Pages I refer to often

  • Income Distribution in the US
    How is our income distributed? Well, it is pretty concentrated. How concentrated? Take a look.
  • Progress and Poverty, by Henry George
    Here are links to online editions of George's landmark book, Progress & Poverty, including audio and a number of abridgments -- the shortest is 30 words! I commend this book to your attention, if you are concerned about economic justice, poverty, sprawl, energy use, pollution, wages, housing affordability. Its observations will change how you approach all these problems. A mind-opening experience!
  • Wealth Concentration Tables from 2004 SCF: Bottom 90%, Next 9% and Top 1%
    Aggregated data by net worth quantile, for various kinds of wealth. With calculations you won't find anywhere else!
  • Wealth Concentration Tables from 2004 SCF: 50-40-5-4-1
    These tables show how concentrated the ownership of various kinds of assets are. With calculations you won't find anywhere else! This version is less aggregated: Bottom 50%, Next 40%, Next 5%, Next 4% and Top 1%.

Categories

Books I Value

  • Henry George: Progress and Poverty: An inquiry into the cause of industrial depressions and of increase of want with increase of wealth ... The Remedy
    This is perhaps the most important book ever written on the subjects of poverty, political economy, how we might live together in a society dedicated to the ideals Americans claim to believe are self-evident. It will provide you new lenses through which to view many of our most serious problems and how we might go about solving them: poverty, sprawl, long commutes, despoilation of the environment, housing affordability, wealth concentration, income concentration, concentration of power, low wages, etc. Read it online, or in hardcopy.
  • Bob Drake's abridgement of Henry George's original: Progress and Poverty: Why There Are Recessions and Poverty Amid Plenty -- And What To Do About It!
    This is a very readable thought-by-thought updating of Henry George's longer book, written in the language of a newsweekly. A fine way to get to know Henry George's ideas. Available online at progressandpoverty.org and http://www.henrygeorge.org/pcontents.htm

Where Else Might You Look?

Sites I enjoy

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September 22, 2008

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JMK

"Frankly, if you make $65K a year and pay $20K in taxes (property, sales, income, excise, gasoline, etc.) you are getting a pretty good deal just on police, roads and schools..." (nathanrudy - Kos Kid)
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No offense, but the person on Kos who wrote this (nathanrudy?) is almost without question, a complete and utter idiot.

I wish there were a nicer way to put that, but there isn't.

That's almost certainly why he posts on a radical left hate site like the D-Kos.

In places like NYC, LA, Miami, Chicago, San Fran and other large urban areas, a cop (a regular policeman) or a school-teacher earn very close to, if not upwards of $100,000/year at top pay.

Two cops, or a cop and a teacher, or a cop and nurse, make much more as a Married couple.

BUT still, let's take this fictional $65,000/year worker and compute her tax bill living in, Queens, NY.

Let's say she's taxed at the 28% federal level - that's $18,200 per year.

WoW!

That's almost the entire twenty ground that our Kos Kid moron thinks is that person's entire tax bill! And we're just getting started.

See what I mean about there being no "nice way" to put this?

In Queens, NY that workers also pays NY city income taxes (appx 2.9% of their annual income - the lowest rate), NY state income taxes (6.85% of their income per year - If your income range is between $20,001 and $100,000, your tax rate on every dollar of income earned is 6.85%) - that's another almost $6500/year in local (State and City) income taxes!

We're up to very near $25,000 ($24,800), if you're keeping count.

There are also FICA taxes ("payroll taxes that pay for social security, medicare, medicaid, etc) those run 6.2% per year for Social Security up to $97,500/year and another 1.45% for Medicare. So there goes another 7.65% of that person's annual income per year, so there goes another $5,000/year.

So we're now up to almost THIRTY THOUSAND DOLLARS!

THEN there's property taxes. In NYC, they're cheaper than the surrounding suburbs but they still run, on average, about $2500/year or $200/month on a very modest house.

We haven't even gotten to "sales taxes," "gasoline taxes," and the various tolls that such people pay every day in such locales and we've already got this gal coughing up nearly half her income!

