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February 27, 2009


Steve B.

I'm sorry but all this talk of nationalization and demanding the funds of the rich really needs to stop. Any idiot with even an elementary understanding of economics can tell you that taxing the rich won't solve America's problems. Where does our moral compass now lie if we value NEED over PRODUCTION. Let history be a lesson to the slippery-slope many of you seem so eager to fall down face first if you tax your nation’s biggest assets (eg...people willing to innovate a product and sell it for a profit)they'll lose incentive to produce at the same rate as before. When that happens expect GDP to drop, when GDP reality kicks in and the standard of living drops. The reason why the gap between the rich and the poor has grown so much is because of technological advancements you idiots the rich (excluding those who cheat their way into money) actually invest their money wisely. The average Joe in America simply does not! Now tell me if you were someone who fought your way into riches owned a successful company and didn't just blindly invest your money why should the fruits of your labor be taken from you and given to someone who CHOSE to not work a little hard to differentiate themselves from the masses. Get real people America will stop being so special the minute it becomes more of a burden to live here then elsewhere. It's already started happening with outsourcing oversees. If people don't wake up the next step will be for the rich to literally leave the country. Let's see how much you despise their lofty incomes then when u really won't be able to get a penny of it.


Hi Steve B.,

We're talking about different things. I DON'T think that REAL entrepreneurs and productive small-businesses should be taxed more.

MOST of the newer crop of the richest folks in the U.S. did NOT earn their money by productively contributing to the economy.

Many of them undeservedly pocketed shareholder dollars simply because they could (e.g., execs that took bonuses even while companies had huge debts or losses).

Instead of creating jobs after getting huge corporate tax breaks after 9/11, they cut American jobs and shipped them overseas -- which made for a bigger bottom line and bigger bonuses for the execs.

Every dollar in an exec's pocket is one less dollar for jobs and for shareholders. Think about that if you have a 401k.

Another set of folks made their money from the mere buying and selling of other people's stuff -- as opposed to actually creating things. A lot of them (like Madoff and some hedge-fund and mutual-fund managers) made their money by outright defrauding hardworking people.

Then there are the folks running private contracting firms that habitually rip off us taxpayers -- instead of giving good service in return for reasonable profits.

Again, you and I aren't disagreeing, because we aren't talking about the same things.


Got two percentages for you, Deb, 35 and 35. The first is the fraction of American income tax filers who pay no federal income tax, none, nada, zero. The second 35 is the American federal corporate tax rate, one of the highest in the world. That second 35 percent is the one that drove Stanley tools, for instance, to move its headquarters to Bermuda, for both better weather and $30 million lower tax bill.

Hell, even (Democrat) House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel proposed cutting the federal corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 30.5 percent in 2007. And that Rangel knows just how onerous high taxes can be; like many, many prominent Democrats, he had to admit last fall that he failed to pay thousands in taxes he owed, real estate taxes for rental income. Democrat Rangel claimed that “cultural and language barriers” kept him from understanding the finances of his house in the Dominican Republic, and hasn't been sent to jail, yet.

So you've already got 1/3 of the American taxpayers paying no federal income tax (and lotsa prominent Democrats refusing to pay the taxes they owe), and you're driving business out of America with a corporate income tax that confiscates 1/3 of their profits, and you want more. For the past 10 years or so, the top 10 percent of income earners paid about 65 percent of the total federal income taxes, and you want more. Paving the road to socialism, aren't you? Or, more likely, the road's already paved, and you're greasing it.


Hi Flower!

How are you? One 35% at a time.


We haven’t actually taken 1/3+ of most big companies’ revenue. The 35% is merely the STATUTORY tax rate. That rate 1) applies to profits (not expense, etc); and 2) it is only a starting point.

The “EFFECTIVE” tax rate (what companies actually pay after credits and such) on average has been FAR LOWER than the statutory 35%.

