Did you see the front page story in last Thursday’s Times showing how well we are all doing? Well, not all, but the 400 wealthiest taxpayers, anyway, which is hundreds of us. These taxpayers showed $86 million in income and capital gains for the year 2000, at the low end, and – on average – they showed $174 million. (That’s an average. Some showed more, some less.)
But it’s not all wine and roses when you’re earning $86 million a year, as those of you who are surely know. There are federal taxes (well, not on tax free bonds, but on most other forms of income) and in the worst year from 1992-2000, those federal taxes ate up nearly 30%. For the year 2000, the 400 paid the IRS, on average, 22.3% of their income, much of it realized in capital gains.
The good news is that the Bush administration, to a far greater degree than its Democratic predecessor – which actually raised taxes on the best off – is sensitive to this situation.
‘Had President Bush’s latest tax cuts been in effect in 2000,’ reported the Times, ‘the average tax bill for the top 400 would have been about $30.4 million – a savings of $8.3 million, or more than a fifth, according to an analysis of the I.R.S. data by The New York Times. That would have resulted in an average tax rate of 17.5 percent.’
The night before this story came out, Al Franken was talking to 650 Democratic donors at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. You may have seen it on C-SPAN. He said that when Democrats point out stuff like this – point out that 17.5% is less than the tax rate a factory worker pays – the Republicans cry, ‘class warfare.’
But that’s not class warfare, Al told the assembled. He had been reading Barbara Tuchman’s classic A Distant Mirror, about the calamitous Fourteenth Century, and he came upon the scene where these serfs, tired of being subservient, scale the walls of their knight’s castle, capture him, kill him, roast him on a spit, and then make his wife eat his flesh.
In front of her children.
Al – who is the author of the forthcoming, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right – took a long, deliberate pause, looked at us incredulously, and said . . . ‘Now that’s class warfare.’
So buck up, folks. The right-wing Republicans have learned to cow us by telling us to stop ‘whining.’ (Just take a moment to consider what a bullying, offensive word that is.) And they tell us to stop waging class warfare. But, as deca-billionaire Warren Buffett put it so succinctly (this should be the signature line of billions and billions of e-mails from now through next November), ‘If this is class warfare, then my class is winning.’