Failing In So Many Ways

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Liang Nuren – Failing In So Many Ways

RL Politics

This is a political blog post.  I don’t really care if you don’t agree – or if you read it.  Its mostly here so that I can grapple with these thoughts in my own way.  A few people (including some coworkers) will probably read it, and I hope nobody gets offended.  I’m pretty sure that nobody I know in person is going to be offended at any rate. If you do get offended, please remember that I’m a programmer, not an accountant.  I’m absolutely positive that my back of the envelope analysis of the numbers and political situation is complete hogwash and bullshit.  And I’m a total moron, ignoramus, and idiot.  IANAL, YMMV, etc. 🙂

So, according to the IRS [irs.gov], $1,175,422,000,000 in income tax was paid by 144,103,375 tax returns.  This means that the average (mean) tax return paid $8,156.80 in taxes.  According to the same data source, the average (median) American also makes $33,048 per year.  This isn’t apples to apples (mixing medians and means), but one could make the statement that your “average” American paid ~24.7% in taxes – which is a little bit more than I have seen quoted as the “average” tax paid per person.

Mitt Romney made $21,700,000 in 2010 and paid 3,000,000 in taxes [politico.com] for an effective tax rate of 13.8%.  The number cited in popular media is 14%, so I suspect one (or more likely, both) of the estimates are off a bit.  Of course, the national media (and Newt Gingrich, of course) are having a field day with these numbers.  I’m not going to go into that, and in fact I’ve only passingly read the analysis in the news.  I’ll do my own analysis, which is undoubtedly wrong and biased in some way or another.  So if we neglect the fancy accounting and diverse sources of income, I would have expected Mitt Romney’s effective income tax rate to be ~35% [wikipedia].  This would mean his taxes should have weighed in at $7,595,000 – more than twice what he actually paid.

According to the same site, in 2009 there were 8274 tax returns with over $10,000,000 on them, and they totaled for $240,133,885,000 in gross income.  I’m not savvy enough in the reading of these spread sheets to make a really detailed analysis – and frankly I don’t want to take the time to become so.  So I’ll just make sweeping generalizations that are patently incorrect.  For example, despite the fact that I know the news has been making noise about many of these people paying no taxes at all, that’s an average of $29,022,708 per return – while its significantly more than Romney made, its also seems pretty close so I’ll use him as an average representative of this tax bracket group.

So lets first examine some numbers here:

  • Romney reported as much money as 657 “average” Americans.
  • Romney paid as much money as 368 “average” Americans.
  • Romney should have paid as much money as 931 “average” Americans.
  • The “missing taxes” is equivalent to an extra 563 “average” Americans paying taxes.
  • The group as a whole should have been taxed $84,046,859,750 – which means that they would account for the taxes of 10,303,901 “average” Americans.
  • Using Romney as a representative sample (massive statistical error there – and hell the actual numbers for this are probably available somewhere on the internet), they actually paid $33,138,476,130 – as much as 4,062,681 “average” Americans.
  • Again, using Romney as the sample, avoided $50,908,383,620 in taxes – as much as 6,241,220 “average” Americans.  Putting that in perspective: fancy finances made it as though the entire populations of Los Angeles and Chicago didn’t pay taxes.   Assume they were composed entirely of “average” hard working Americans – for those anyone out there who wants to think they’re nothing but big ghettos anyway.

So really, I don’t begrudge him making all that money – he’s obviously a pretty shrewd guy and is ruthlessly taking advantage of the current tax rules.  There’s almost certainly nothing illegal in his taxes, because I’m sure he has a fantastic accountant.  In one sense, that’s exactly the kind of guy that you want to be in the Oval Office: someone that’s ruthless and knows how to set his finances straight.  Unfortunately, I don’t see him campaigning to fix this kind of behavior… and in fact I see quite a bit of campaigning to preserve and expand it.  That makes me think that once in the Oval Office he’d be excellent at setting his finances straight… and not so much the finances of the country itself.