Let's hope she works in a nearby school and lives very frugally, but even so, you can very easily see why that person (the average urban American) coughs up over 70% of their income when sales and gas taxes and tolls, etc. are factored in.

The Kos moron think the total bill is LESS than a third.

IF the entire tax bill for the average urban American was "around a third" few people would be complaining!

Fact is, it's close to and in many cases OVER 70% when ALL the various taxes are factored in!

My guess is that you won't get any rational or reasonable responses from a site like that. I can virtually guarantee you that nathanrudy is such an unredeemable moron that even if faced with the facts he wouldn't be open to re-thinking his position.

Why?

Because he didn't THINK out his position to begin with...he FELT it. I know math isn't generally the strong suit of such people, but this guy wasn't off by a few thousand dollars, or even ten or tenty thousand!

It gets me to wondering where nathanrudy lives....

Maybe in his parent's basement?

LVTfan

You might look into the concept of marginal tax rates. As federal income taxes are structured, people taxed at a marginal rate of 28% on their federal taxes do not pay 28% on their entire income. Rather, they have deductions and exemptions, and some of that income is taxed at 15%, and at the margin, they pay 28% on some portion of it.

If you've been paying at 28% on all of your income, and not claiming the standard deduction, I hope you'll refile your past few years' worth of tax forms. It will be worth your while.

Would you like sugar or butter on your crow? Impugning the motives or brains of those who read or who post at any particular site does not add credibility to your own statements. You see the world through different lenses, and that's fine. But keep the glasses clean!

Incidently, if you've read much on this site, you'll know I've got little use for income taxes which fall on wages -- but I am certainly not opposed to communities providing services that they can provide more efficiently than individuals can get those services on their own -- and that requires collecting revenue. I happen to think that land value is thr right tax base.

JMK

"You might look into the concept of marginal tax rates. As federal income taxes are structured, people taxed at a marginal rate of 28% on their federal taxes do not pay 28% on their entire income. Rather, they have deductions and exemptions, and some of that income is taxed at 15%, and at the margin, they pay 28% on some portion of it." (LVTfan)


Yes, that's true.

I'm one of those people.

I cough up OVER 50% of my check in federal, state, local and FICA taxes alone.

I pay property taxes on top of that and I pay all those other (ancillary taxes that this nathanrudy character mentions on top of that!

All that despite having a home mortage interest deduction based on a home mortgage of OVER $500,000!

I've lived and worked in NYC my entire life and I don't know a single worker with a W-2 (that is, with income taxes automatically withheld from his/her check) who ISN'T coughing up half their check in federal, state. city and FICA taxes when combined. My distinct understanding is that other major urban areas, Boston, D.C., Chicago, LA, San Fran, etc., are no different.

No, I was actually being as nice as I could with the inane assertions made by this "nathanrudy" guy.

Virtually no one who works full time in a decent job (teaching, construction, law enforcement, health services, etc.) pays "less than one third of their income in all taxes (nathanrudy inanely INCLUDED "sales and gasoline taxes" in his total)....most such people pay at least half their income in federal, state, local and FICA taxes alone.

Not that "one third" would be OK, that's STILL too high a burden, but it's NOT even close to the average tax burden in America's major urban areas.

32% of Americans pay no income tax due to the EITC and that's unreasonable given that figures that take into account both part-time and per diem workers AND the below minimum wages paid to illegal immigrants starts the "top 25% of American wage-earners at $62,000/year!

That worker that "nathanrudy" spoke of, is technically "in the top 25% of U.S. wage-earners" and as such, she would be subject to the 28% rate.

LVTfan

It sounds as if you would be happier in a place where the community did not provide so many services. You might want to find a rural area, where everyone provides their own amenities at whatever price they can negotiate, or they do without. You clearly feel that you are paying too much for what life in the NYC metro offers you. You may not want community colleges, or libraries, or ambulances equipped with the most modern range of equipment, or police cars with defibrillators. Find yourself a place where your neighbors agree with you.

Vote with your feet, or convince your neighbors that they really really don't need that bridge, or that ferry, or city services like trash pickup, or schools, or public health, or libraries. Convince the folks upstate that commuter rail isn't worth supporting, if you think that really serves the common good. Root out corruption that costs us all money.

