In 2008, the IRS revealed last week, 400 Americans reported at least $110 million in income on their federal tax returns. These 400, in a year that ended with millions of Americans out of work and home, averaged $270.5 million each, the second-highest U.S. top 400 average income on record.
The IRS only started reporting top 400 income calculations in 2003, and the agency’s official “top 400” totals just go back to 1992. But older IRS data reports do make top 400 estimates from some earlier years possible. And these earlier figures leave the latest IRS numbers in even starker relief.
In 1955, for instance, America’s top 400 averaged — in 2008 dollars — $13.3 million. In other words, the top 400 in 2008 reported incomes that, after taking inflation into account, amounted to more than 20 times the incomes of America’s top 400 a half-century ago.
Rep. Paul Ryan from Wisconsin revels in his rep, inside the beltway, as America’s ultimate conservative public policy “wonk.” He plays the part well. He knows his lines. He can rattle off, at the drop of a hat, a stream of stats that make his rich people-friendly budget nostrums seem eminently reasonable — and good for us all.
Last month, for instance, Ryan smoothly dispatched an angry constituent who dared challenge the tax-no-rich federal budget plan that has made the Wisconsin lawmaker a right-wing hero.
“What do we think? What do we know? What can we prove?” That’s a quote from “And the Band Played On,” HBO’s adaptation of Randy Shilts’ book about the beginnings of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It’s the mantra of Centers for Disease Control epidemiologists searching for the cause of the epidemic, using empirical evidence. In that context, what you think, what you know, and what you think you know is meaningless unless you can prove it.
In Washington, D.C., it gets turned around: How can we prove what we think we know? When it comes to conservatives and taxes, this couldn’t be more true.
The problem is, all the evidence disproves what conservatives think they know about taxes. The latest example a study that debunks the conservative talking point that rich people will run for the borders if their taxes go up.
Conservatives have been saying lately, “We’re brok,” and need to cut back on the things we (government) do to protect and empower each other. They have a unique definition of the word “we” when applied this way to Americans. For them “we” doesn’t mean “We, the People,” it means something different.
In the last few decades conservatives cut taxes on the rich. And then they cut taxes on the rich. And then they cut taxes on the rich. And then they did it even more. Finally, after cutting, cutting and cutting taxes on the rich they complain that there isn’t any money to run our government!
A wall of suffocating heat nearly vaporized me as I walked into Marshbaum’s house. In the kitchen was a portable kiln spewing fiery venom that was curling the linoleum. In the den, wildly pumping a potter’s wheel flinging clay all over the room, was Marshbaum.
“Got a new hobby?” I asked from a puddle of water that I assumed was what was left of my body.
“Hobby, nothing!” shouted Marshbaum over the noise. “This is my path to fame and fortune.”