And yet, to me Romney is the best the GOP has to offer these days.  He’s the only GOP candidate that doesn’t seem to be bowing down to the whim of the tea party and their efforts to institute a Talibanesque “Christian Fundamentalist” Theocracy here in the United States.  He’s the only GOP candidate that seems to be willing to stand up to those who are willing to hold the entire nation hostage with their shady back room politicking.  But, he is still a Republican and “his party” is drifting farther and farther from what I hope is main stream thinking.  He’s contaminated if for no other reason than his roots and simple proximity.

I don’t know whether its really true or not anymore, but I have traditionally thought of myself as a religiously, socially, and financially conservative person.  This makes tons of sense too, because I grew up in Texas – the very belt buckle of the Bible Belt.  I grew up Republican, and proudly so.  But somewhere along the line, something changed – either with me or with the party of my youth.  Probably both really… but from my perspective they broke faith with me first.  And so the really sad thing is that I’m watching the political party of my youth divide and destroy itself.

And the most galling thing of all?  I’m glad to see it.

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Filed under: Personal Life, , ,

12 Responses

  1. Nursultan says:

    You liberal pirate socialist! Taxes are theft!

  2. Korg says:

    I would be interested to know what started to turn you away from the GOP in the first place. I find myself increasingly dissolutioned with the British Conservative Party

    • Liang Nuren says:

      The strong consolidation of power in the central government for “fighting terrorism” was the first thing that really upset my faith in the Republican party. It was no real surprise when they started building a police state and using Constitution ignoring powers inside the US – with the much expected justification as them being the only way to protect us from The Terrorist

      While that’s unforgivable, what makes it even worse is that its merely pro forma protection – there’s nothing real or concrete about it. Its merely collecting power for the sake of power, kickbacks, and cronyism. Buy some more of those millimeter wave scanners just so a buddy’s business can make a few million more this year.

      From there I’ve gone on to examine a great many of the initial articles of faith I grew up with. If the GOP broke faith with me first, I haven’t really hesitated in departing company post haste. Ah well.

      • Tyler Durden says:

        I find it interesting that if the police state of the US has shaken your faith, that you’re not taking a closer look at Ron Paul. He’s been averaging over 40% of the 19-29 age group. If you have taken a look at his policies I’m interested in why you don’t gravitate to him.

        Patriot ACT = Repeal 4th Amendment Act
        NDAA = Say good by to Habeas corpus and indefinite dentition by the military with no lawyer.

        I grew up in a Republican house, but have been reborn in to the seeing that the D and Rs are screwing us from both sides! The truth in my eyes is that it’s liberty vs authoritarian oppression.

        The POTUS is Bush on speed….he’s gone into overdrive to do everything he promised he wouldn’t do.

      • Liang Nuren says:

        The closest look I’ve taken at Ron Paul is a few discussions with his supporters and reading his Wikipedia article (great authority, I know). Frankly, his supporters seem to bury their heads in the sand regarding a few basic truths of humanity:

        • I love the theories about the free market and capitalism. In a great many ways, they basically guarantee that All Will Be Well as anyone that breaks the rules gets trampled under the feet of competitors. However, what we have isn’t really a free market because its just too small. That level of perfect competition is a dream – a myth… and counting on it existing is foolhardy and dangerous.
        • Your boss absolutely does not have your best interests in mind. Given even the slightest opportunity, he will collude with his peers and come up with every effort to ensure that your work load stays high and your wages stay low. He has no compunctions about using and abusing employees until they are so much garbage to be discarded under the grinding wheels of capitalism. And this is just a commentary on proven human nature – not some Socialist political claptrap.
        • I have daughters, and frankly any man that writes this is my mortal enemy.

        Basically: a government is a government by the people and for the people… and the people are requesting public services (and asylum from the slavery businesses want to enforce.

