Opinion | Should We Soak the Rich? You Bet! – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditJohannes Eisele/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Donald Trump promised struggling working-class voters that he heard their frustrations and would act.

He did: He pushed through a tax cut that made income inequality worse. In 2018, for the first time, the 400 richest American households paid a lower average tax rate than any other income group, according to new research by two economists.

Those billionaires paid an average total rate of 23 percent in 2018, down from the 70 percent their 1950 counterparts paid. Meanwhile, the bottom 10th of households paid an average of 26 percent, up from 16 percent in 1950.

That’s the rot in our system: Great wealth has translated into immense political power, which is then leveraged to multiply that wealth and power all over again — and also multiply the suffering of those at the bottom. This is a legal corruption that President Trump magnified but that predated him and will outlast him; this is America’s cancer.”

Opinion | The Rich Really Do Pay Lower Taxes Than You – David Leonhardt – The New York Times

“Almost a decade ago, Warren Buffett made a claim that would become famous. He said that he paid a lower tax rate than his secretary, thanks to the many loopholes and deductions that benefit the wealthy.

His claim sparked a debate about the fairness of the tax system. In the end, the expert consensus was that, whatever Buffett’s specific situation, most wealthy Americans did not actually pay a lower tax rate than the middle class. “Is it the norm?” the fact-checking outfit Politifact asked. “No.”

Time for an update: It’s the norm now.

For the first time on record, the 400 wealthiest Americans last year paid a lower total tax rate — spanning federal, state and local taxes — than any other income group, according to newly released data.”

Bernie Sanders Proposes a Wealth Tax, Taking Aim at Billionaires – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — Senator Bernie Sanders on Tuesday unveiled a proposal to create a new tax on the wealth of the richest Americans, including a steep tax on billionaires that could greatly diminish their fortunes.

With the proposal, Mr. Sanders is embracing an idea that has been a centerpiece of the campaign of his top progressive rival, Senator Elizabeth Warren. But while Ms. Warren came first, Mr. Sanders is going bigger. His wealth tax would apply to a larger number of households, impose a higher top rate and raise more money.

Mr. Sanders’s plan to tax accumulated wealth, not just income, is particularly aggressive in how it would erode the fortunes of billionaires. His tax would cut in half the wealth of the typical billionaire after 15 years, according to two economists who worked with the Sanders campaign on the plan. Mr. Sanders would use the money generated by his wealth tax to fund the housing plan he released last week and a forthcoming plan for universal child care, as well as to help pay for “Medicare for all.”

“Let me be very clear: As president of the United States, I will reduce the outrageous and grotesque and immoral level of income and wealth inequality,” Mr. Sanders said in an interview. “What we are trying to do is demand and implement a policy which significantly reduces income and wealth inequality in America by telling the wealthiest families in this country they cannot have so much wealth.” “

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comments
Bernie disappoints. They tried stuff like this in Europe, and the wealthy just moved out of the country. A draconian hair cut like he suggests is not practical, unless all the developed countries of the world do it together at the same time. Warren’s idea is a good one, and it is small and limited, which is approprate for an incremental improvement, that allows to measure unforseen effects.

Opinion | Trump’s Secret Foreign Aid Program – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

Paul Krugman

By 

Opinion Columnist

“Donald Trump often complains that the media don’t give him credit for his achievements. And I can think of at least one case where that’s true. As far I can tell, almost nobody is reporting that he has presided over a huge — but hidden — increase in foreign aid, the money America gives to foreigners. In fact, the hidden Trump program, currently running at around $40 billion a year, is probably the biggest giveaway to other nations since the Marshall Plan.

Unfortunately, the aid isn’t going either to poor countries or to America’s allies. Instead, it’s going to wealthy foreign investors.

Before I get there, let’s talk for a second about a claim Trump often makes about a highly visible part of his economic strategy, the tariffs he has imposed on imports from China and other countries. These tariffs, he has insisted again and again, are being paid by China and represent billions in gains to the United States.

This claim is, however, demonstrably false. Tariffs are normally paid by consumers in the importing country, not exporters. And we can confirm that this is what’s happening with the Trump tariffs: Prices of goods subject to those tariffs have risen sharply, roughly in line with the tariff increases, while prices of goods not subject to the new tariffs haven’t gone up.”

Editorial | Charity Won’t Solve Student Debt – The New York Times

“Around the turn of the last century, the steel magnate Andrew Carnegie paid to build 1,689 libraries across the United States. Many are still in use, celebrated as monumental works of philanthropy.

They should be seen as monuments to the failure of public policy. The United States could have built a lot more libraries by taxing the incomes of Carnegie and his fellow Gilded Age plutocrats, but, at the turn of the last century, there was no federal income tax.

Now history is repeating itself. A new generation of plutocrats has amassed great fortunes, in part because the federal government has minimized the burden of taxation. Americans once again are reduced to applauding acts of philanthropy necessitated by failures of policy.

Robert Smith, a wealthy financier, announced on Sunday during graduation ceremonies at Morehouse College that he would repay the student loans taken by the 396 men in this year’s graduating class. The promise, which may cost Mr. Smith up to $40 million, was an act of generosity gratefully received by the new graduates of the historically black, all-male Atlanta college.”

Opinion | Congress to I.R.S.: Don’t Even Think of Helping Taxpayers – The New York Times

By The Editorial Board
The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

April 10, 2019, 311
Image
CreditCreditLuba Lukova
Congress has landed on one of those rare ideas that commands support from both Democrats and Republicans. Unfortunately, it’s a bad one.

