Refleksi: Bila di USA pajak pendapatan tertinggi adalah 35%, maka dapat diberitakan bahwa angka procent yang disebutkan ini termsuk paling rendah untuk pajak di Swedia.
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/JJ28Aa01.html Oct 28, 2008 CAMPAIGN OUTSIDER Spread the wealth By Muhammad Cohen HONG KONG - In a campaign in which Republicans have labored tirelessly to transfer the discussion from reality to fantasy, Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin are doing it again with Joe (Not) the Plumber and Democratic Senator Barack Obama's call to "spread the wealth". Lies from the Grand Old Party about Obama's tax plans and cries of "socialism" are as much about the electorate's gullibility as Republican dishonesty. "He believes in redistributing wealth. That's not America," McCain says of Obama. In fact, the idea is quintessentially American, going back to the founders who rebelled against nobility and did their best to prevent its establishment in their new nation. Since the current income tax began in 1913, it has always had a strong element of progressivity, and even under George W Bush's tax cuts it still does. "Progressivity" means those who earn more pay a greater proportion of their income than those who earn less. Today the lowest income earners face a 10% tax rate, the highest income earners pay 35%. Amid the bellyaching and catcalling, ditching the Bush tax cuts would hike the top tax rate to 39.6%. Of course when you're earning US$5 million that raises your tax bill by $190,334. Progressive taxes are a form of redistributing wealth and have done it effectively. In 1929, just ahead of the Great Depression, when the top tax rate was 24%, the top 1% of earners received 23.9% of US income, according to research compiled by the Council on International and Public Affairs. In the wake of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, that proportion declined steadily over the next half century as top rates reached 94% during World War II. After post-war tax cuts, the top rate jumped back above 90% in 1951 and remained there through 1963, prime earning years for a second-rate actor named Ronald Reagan. By 1976, the top 1% share had declined below 9%. 13 = 1929? But then the tax-cutting craze began with California's Proposition 13, that capped property taxes and carried through the Reagan administration, and was brought to a crescendo with the Bush tax cuts. These Republican tax cuts have redistributed wealth dramatically. Now the top 1% is back to grabbing its largest share of US income since 1929, one of several indicators that wealth is more concentrated than at any time since the Great Gatsby era. The top 1% earns more than the bottom 40% of workers, the top 5% earns more than the bottom 60%, and the top 20% out-earns the bottom 80%. Wealth is even more skewed. The top 1% holds 34.7% of total US wealth and the next 9% has 35.4%, leaving just 29.9% of the pie for the bottom 90%. Despite the current tend, there's a broad constituency for spreading the wealth. John Ford, who blogs on the election at trackingpolls.com recorded this comment from a capitalist perhaps more widely esteemed than Obama advisor Warren Buffett: "It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion." The capitalist who said it was Adam Smith. "If the Republican platform is now to repudiate Adam Smith," Ford wrote, "it's difficult to see that there's any economic philosophy at all behind it." Taken to school Ford also noted this exchange between a student and a presidential candidate at a rally at Michigan State University in 2000. "Why is it that someone like my father who goes to school for 13 years gets penalized in a huge tax bracket because he's a doctor?" the student asked. "I think it's to some degree because we feel obviously that wealthy people can afford more," the candidate said. "Are we getting closer and closer to, like, socialism?" the student asked. "Here's what I really believe: That when you reach a certain level of comfort, there's nothing wrong with paying somewhat more," the candidate said. A year later, that losing candidate said of the Bush tax cuts, "I don't believe the wealthiest 10% of Americans should get 60% of the tax breaks. I think the lowest 10% should get the breaks." That advocate of progressive taxation and wealth redistribution was McCain. But he's not the only one confused. "Now is not the time for the government to experiment with socialism," Palin says, reaching to link Obama with Karl Marx. (Each had a father that was not from our America, you betcha.) The Republican vice presidential candidate says it with a straight face, even though the Bush administration, with McCain's affirmative vote, made the unprecedented injection of $1.2 trillion in taxpayer money into banks and financial companies. Socialism, someone should tell the governor, means government ownership of banking and other industries. Ex-Democrats unite! A few years ago I met a pair of my cousins in California, a couple in their 30s. He was doing data entry while in junior college seeking his associates degree. She was a department store clerk who was collecting a disability check. "We used to be Democrats," they told me. "But we don't like taxes." Never mind that Republicans would do away with student loans that made it possible for him to go to school. Never mind that junior colleges wouldn't even exist without the taxes that built them. Never mind that Republicans would end disability payments and labor unions that protect easily replaced workers such as sales clerks. Never mind that my cousins, and their parents, benefit from government services far more than they pay in taxes. Republican rhetoric demonizing taxes has convinced millions of Americans to vote against their own economic interests, bringing us to the story to Joe the Plumber. Sam Joe Wurzelbacher complained to Obama that his tax plan would punish him with higher taxes if he bought the business where he worked and it earned over $250,000 a year. That logic follows the McCain campaign's trope of millions of small business owners that a) earn that much money and b) aren't rich. Of course, it turns out that Wurzelbacher isn't a licensed plumber and doesn't have anywhere near the money to buy the business, particularly if it's as lucrative as he hopes. (And, by the way, it's not.) Rather than being a regular guy who plays by the rules just looking for an even break, Wurzelbacher owes $1,200 in back taxes. In reality, he'd benefit from the Obama tax plan, as would all Americans earning less than $250,000 a year. Even knowing that Wurzelbacher still said he's against it. If he wasn't such a self-parody, Wurzelbacher could be a symbol for a campaign, but he's signed on with the wrong side. Unplugged leaks Imagine Wurzelbacher lives in a rented trailer and complains about the property taxes he'd pay if he owned a mansion. So the city reduces the property taxes that he doesn't pay and to balance its budget cuts Wurzelbacher's job as a plumber taking care of municipal properties. That would make him an even better symbol for the Republican campaign because the party's trickle-down economic policies have consistently leaked. Reagan promised that his tax cuts would raise more revenue, based on the calculations of the aptly named economist Arthur Laffer and his famous Laffer Curve. Instead, tax cuts deepened deficits. The Bush tax cuts were supposed to give America an economic boom. Instead, even with a pair of wars and record deficit spending to give an added push, the best this Bush administration could manage was six years of jobless growth that is now climaxing in the worst global financial crisis since 1929. Trickle-down economics have run dry. McCain thinks that more of the Republican prescription of tax cuts for the rich, with bigger lies about the alternatives, is the way out. Obama proposes tax cuts for the bottom 95% and higher taxes for the top 5%. The truth is that all taxes redistribute wealth; the choice is whose wealth gets redistributed to whom. Former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen told America's story to the world as a US diplomat and is author of Hong Kong On Air (www.hongkongonair.com), a novel set during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance and cheap lingerie. (Copyright 2008 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)