But one of the beauties of dense cities is that a wide variety of community-financed amenities can be afforded. Some people really appreciate those things, and are willing to pay for them. (The question, of course, is who they should pay. Should they pay the fellow they buy their house from, or should they pay their community. I go with the latter, since the previous owner isn't going to be paying for the services during your tenure, and someone certainly needs to. I'd rather we each pay, in the form of a tax on land value, for the right to occupy a certain piece of land. Those who own the midtown Manhattan sites would pay the community for the privilege. Direct, no middleman issues. Efficient. No deadweight loss. No excess burden. Adam Smith would approve.

But as long as you have other options of where you might live, it seems odd to me that you would opt to stay where you are and complain about the community doing more than you want. Others would love to have access to all that living in NYC would offer.

JMK

I DON'T live in NYC...well, I do live in Staten Island (one of the five boroughs) and most of the firemen, cops and teachers from NYC live on Long Island and Upstate NY.

I have well over twenty years on the FDNY and I will soon join the army of retirees from NYC who move elsewhere with their "huge" by many standards pensions (I could actually retire right now and the city would continue to pay me six figures NOT TO WORK!

How crazy is that?!

Not only that, but those cops and firemen who get out on any kind of disability - any heart or lung ailments and most cancers, even if caught early and treated - are grounds for a "disability pension equaling 3/4s of your salary TAX-FREE (free from city, state and federal income taxes) for life!

My problem with the current tax system is that it is not dispersed well enough.

The income tax disuades people from work, just as surely as those tax-free disability pensions encourage people to scam into those vehicles.

Taxing consumption INSTEAD of income would be one way to rid the economy of that downward drag...another would be to get rid of the Corporate income tax, which amounts to a hidden sales tax - the corporate income tax is ALWAYS passed on to us as consumers as are ALL the other "costs of doing business."

With Wall Street revenues not coming as strong lately, NYC is moving toward some very deep cuts in services, so beleagured New Yorkers are going to pay those high taxes (even higher property taxes) for fewer services....and I'm sure that trend will be followed around the nation, as municipalities seek to cut costs.

LVTfan

I share your dislike of the income tax, but can find nothing appealing about taxing consumption. I don't want to see every corner store, every ebay seller, every hotdog vendor, becoming a federal tax collector, with all the issues of whether they do or do not forward my taxes to the government.

We have better tax bases to work with, and we ignore them at our peril.

Not a single acre or building lot or square foot of land is going to leave town in the middle of the night if we tax it more. It can't be hidden. Its value is easy to determine, and if, by chance we get it wrong, we can correct it. Post them all online, for full transparency. The mechanism already exists for collecting the property tax; this is a reform of it, treating all landholders equally, and ignoring the buildings, which, like wages and corporate profits, are rightly private property.

JMK

Personally I LIKE the land value tax, although I DON'T like the idea of renters (non-landowners) skating (not paying into the system).

Here's the problem, the most reckless and irresponsible people tend to rent because it absolves them of ANY responsibility. Renters rarely upkeep the properties they rent, have no compunction about the overuse of utilities (keeping the heat and AC up high)...."someone else is paying for THAT."

In seems that the LVT treats renters the same way the income tax treats its deadbeats (those engaged in the underground/black-market or "off-the-books" economy), by pretending they don't exist.

My initial problem with the comments from "nathanrudy" @ D-Kos is that he woefull mis-represented the actual tax burden on most working Americans.

As I said, IF the entire tax burden in the U.S. (from the federal through state and local income taxes, FICA and the sales, excise and gasoline taxes) was, as he said, less than 30% total of one's gross income, there'd be far fewer complaints than we have now.

What we have now is a system in which 50% of Americans pay no income tax! Most of those actually RECEIVE the EITC.

All of that is computed using fiscal ledgerdemain - including part-time and per diem workers (most of those are retirees supplementing their social security, or teenaged students working while going to school) and ILLEGAL migrant workers who are often paid below established minimum wage standards.