Here’s a link to a study of big companies’ effective tax rates in 2001-03:

The data gatherers looked at 10K’s of the 275 Fortune 500 companies that 1) reported profits from 2001-03, and 2) had publicly available data [not all companies’ data is public]. Here are a few highlights from the report:

* The average EFFECTIVE tax rate for all 275 companies in 2002 and 2003 was 17.2% -- down from 21.4% in 2001.

* That 17.2% was the LOWEST effective corporate tax rate since WWII.

* 82 of the 275 companies reported $102 billion in pretax profits BUT PAID ZERO or LESS in federal income taxes at least one year from 2001-03. When I say “less than zero,” I mean that the companies Got MONEY from Uncle Sam.

* In 2001, the Treasury paid $40 billion in corporate tax refunds – about 33% more on average than in 1998-2000.

* In 2002 and 2003, Treasury paid out an average of $63 billion in corporate tax refunds each year.

In short, our nation’s biggest companies paid lower taxes than ever, yet they still shipped jobs overseas – though the Bush and the then-Republican Congress had sold the corporate tax cuts to the public based on the (false) notion that cutting corporate taxes would result in decent, sustainable American jobs.

About SMALL BUSINESSES: if they qualify and file for S-status, they DON’T PAY federal corporate income tax at all. Instead, the compensation of individual officers and employees is taxed the way that your and my income is taxed.

S-Status is GOOD, because it helps small businesses.


The IRS data that I cite in the post does not tell how much tax the bottom 35% paid. It lists the top 25% as paying 88% of the taxes and the top 50% paying 97%.

I’m guessing that YOUR figure is close to RIGHT. A lot of those folks are likely making only a few thousand a year (e.g., part timers, teenagers, and really poor folks).

Here’s the part of the picture that you didn’t address: the lower-tax payers’ versus higher-tax payers’ share of income. I don’t have it for the bottom 35%, but here’s what the IRS data says:

Top 50% took 87% of the Adjusted Gross Income

Top 25% took 68% of AGI

Top 10% took 47% of AGI

Top 4% took 33% of AGI

Top 1% took 22% of AGI

In other words, the folks paying disproportionately large taxes also took disproportionately large income.

As I mentioned in my post, such details are crucial to getting a clear overall picture. It astounds me that Guys like Limbaugh and the folks at Fox don’t bother explaining said details to their audience.

The IRS data is available here:


Yay Deb! Thanks for the intelligent explaination! Of course Limbaugh and the other folks don't tell the whole truth, and their followers are just empty headed followers!

Dr. J

The corporate tax rates are a bit of a red herring, because it's not like corporations are groups of aliens operating on other planets. Corporate tax is ultimately a tax on consumers, and a fairly regressive one at that.

In any case the tax burden speaks for itself. If corporations are shifting work overseas because they can save money, either they must all be lousy at math, or it must really be more expensive here.

As a citizen of the only country in the world that was founded out of a tax revolt, I'm having trouble seeing them as villains.


Dr. J,

I didn't say that folks running big companies are villains. I was simply refuting Flowerplough's erroneous notion that Uncle Sam routinely robs all big companies of 35% of their income.

What I think is that the folks running big companies tend to put their own personal self interest far above their shareholders' interests (despite their fiduciary duties to shareholders). We saw evidence of that as the execs widely bought mortgage-backed securities -- though they knew that the housing bubble would ultimately deflate and render those assets "toxic."

Many execs obviously put their own personal interests far above our nation's interests, too. I just think they should dial all of that back a good bit.

This whole discussion started only because I think that folks (and companies) with disproportionately large incomes should STOP WHINING about paying disproportionately large shares of the taxes.

That's all.


Don't know about you, Deb, but --

I'm glad our readers are all so well off, can afford health care, and have no worries about losing their jobs or their homes.

It's so sweet that conservatives rush to defend the right of useless pillocks who run their companies into the grounds to suck out obscene amounts of money while driving their shareholders over the cliff.

There are plenty of breaks for companies that actually CREATE jobs. I'm all for those. That's not what we're talking about here, though.

Steve B.