        Ed: I could certainly go on at length about how he seems to live in some world that isn’t even remotely close to the one I do. But I won’t.

  3. Mara Rinn says:

    Those of us outside the USA have been referring to the more conservative side of the Republican party and their friends as “the American Taliban” for quite some time now. There’s even a book about it that you might find entertaining reading, “The American Taliban: How War, Sex, Sin, and Power Bind Jihadists and the Radical Right”

    • Liang Nuren says:

      Huh, how interesting. And there I thought I was being clever by drawing a parallel there … guess I should have known there’s nothing new under the sun. I’ll take a look at the book today.

  4. Z1gy says:

    I always thought you as an Australian seeing that your ads looking for corp to be base on AU/NZ time zone

  5. Andrea the Griffin says:

    Note that a vast majority of Romney’s money came in as capital gains income – essentially returns on investments. Investment income is taxed at a MUCH lower rate than other forms of income. This was done to encourage investment.

    So comparing his tax rate to that of the average Joe is really comparing two very different things, since the average person has little to no income from capital gains.

    Hope that helps.

    • Liang Nuren says:

      I was aware of all of that when I made the post. I even knew someone would point it out. Like I said – he’s very good at managing his finances (or at least paying others to do it) and there’s almost certainly nothing illegal about his finances.

      Again, he isn’t exactly campaigning to do anything about the kinds of fancy accounting that means someone can make hundreds of millions per year and pay absolutely no taxes.

  6. Zhilia Mann says:

    There’s nothing really new here, but you knew that. There’s an interesting debate to be had about whether (a) the stated aims of limited capital gains taxes do in fact serve the public interest and (b) whether the current capital gains tax actually serves these stated aims. In fact, that’s a debate I’d love to see opened up, but sometimes I think I’m the only person who wants a an open, public discussion of tax minutia that goes beyond “tax the rich!” and “no, the rich make jobs; don’t tax them!”. Such is life, and more importantly such is the state of the structural politics of the country — where it’s increasingly NOT in the best interest of the actual political class to present substantive argument about complex issues that could even hint at upsetting the economic status quo despite the status quo kind of sucking for a large portion of the voting population. And no, an almost insane 9/9/9 scheme does not count as substantive. Nor, in fact, does any hint of a flat tax; we’ve simply moved beyond the viability of schemes like that.

    And so we have the details of fiscal policy more or less off the table for discussion. Oh, there are some arguments around the margins about spending, but the basic structure of revenue is all but set for the near future — and honestly spending isn’t that far behind as far as being predetermined. Social programs can’t afford to expand any more than they can afford to contract, and military spending is going to continue to represent a significant portion of the national budget whether or not Obama’s (actually, Donald Rumsfeld’s, but that’s just an interesting restructuring in party priorities) force reduction plan plays out or not.

    What’s left to actually debate then? Civil liberties, I suppose, at least around the edges. Neither party has an even vaguely respectable record there at this point. The role of government in people’s lives is largely an economic one, and major restructuring is off the table on that front, so I guess we can at least debate the role of government in regulating private life and public speech. Though it doesn’t appear we’re having a real conversation there either.

    It’s all rather discouraging. I’m a highly displaced Republican that harbored at least some glimmer of hope that the party would restructure its priorities in response to the obvious (and justified) backlash against a terrifyingly bad Bush II administration — but that hasn’t happened. Instead we really are left with an oligarchic businessman (who, yes, is good at what he did) and a has-been intellectual who used to run congress (and did so well on a policy level despite his personal failings). I actually rather liked poor John Huntsman while he lasted, but I’m also rather more inclined towards foreign policy priorities than the average voter so go figure.

    There’s really no place left. Ron Paul isn’t viable; for every libertarian ideal he espouses, his supporters seem to project at least two more onto him. It’s sad. But it also means stability. I’m afraid it is indicative of a long American decline, but we had a good run. It won’t go to shit in the near term, at least. We’ll just keep getting more of the same, one way or another.

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