The income figures for full-time employees is significantly higher, and yet that is NOT what the tax system is based on. Ergo, a cop or construction worker earning $80,000/year in NYC or San Fran, where that income won't allow you to live within city limits UNLESS you're willing to share a 1-BR apt with two other guys, is taxed AS IF that worker is "among the top 25% of the richest Americans."

Utter and absolute nonsense!

I know where folks like "nathanrudy" get their ideas, recently Al Sharpton was being interviewed by Bill O'Reilly and they spoke about the tax burden, to which Sharpton said the same thing "nathanrudy" DID....that it was overblown.

When O'Reilly asked Sharpton what he'd consider an excessive rate, Sharpton replied, "Well, anything over 35% of one's total income might get to be excessive..."

O'Reilly responded that his own tax burden was OVER 50% and of course, Sharpton was incredulous.

Bottmline, I DON'T know a single person in NYC or any of the surrounding areas (I have family and friends Upstate NY, in NJ and PA) and NONE of them has much less than 50% of their income taken from their checks.

Many of those with large deductions, like my wife and I, have been hit with the AMT....so full-time working people have been getting slaughtered with the income tax as it now stands, so much so, in fact, that I fully understand and support their support for ANY alternative.

The most popular right now is "the flat tax" which I oppose because it preserves the income tax and the burden on productivity.

I'd have to see how the LVT impacts renters to see if IT too allows a class of people (in that case, the most reckless and irresponsible among us) to skate tax-free.....which is why I still like the consumption tax - it makes EVERYONE contribute based on expenditures. No items could be sold without a tax-stamp. The truly rich (those who don't rely on income for wealth and very few if any of the richest 1% in asset wealth rely on income as a major source of their wealth) would pay MORE because they spend more and even the poorest among us (despite the Fair taxes exemption of the first $30,000 would pay something....which is better than what we have now.

We NEED a system in which EVERYBODY pays something into the kittie. Without that we have a portion of the populace that doesn't care about waste, fraud and abuse and wants ever more government spending.

LVTfan

Interesting. I don't think the tenants skate through at all. They are paying to their landlord for both the value of the building and its amenities and for the value of the location, already. The problem is that the landlord isn't required to pass the locational value through to the commons.

Landlords are free to vote in all sorts of things, and be reasonably sure that they will be paid for not by an increase in property taxes, but via increases in sales taxes, wage taxes, hotel taxes, and other taxes that don't particularly hit him.

In California, with Proposition 13 guaranteeing that no one's property tax will rise more than 2% per year, voters vote in all sorts of stuff, and then must pay for it with the sorts of taxes that depress the economy -- wage taxes, sales taxes, etc -- and towns must court the big box stores that destroy the little vendors in their downtowns, because they desperately need the sales tax revenue.

Renters are not reckless and irresponsible. In places like NYC and most of California, housing prices are so high that they simply have to rent. And for many people, renting is prudent, as you pointed out earlier; they shouldn't be trying to buy, with no down payment and insufficient income to support the mortgage plus their commuting costs.

I don't understand your preference for a consumption tax. Have you seen the tables showing the difference in distribution of taxes? The top 1% of us would see their taxes drop by a huge fraction. Nothing for them not to like about it. The bottom 50% of us would be paying through the nose. Welcome to Alabama, where sales taxes run 10% or 11% in some towns. Welcome to Chicago, which recently went the same way. Fair Tax doesn't exempt $30,000 of income, unless you have a family of about 6 or 7 people -- and where in NYC can one have a decent life on $30,000 for even a much smaller family?

What I like about LVT is that when government spends money on some good project, it creates higher land values; people want to live or work within the radius where they can benefit from that. So they're willing to pay for the privilege. As things stand now, they pay their landlord, or they pay the seller, and the landlord or seller gets to pocket all that value, and then the rest of us must pay for the project. I want the landlord, the seller, to be the ones who pay, from the value they collect and the value they receive.

And we might end up with a lot more homeowners and a lot fewer absentee owners, if absentee ownership wasn't such a profitable idleness (tough to call being a landlord "busyness" -- and I don't begrudge the buildinglord his wages for his work!).

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