D.B. Junior: ‘Your gratuitous comment in last week’s column, ‘does anyone really earn that little?’ – referring to a $100,000 annual income – is beneath you. During my recently ended 32-year career as a federal manager, I never made more than $85,000. Most of my co-workers earned far less. Look around – you may be losing touch with the reality of finances for most Americans.’

☞ It was (I thought) clear sarcasm. Oops! You were not the only one to take it the wrong way. I was trying to show how callous and wrong-headed the Republicans are for tilting things even further in favor of the best off. It is appalling. It drives me to sarcasm. Sarcasm can backfire. My apologies! ( For the record: most American workers make nothing like $100,000 a year – $38,000 is closer to the median, if memory serves – let alone the $250 million I referred to in the same sentence.)

Along those tax-inequitable lines, Paul Krugman’s column in Tuesday’s New York Times left no such confusion. In part (emphasis added):

Why, then, do we face the prospect of huge deficits as far as the eye can see? Part of the answer is the surge in defense and homeland security spending. The main reason for deficits, however, is that revenues have plunged. Federal tax receipts as a share of national income are now at their lowest level since 1950.

Of course, most people don’t feel that their taxes have fallen sharply. And they’re right: taxes that fall mainly on middle-income Americans, like the payroll tax, are still near historic highs. The decline in revenue has come almost entirely from taxes that are mostly paid by the richest 5 percent of families: the personal income tax and the corporate profits tax. These taxes combined now take a smaller share of national income than in any year since World War II.

This decline in tax collections from the wealthy is partly the result of the Bush tax cuts, which account for more than half of this year’s projected deficit. But it also probably reflects an epidemic of tax avoidance and evasion. Everyone who wants to understand what’s happening to the tax system should read Perfectly Legal, the new book by David Cay Johnston, The Times‘s tax reporter, who shows how ideologues have made America safe for wealthy people who don’t feel like paying taxes.

John Brownie: ‘Last week, John Stossel (ABC-20/20) stated that IRS data shows that the top 1% of income earners (over $300,000 a year) pay 34% of the Federal tax and that the top 5% (over $125,000 a year) pay 53%. What do you think they should pay?’

☞ Good question. Maybe what they were paying under Clinton? That seemed to work pretty well.


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