Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The tax debate

Ezra Klein of The American Prospect attempts to address accusations that the current tax code unfairly punishes the rich. The problem, however, is that you simply can't defend the indefensible. As Klein states:
People hear that the top 20 percent pay almost 70 percent of the country's income taxes and nod their head. That's unfair! But it mainly seems unfair because people don't know the top 20 percent accounts for almost 60 percent of the national income.
Well, sorry, that still strikes me as unfair. Even here, however, Klein isn't being totally forthcoming. The spread between what the rich make and their percentage of the tax burden isn't 10 percent, but 13.6 percent, as the top 20 percent earned 55.7% of pretax income and paid 69.3% of federal taxes. Now, maybe Klein just wanted to work with nice even numbers but then it would have made more sense to round down to 55 and up to 70, making the spread 15 percent.

The top 1 percent, unmentioned by Klein, earned 18.8% of income and paid 28.3% of taxes.

Fairness at its most Orwellian.

Update: More on Klein's apparent difficulty wtih math here

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