Hey Deb,

I respectfully disagree with the point you're trying to make, I actually do think we are talking about the same thing, on the most fundamental level you are arguing that in America it's OK to steal in the name of equality. There were 1 MILLION “NEW” U.S. millionaires just in 2000 alone, and as of 2005 approximately 1/4 of the wealthy owned their own business so yea a tax increase will harm the small businesses you conveniently ignore.It's fairly apparent that you have a particular disdain for big business. I agree that SOME companies have squandered their wealth through greedy practices but you make it sound as though every top executive cheated their way into money. If you truly believe stealing i.e. is wrong why do you hate it in the form of corporate welfare yet openly welcome it in the form of social welfare? Furthermore, how does it make things better if this big government you support bails out the companies that actually DID steal/are bad for the economy.
Congress for whatever reason in their infinite wisdom has opened Pandora’s box and is now giving firms MORE not LESS incentive to engage in risky/criminal behavior...but I digress. Businesses exist for one reason only and that's to make a profit, not create jobs. Job's are simply a result of successful businesses, so if our nation implement’s a much more socialist/restrictive tax code against the rich (yano those who run big business) how can they stay COMPETITIVE in the global marketplace. It would be irrational for a firm to accept lower profits in the name of saving jobs because PROFITS not jobs are a business’s life blood. O yea, and to address that half-minded notion that cutting salaries/bonuses across the board to save jobs will work...incentives drive profits not warm bodies clocking in and out. In our capitalist nation the best business minds go where the money is, so if you wanna kill the incentive of the only real competitive advantage our nation's economic catalysts have over the rest of the world then by all means SLASH PAY.
If you wanna knock Hedge-Funds, Investment Banks, Stocks, Money Market's ect. as not being productive I'm sorry but that's incredibly ignorant! The industrial revolution IS OVER it's the technological revolution that produces the greatest profits and that is why the income gap has increased, the median income earner's aren't adapting. Your idea of production somehow doesn't seem to include dollars and cents in the equation. "The mere buying and selling of other people's stuff" is about working smart not just working hard. Madoff and managers like him are the exception NOT the rule; please quit lumping those goons in with all rich people.
The rich "WHINE" about taxes because everyone else is "lining their pockets" with their money. When did it become ok to tell people that they're not entitled to 6 months worth of earnings.
Concerning the contract firms that rip people off, HELLO who is hiring them! Uhh yea that'd be BIG GOVERNMENT, instead of putting those jobs on the open market those contractors hide behind empty suits more concerned with getting votes than keeping projects on budget. After all, who cares if you support bad policy that pisses off the rich as long as the masses benefit from it. Right?
This hippy "liberal" notion that we should make policy that is fair rather than financially sound is what got us into this mess in the 1st place! Check Barney Frank & Chris Dodd's Community Reinvestment Act then connect the dots.
So yea Deb I'd have to say we do disagree. I firmly believe stealing is only considering it stealing if it's from someone making less than $250k/yr.


Your courtesy is wasted, Damozel and Deb.

These people refuse to respond to the well-documented facts that you have presented. They can't, and they can't provide sourcing for their assertions. They rely on arguments that are based in emotion rather than reason. They aren't even original arguments. They are regurgitated puke of right-wing radio.

They are well-trained parrots. Trying to talk to them is pointless.


Hi Steve B,

Hi Steve B,

At some points, you’ve responded to things I haven’t said.

First, I don’t dislike big public companies or business in general. (I was a small-biz owner for 7 years).

I DO dislike, especially as a shareholder: 1) how ineffectively public corporations are regulated in the U.S., and 2) the stunning lack of accountability to us shareholders. America’s second-richest man (Buffet) seems to feel likewise.

NOTE: I’m NOT talking about private companies, big or small. I SUPPORT TAX BREAKS for small businesses, btw – as I mentioned in a response to another commenter above.

I also support tax breaks for big public companies IF strings are attached (like, you’ll get this big tax break if you create some sustainable American jobs).

My complaints are largely about big public companies – which have to follow certain rules in exchange for the privilege of peddling their stocks to the public at large.

Also, I AGREE WITH YOU that politicians and bureaucrats (both Ds and Rs) have enabled private contractors to rob us taxpayers. We at BN-Politics have done more than 150 posts on contractor waste/fraud – and we’ve often laid partial blame at the feet of those politicians and bureaucrats.

