Taxes and the socialist media

I stumbled on this AP article this morning, and the sheer socialist slant I saw was staggering. Let’s take a look, shall we? First, let’s start at the very beginning, with the title.

Super rich see federal taxes drop dramatically.

As you can tell from the title, the thrust of the article is going to be how the rich don’t pay enough taxes. There is even more bias with this title that we’ll get to later – just keep it in mind for the moment.

As millions of procrastinators scramble to meet Monday’s tax filing deadline, ponder this: The super rich pay a lot less taxes than they did a couple of decades ago, and nearly half of U.S. households pay no income taxes at all.

Again, focusing on the “super rich” paying less than they used to. They do at least mention that almost half of Americans pay no income tax at all, but it’s almost an afterthought.

The Internal Revenue Service tracks the tax returns with the 400 highest adjusted gross incomes each year. The average income on those returns in 2007, the latest year for IRS data, was nearly $345 million. Their average federal income tax rate was 17 percent, down from 26 percent in 1992.

Over the same period, the average federal income tax rate for all taxpayers declined to 9.3 percent from 9.9 percent.

So, they finally mention that everybody’s tax rate is lower, not just the “super rich” – remember that headline – though the highest earning people’s rate did go down more than the average rate.

The top income tax rate is 35 percent, so how can people who make so much pay so little in taxes? The nation’s tax laws are packed with breaks for people at every income level. There are breaks for having children, paying a mortgage, going to college, and even for paying other taxes. Plus, the top rate on capital gains is only 15 percent.

Not much here, except the blatant insinuation in the first sentence that people who make “so much” should be paying more than the almost 1/5  of their income that they already pay to the government.

There are so many breaks that 45 percent of U.S. households will pay no federal income tax for 2010, according to estimates by the Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank.

Now we get to something interesting – they admit that nearly half the working population pay nothing whatsoever in taxes. To put it another way, the richest 55% of the country is paying the tax burden of all the rest.

The sheer volume of credits, deductions and exemptions has both Democrats and Republicans calling for tax laws to be overhauled.

The tax code is extremely byzantine and complicated. As of 2000, the Internal Revenue Code consists of approximately 1,395,000 words, there are 693 sections of the Internal Revenue Code that are applicable to individual taxpayers, 1,501 sections applicable to businesses, and 445 sections applicable to tax-exempt organizations, employee plans, and governments. As of June 2000, the Treasury Department had issued almost 20,000 pages of regulations containing over 8 million words. It’s so complicated that there’s a theory now that it could be void for vagueness. Experiments showed that even professional tax preparers – and the government experts conducting the experiment – don’t always agree on the correct tax payments in some cases. The money quote? “All 46 tested tax professionals got a different answer, and none got it right. The professional who directed the test admitted “that his computation is not the only possible correct answer” since the tax law is so murky.” The idea that the tax code needs to be significantly simplified is neither new nor unjustified.

More than half of the nation’s tax revenue came from the top 10 percent of earners in 2007. More than 44 percent came from the top 5 percent. Still, the wealthy have access to much more lucrative tax breaks than people with lower incomes.

So, they admit that more than half of the nation’s tax income comes from only 10 percent of earners, and that 44 percent of the nation’s income – or roughly 88 percent of that “more than half” – comes from only 5 percent of earners. This is immediately followed by an implication that the “wealthy” have an unfair advantage over those with lower incomes – despite the admission that the wealthy are already paying the majority of taxes that are collected.

Obama wants the wealthy to pay so “the amount of taxes you pay isn’t determined by what kind of accountant you can afford.”

Amazingly, I can actually agree with him on that particular point, though my proposed solution is likely very different from his.

Eric Schoenberg says to sign him up for paying higher taxes. Schoenberg, who inherited money and has a healthy portfolio from his days as an investment banker, has joined a group of other wealthy Americans called United for a Fair Economy. Their goal: Raise taxes on rich people like themselves.

