Ginsberg Pays Taxes

They are Looting My Tax Dollars!

Neil Cavuto, who can be like a rabid dog off of its meds, dressed down Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL) Tuesday over the “Pay for Performance Act,” a bill Grayson is pushing on the Hill. You can’t miss the clip, it’s all over the web. 

The bill is, of course, not about performance. It’s about power. It allows the Treasury to arbitrarily set the pay of all employees; or all employees at companies receiving federal money, which is pretty much the same thing, or will be soon.

There are no guidelines in the bill defining reasonable pay, just authority and full discretion given to the Administration to bypass the market and set pay by non-appealable fiat. 

During the interview, Cavuto created an ad absurdum picture of some GS-12 in a grey DC office building, looking over his glasses at a secretary and saying, “No, you will now only get $30,000 because I say that is reasonable and fair.” (Remember , Neil, only one pill a day, don’t skip, don’t catch up…)

Greyson’s response was to defend the bill using the current zeitgeist retort: It will only effect those people who are, “stealing money from us, the U.S. taxpayer, and stuffing it in their own pocket.”

People actually believe this. They actually believe that everyday American workers are funding the Administration’s stimulus and TARP programs. They believe they are paying for all the rest of the government as well. Since when did the average worker in America start to actually carry his weight in taxes? Not during my lifetime. The vast majority of taxes are paid in America by high income employees working in corporations, in other words the people getting the benefit of the current government programs, and whose (taxable) pay Congress wants to reduce.

I know it’s hard to swallow, but at least in New York if you give a guy $1,000,000, he gives back $600,000+ in taxes. Not so for the guy making $50,000. The tax system has been progressive like this since FDR, and even under the recent changes in rates there is no question that the bulk of our tax dollars come from the top 10% of income earners. I’m not even going to get into corporate taxes and the taxes on the sale of small businesses, but it’s ludicrous to say that our bills are being paid by 90% of the population. If there is stealing going on it’s by rich guy from rich guy, not rich guy from poor guy.

You don’t believe the establishment produced, capitalist-system-supporting, bovine excrement, data? Here’s the New York Daily News version: In New York, the city will be out of money soon because we are killing off the all the high income earners, and there is no one left to tax. That’s the real world, independent of political spin.

During these discussions I think about an interview that Alan Ginsberg gave to the Times not long before he passed away. I clipped it many years ago and I always chuckle when I come across it. 

Ginsberg had just sold his papers to Stanford for $1 million. The NYPL couldn’t raise the cash fast enough, so poof, an invaluable trove of historical material ended up a six hour flight away from New York, instead of in the Berg Collection on 42nd street, where Burroughs’ and Kerouac’s papers reside. With the proceeds he bought a place in the East Village. The article goes on…

“The new loft was made possible by the 1994 sale for $1 million of Mr. Ginsberg’s archives to Stanford University. But the money ended up being less than he had hoped. He ticked off the taxes: ”The Federal Government, 38 percent. The state 12 percent, the city 6. My agent took 5, the archivist who worked on the project for 10 years, 10. I was left with a third. I bought the loft. Now I’m back to square one.”

Yeah, Alan, taxes suck. 

One day when the mob consumes itself, and we are wondering why the subways are dangerous, the water polluted, and the police force looks like the one Serpico served in, maybe we will realize that the taxes we need to run our collective systems don’t materialize out of thin air. Wealth is not produced in the public sector, it is not produced in the academic sector (it shouldn’t be produced in the health care sector, but that’s another story). It comes out of the private sector and as much as we don’t want to believe it, everything else gets funded from the people that produce the most. 

Speaking in terms that the late John Rawls, would find familiar, our public policy goal should be to promote these bastards, make them work as hard as they can, pay them gobs of money and then tax the crap out of them.

And that’s where we really failed. By letting income inequality get so far out of whack these last two decades, the nation sowed deep seeds of jealousy, the most dangerous and murderous of emotions. That jealousy has made people blind to the reality that x% of a smaller number is a smaller number. A tax on a low income means lower taxes overall. 

But right now, all the mob can see is rage…

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