Where we disagree is that you seem to assume that most big-public-company managers actually earned their cut of shareholder wealth – while I think MOST of them stole most of it (albeit in legal ways).

If you own stocks, this should bother you, too -- because every dollar that undeservedly ends up in an execs’ or managers’ pocket is one less dollar for re-investment into the company.

I’m NO EXPERT, but I started researching corporate corruption just after Enron fell in late 2001. Time and time again, evidence confirms that conflicting incentives are created by our regulatory system – which have allowed people running big public companies to raid the shareholder money pot and feather their own nests at the expense of us shareholders.

It’s a massive redistribution of wealth and largely NOT based on actual performance by execs and managers.

All corporate board members and officers have fiduciary duties to act in the SHAREHOLDERS’ interests.

In our nation, there is so much flexibility about what constitutes “the shareholders’ interests” that execs and managers are legally allowed to transfer masses of shareholder dollars to the execs’/managers’ personal use or accounts – even during times of company debt or loss.

That’s not supposed to be the result of capitalism.

The “business judgment rule,” a principle embedded in corporate case law, is a big factor. Under the BJR, courts allow execs and boards to spend shareholder dollars pretty much however they want – as long as they can make some kind of argument (however weak) that their spending was in the shareholder’s interests.

Just a few examples:

* Enron execs devoted $20 million to a corporate art collection (even while the company knew of its massive partnership debts). Execs also spent $100+ million on other creature comforts for execs, like private planes and luxurious accommodations. One shareholder-interest argument: it all increased Enron’s prestige in the public-relations realm. Never mind that Enron’s shareholders would have benefited way more if that $120+ million had gone toward paying down Enron’s $700+ million in debts.

* Merrill Lynch’s Board (at execs’ urging) gave out $5 to $6 billion in bonuses in 2006 to 2,000 employees – despite knowing that the 2006 “profits” were based on falsely inflated mortgage-backed securities. The shareholder-interest argument: we need to give big bonuses to retain our “talent” (the same “talent” that was busy draining the shareholder money pot WHILE driving the company toward a ditch).

* Delta Airlines execs (pre-bankruptcy) – after booking a $1.2 billion loss -- actually mortgaged its fully owned fleet of planes, then got the Board to agree to give out bonuses based on cash flow (which came from mortgaging the previously unencumbered planes). The shareholder-interest argument: we have to retain the “talent” – despite the fact that said talent was partly responsible for the $1.2 billion in losses.

* Tyco execs routinely used the shareholder money pot to funnel millions to themselves for personal use (things like expensive condos, artwork, decorating services, planes, cars…).

I could go on and on with examples of legal LOOTING, but I don’t need to because they’re all over the place now that a bunch of big public companies tied to our banking system are in turmoil PRECISELY because execs routinely made bad decisions for their shareholders that just happened to result in piles of cash being funneled to the execs.

Another failure in our system: regulators have allowed an unhealthy degree of book cooking. Basically, public companies have been allowed to turn in puffed up quarterly and annual reports – and they can usually avoid dire consequences by simply “restating their earnings” later. The first set of reports (with the inflated profits) are usually the ones on which execs’ and managers’ bonuses are based on.

You asked this:

“How does it make things better if this big government you support bails out the companies that actually DID steal/are bad for the economy.”

Your statement is loaded with assumptions. I DON’T think we should have bailed out the companies by sending execs strings-free cash. IF intervention were necessary, officials should have done it in a more effective way and in a way that promoted accountability. Remember that a bunch of so-called “conservative” and “free market” loving politicians voted FOR the bailout bill.

I AGREED WITH YOU when you said this: “Congress for whatever reason in their infinite wisdom has opened Pandora’s box and is now giving firms MORE not LESS incentive to engage in risky/criminal behavior.”

