enjoy beating your mom to the punch.

fleabag | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 4:04pm

Under what circumstances?

Jesse | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 4:06pm

You know where I live? You don't call; you don't write. How about a little love here, fleahole?

It's not at all bizarre--especially when you realize I was talking about institutions, not individual empathy. In fact, it is something most of us would expect as a rational response. If the municipality provides fire service, the private fire brigades will stop their business (even if they were more efficient). If insurance is provided as a benefit of employment, the Rotarians will stop providing their own insurance benevolence funds (even if they were more universal). I'm not saying that people won't feel bad, send cards, go visit the ill. I'm saying the formal structure shifts from one form (a voluntary organization), to another (a formalized, perhaps mandatory program).

That mandatory nature only makes sense (to me) in the case of my "very good retort," i.e., the collective action argument. We must use the force of government to provide these services, else we jeopardize the health and welfare of the republic. Essentially, limit the police power of the state to the resolution of the collective action problem.

MuppetMcG | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 4:07pm

very well i accept. i have loads more your mom jokes left in me on a friday afternoon, but i will go home and lob them at my cat.

fleabag | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 4:16pm

Your mom.

MuppetMcG | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 4:19pm

rude!

fleabag | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 4:32pm

"If the municipality provides fire service, the private fire brigades will stop their business (even if they were more efficient)."

Sometimes "more efficient" in business-speak means not servicing some communities.

I can't really back up my argument that providing universal health care is a moral imperative. I just believe it to be, and I think most Americans agree with me. I guess it starts with a belief that every human deserves a minimum amount of comfort, and that health, education, safety, and security are all part of that.

crazymonk | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 4:51pm

I think it makes good economic sense to provide consistent universal health care. Preventative care relieves the strain on emergency rooms, and a healthy, happy population is less likely to riot in the streets. It's also the right thing to do.

Jon May | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 6:23pm

My questions are twofold:

A#1: How much will it actually cost? (there's no way Obama's number is accurate)
B#2: How much worse will my health care be? (yes, I'm selfish when it comes to my own health care).

If I can be persuaded that the answers to those two questions are:

A#1 - the same amount as, or less than, you or your employer is currently paying (if you have health insurance), and
B#2 - comparable or possibly even a little better

then I'll be on board. If I end up having to pay twice (once through a national plan, and again through my own private insurer) to get comparable coverage, or the cost of taxes alone is dramatically higher, or if there's a marked decline in the entire health care industry due to fleeing doctors and governmental restrictions, then I'll object.

People are always carping that HMOs make too many decisions for them: "They won't pay for procedure X because they don't think it's worthwhile. How dare they not provide the highest level of coverage!?" The same crowd would prefer a governmental alternative. Why won't it be the same? The government, while not as dependent on the profit motive still needs to operate on a budget. I presume they'll be similar to HMOs with a list of things that they will and that they will not pay for. People won't be happy.

My true fear of governmentally run health care grows mostly from an anecdote, that I've told some of you before, that I overheard while living in the UK. Someone who worked at the same company as me wanted to get a vasectomy (admittedly, a voluntary medical procedure). The government program would pay for it, but the waiting list in the UK was 18 months. Well over a year for a simple, fast procedure. And because the government offered free health care, almost nobody had private insurers, so they had to wait. And, in some proposed plans, it would be illegal to procure medical service through non-governmental systems... so that guy would just have to wait. I'm afraid that that's what an American governmental system would turn into.

On the other hand, medical expenses are a weird, non-standard economic good. Nobody can really opt out of them, and they get more expensive, not less expensive, over time. Things don't get cheaper with new inventions, they get more expensive (because nobody's willing to settle for leaches these days).

I'm a muddle.

Zing, douchebag, banana.

RumorsDaily | Fri, 06/13/2008 - 6:41pm

i certainly won't lose any sleep if there's a deprioritization of boob jobs.

flea | Sat, 06/14/2008 - 3:27am

> Lorelei, what do you mean by "something so basic"?

RD, what I meant was that taxes are part of life, and protesting them seems a little like protesting the fact that death happens or food isn't free. Government services cost money. Act like an adult and get over it.

You can argue that we provide too many services, and the extent to which we need them is a legit debate, but only extreme libertarians seriously suggest that private industry would be better at basic tasks of government like road-building.

Now, whether health care should be a basic task of government is a different debate. I think it comes down to the financial and social consequences of not having an efficient health care system. I think educated people can agree that our system is not currently efficient. (If you don't agree about that, you must either live under a rock or work for a health insurer.) I don't know enough to run the numbers on whether we'd ultimately save money with a single-payer system. But, if universally implemented, it would keep people from dying in gutters or going bankrupt because they got cancer, which would improve our overall quality of life.

Lorelei | Sat, 06/14/2008 - 3:53pm

Ok, one more, what do you mean by "efficient," what is it about our current system that is inefficient?

RumorsDaily | Sat, 06/14/2008 - 4:05pm

Um, that we spend a lot of money on it and relatively few services are returned. Maybe this is just a product of me reading a lot of news, but I thought that was basic knowledge. You can probably dig up numbers on how much HMO/health insurer money goes to administration and how much goes to patient care. Plus stuff like people going to emergency rooms to treat things that could have been prevented is nearly the definition of inefficient.

Lorelei | Sat, 06/14/2008 - 5:16pm