“On Tuesday, the House approved legislation misleadingly titled the Taxpayer First Act that includes a provision prohibiting the Internal Revenue Service from developing a free online system that most American households could use to file their taxes. The Senate is considering a similar piece of bipartisan legislation.

This makes no sense. Congress should be making it easier for Americans to file their taxes. Instead of barring the I.R.S. from making April a little less miserable, why isn’t Congress requiring the I.R.S. to create a free tax filing website?

Better yet, the United States could emulate the roughly three dozen countries, including Chile, Japan and Britain, where most taxpayers do not need to fill out tax returns. In some of those countries, the accuracy of tax withholding is sufficient to obviate the annual filing process. In others, the government sends out completed forms to most taxpayers. In Estonia, filing taxes can be done in less than three minutes.”

Opinion | A Dummy’s Guide to Democratic Policy Proposals – The New York Times

By Nicholas Kristof
Opinion Columnist

March 27, 2019, 290
Cory Booker’s proposal to reduce wealth gaps is one of many ideas being put forward by Democrats.
Credit
John Locher/Associated Press

“We in the news media often whack politicians for not being serious about policy. And then we ignore their policy proposals.

So here, in the spirit of orgiastic wonkishness, is my Dummy’s Guide to Democratic Policy Proposals. I write it because something fascinating is underway: After decades of incrementalism, Democrats are now proposing a litany of exciting big ideas.

Here’s my take:

Child allowances are among the best ideas to boost America’s future. They are used very successfully abroad to reduce child poverty. One proposal would give families with children $250 to $300 per month, in the form of a refundable tax credit. Luke Shaefer of the University of Michigan estimates that this would reduce the number of children living in poverty by more than one-third.

This version is called the American Family Act, sponsored by Michael Bennet and Sherrod Brown in the Senate and Rosa DeLauro and Susan DelBene in the House. It is broadly backed by Democrats in the House and the Senate.”

Opinion | How the Upper Middle Class Is Really Doing – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

By David Leonhardt
Opinion Columnist

Feb. 24, 2019, 871 c

Since 1980, the incomes of the very rich have grown

faster than the economy. The upper middle class

has kept pace with the economy, while the

middle class and poor have fallen behind.

“On one side are people who argue that the bourgeois professional class — essentially, households with incomes in the low-to-mid six figures but without major wealth — is not so different from the middle class and poor. All of these groups are grappling with slow-growing incomes, high medical costs, student debt and so on.

The only real winners in today’s economy are at the very top, according to this side of the debate. When Bernie Sanders talks about “the greed of billionaires” or Thomas Piketty writes about capital accumulation, they are making a version of this case.”

Don’t Fight the Robots. Tax Them. – By Eduardo Porter – The New York Times

By Eduardo Porter
Mr. Porter is an economics writer for The Times.

Feb. 23, 2019

“When Bill Gates floated the idea of imposing a tax on robots a couple of years ago, Lawrence Summers, a former top economic adviser to President Barack Obama, called the Microsoft co-founder “profoundly misguided.” How do you even define a robot to tax it? And taxing innovation is a sure way to make a country poorer. Europe has also rejected the idea. In 2017 the European Parliament soundly defeated a draft motion, proposed by its committee on legal affairs, that recommended considering a tax on the owners of robots to fund retraining programs for workers displaced by the machines and shore up the finances of their social security system.

And yet properly constructed, a tax on automation may not be as destructive as it sounds. South Korea, the most robotized country in the world, instituted a robot tax of sorts in 2018 when it reduced the tax deduction on business investments in automation.

There are two sound arguments for taxing robots. The easiest is this: Governments need the money. In the United States, income taxes account for half of the $3 trillion collected every year by the Internal Revenue Service; payroll taxes account for another third.

Imagine that the fears about robots taking over jobs actually come true. Two years ago, the McKinsey Global Institute found that the job functions that are “most susceptible to automation” in the United States account for 51 percent of the activities in the economy and $2.7 trillion worth of wages. The institute estimates “half of today’s work activities could be automated by 2055.” If that happens, hundreds of billions of tax dollars would be lost every year.”

Elizabeth Warren Wants a Wealth Tax. How Would That Even Work? – By Neil Irwin – The New York Times

By Neil Irwin
Feb. 18, 2019, 129

“When the United States government wants to raise money from individuals, its mode of choice, for more than a century, has been to tax what people earn — the income they receive from work or investments.

But what if instead the government taxed the wealth you had accumulated?

That is the idea behind a policy Senator Elizabeth Warren has embraced in her presidential campaign. It represents a more substantial rethinking of the federal government’s approach to taxation than anything a major presidential candidate has proposed in recent memory — a new wealth tax that would have enormous implications for inequality.

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s plan: a tax on a family’s wealth above $50 million at 2 percent a year, with an additional surcharge of 1 percent on wealth over $1 billion.
Credit
Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

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Senator Elizabeth Warren’s plan: a tax on a family’s wealth above $50 million at 2 percent a year, with an additional surcharge of 1 percent on wealth over $1 billion.
CreditCharlie Neibergall/Associated Press
It would shift more of the burden of paying for government toward the families that have accumulated fortunes in the hundreds of millions or billions of dollars. And over time, such a tax would make it less likely that such fortunes develop.

It would create big new challenges for the I.R.S. in ensuring compliance. There is a reason many European countries that once had a wealth tax have abandoned it in the last couple of decades.”