Nobody’s stopping you. I understand it’s fairly easy to write a check to the .gov for more than is required, and they won’t refuse it.

“I simply point out to people, `Do you think this is reasonable, that somebody in my circumstances should only be paying 1 percent of their income in tax?'” Schoenberg said.

So how many deductions and credits did you claim? If you don’t think it’s fair, stop claiming deductions and credits. No one is forcing you to take them – they are completely voluntary – and as far as I know the IRS won’t send you a check saying “you didn’t take all the deductions you could have, here’s the money you overpaid.”

“This voluntary idea clearly represents a mindset that basically pretends there’s no such things as collective goods that we produce,” Schoenberg said.

Ah, here we have the real reason. He’s a collectivist, but doesn’t want to put his money where his mouth is unless the government forces everyone else to “give” more, too.

“Are you going to let people volunteer to build the road system? Are you going to let them volunteer to pay for education?”

If people want to pay more than is required, what’s wrong with that? Yes, I would allow people to volunteer to pay for building the road system, or for education – if they want to spend their money that way, that’s their business, and none of mine. Why do you think that’s wrong?

The vast majority of those who escape federal income taxes have low and medium incomes, and most of them pay other taxes, including Social Security and Medicare taxes, property taxes and retail sales taxes.

So, as mentioned before, the lowest earners (nearly half of all earners, remember) are already not paying any income taxes – shifting the financial burden for any government services they use to the remaining half. Social Security and Medicare are somewhat different issues, since (supposedly) that money is eventually returned to the worker later in life as retirement and health care coverage (These are really a whole other issue I won’t get into today, and each could support their own separate and independent series of posts).

The whole article is slanted towards the idea that the “rich” aren’t paying enough in taxes, and get unfair tax breaks, while throwing in enough little sound bites to give the impression of a balanced, unbiased article. And of course, the scope of the article is carefully limited so that the idea of cutting spending to bring income and expenses into alignment need not be addressed at all.

Our socialist propaganda arm media at its finest.

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[Source: AP article on Yahoo! News, retrieved 4/17/11]
[Other sources as linked.]

A breakdown of the problems at Japan’s nuclear plants

This site seems to have a good timeline and breakdown of the problems that lead to the current situation with the nuclear reactors that are having issues. It’s an interesting read.

Some important points to consider:

  1. Two unprecedented natural disasters struck the plants within about a one hour timeframe.
  2. The cooling systems themselves were not damaged by either the quake or the tsunami.
  3. The sequential disasters caused the failure of two layers of power systems for the cooling system – outside power was disrupted by the quake, and the multiply redundant on-site diesel generators were wiped out by the tsunami.
  4. The third layer of backups – battery power for the cooling systems – worked exactly as designed.
  5. The fourth layer of backups – mobile diesel generators brought in from off-site – appear to have failed due to not having the proper plugs to connect to the plant’s cooling systems. This is entirely feasible, as this is a 40 year old reactor (installed in 1971), and the general state of confusion and crisis throughout the nation caused by the quake and tsunami.

So, just for the normal cooling systems to fail required the failure of four redundant systems – one of which had it’s own built-in redundant backups – before a meltdown became even a possibility. There were multiple emergency procedures already planned and ready when that happened.

There comes a point when designing anything where creating safety procedures becomes an exercise in ridiculousness. The plant survived two of the worst disasters in Japan’s recorded history in the space of one hour, without a reactor breach, and with all backup systems operating as designed for eight hours afterwards. Human error (the wrong plugs for the outside generators), exacerbated by the scale of the disasters (which likely prevented the proper plugs being brought in in time), is what led to the current situation, not poor design.

TANSTAAFL applies to all forms of power generation. There is no perfect way to power a modern society – nuclear, coal, oil, and gas all have inherent dangers and pollution. Solar and wind are unreliable and insufficient to meet our needs, and have their own environmental costs. Simply cutting our energy production to meet the abilities of “green” power generation would result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, if not millions. Nuclear is still the best option.

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