You said this:

“It would be irrational for a firm to accept lower profits in the name of saving jobs because PROFITS not jobs are a business’s life blood”

Yeah, it would be irrational. And it’s EQUALLY IRRATIONAL for a firm to accept lower profits in order to funnel masses of money to the execs and managers who didn’t earn it. But the execs and Boards still do it.
My point: the folks running big public companies aren’t acting rationally – and their irrationality has harmed millions of shareholders AND our nation’s economy. That’s NOT what capitalism is supposed to be about.

You said this:

“If you wanna knock Hedge-Funds, Investment Banks, Stocks, Money Market's ect. as not being productive I'm sorry but that's incredibly ignorant! The industrial revolution IS OVER it's the technological revolution that produces the greatest profits and that is why the income gap has increased, the median income earner's aren't adapting. Your idea of production somehow doesn't seem to include dollars and cents in the equation. "The mere buying and selling of other people's stuff" is about working smart not just working hard. Madoff and managers like him are the exception NOT the rule; please quit lumping those goons in with all rich people.”

I was merely refuting your claim that the folks running big public companies earn their money through productivity.

That aside, I disagree with you: the mere buying and selling (and defrauding) is NOT productive and it’s certainly NOT “working smart.”

The current meltdown is strong evidence of how not-smart it was: e.g., people were creating the mere APPEARANCE of profits when packaging and trading in mortgage backed securities (etc.) that they had reason to know were not worth nearly as much as the values they’d booked them as having.

That harmed not only many companies’ shareholders, but also our nation’s entire economy.

You said this:

“The rich "WHINE" about taxes because everyone else is "lining their pockets" with their money. When did it become ok to tell people that they're not entitled to 6 months worth of earnings.”

The government DOESN’T take 50% of most wealthy folks’ “earnings,” because most of them make their money via capital gains – which are taxed at a far lower rate.

And, as I discussed in my response to FlowerPlough above, most big corporations DO NOT PAY even the full 35% statutory tax rate. Neither do small businesses that qualify for S-status.


You moron! The government has no buisness telling people in a free society how much they can earn. In addition, the lower tax brackets actually pay NO taxes as they are given back via refunds. The top wage earners in this country pay a much larger precentage of taxes which then fund entidlemt programs for those who are in the lower tax (Read no tax) brackets. Thus welfare is created. When adding the cost of these welfare services, the lower tax brackets make considerbly more via others contrubutions. Stop the wealth envy politics. In a free capatilist society we do not punish successful individuals for taking advantage of our God given talents and abilities which allow us to create products that others want, need and desire. In other words, your income level is only limited by your desire to succeed. If you allow government to interfere with our inalienable rights as guarenteed in the constitution then you my friend are a Marxist.


Now Steve,

Insults betray a lack of rationality in a discussion.

I agree that when it comes to PRIVATELY held corporations, govt has no right telling people how much they can make.

However, when it comes to publicly held corps, the govt certainly does have that right.

No company has a "right" to sell its securities to the public at large; it's a privilege that companies get in exchange for submitting to federal regulations that are meant to protect the investing public.

If a company doesn't want to follow the regulations, then it shouldn't "go public," which is something that most companies do only because they AREN'T able to attract any more private financing.

Before the 1929 crash, the federal govt didn't regulate companies that sold securities to the public at large -- which is partly why the crash happened.

Since the late 90s, the govt COULD regulate public companies (and hedge funds and investment banks) but it did a piss-poor job.

As a result, millions of shareholders have watched their retirement funds shrivel due partly to looting by the relative few people running their companies.

Said looting (and various frauds) also resulted in millions of lost American jobs just in the past 15 months -- as well as the near crash of multiple nations' financial systems.

Oh, and those relative few looters and fraud perpetrators have also cost us U.S. taxpayers more than $1 trillion that our nation couldn't really afford, given its $10+ trillion debt.

All that said, you STILL think that a relative few people running some big public companies should be allowed to do whatever they want?

If so, I don't know what to say.

On to the other topic: I've already gone back and forth with you about tax burdens -- AND given you linked data.

Apparently, you don't want to discuss that data.

Apparently, you're more interested in venting emotions via rants that are supported by little more than emotions.

What can I say to that?

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