Monday, September 26, 2011

Five myths about millionaires - The Washington Post

Five myths about millionaires - The Washington Post

1. Millionaires are rich.
Being rich has gotten more expensive. A $1 million fortune was unusual in the early 19th century.
2. Millionaires think they’re rich.
“Rich,” like “poor,” is a relative term. A family living on the American median income of $50,000 a year might think that one living on $500,000 is rich. But that second family, which probably knows families far better off than they are, thinks that you need $5 million a year to be truly rich, and so on.
3. Millionaires pay proportionately less income tax than poorer people.
In a speech on Monday, Obama said raising taxes on millionaires isn’t class warfare, but “math.” His math may be off: According to the IRS, those with adjusted gross incomes of more than $1 million paid an average of 23.3 percent in federal income taxes in 2008; those earning between $100,000 and $200,000 paid 12.7 percent; and those earning between $50,000 and $100,000 paid 8.9 percent. Nearly half of American families don’t make enough money to pay federal income taxes at all.
4. Millionaires share the same political beliefs.
That might have been true in pre-revolutionary France, where the nobility was exempt from most taxation (and why so many were subject to a brief meeting with Dr. Guillotin’s lethal invention). But it is certainly not true in 21st-century America, where political opinions among the rich are just as diverse as they are among the less well-off.

Just consider George Soros and the Koch brothers. They are listed high on the Forbes 400 list, but Soros funds Democratic campaigns, while the Koches helped foment the tea party revolution.
5. Obama’s “millionaires’ tax” won’t seriously limit investment.
That’s the line of reasoning that the administration is using. On Monday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told reporters that the president’s plan wouldn’t hurt growth. “I am very confident that the modest changes we’re suggesting in terms of revenues . . . would make the economy stronger in the long term, not weaker in the long term,” he said. Geithner’s confidence is somewhat misplaced.

According to a 2001 congressional study that confirmed a basic tenet of macroeconomics, “each $1 of marginal tax rate cuts would save the private economy at least $1.25 as deadweight losses fall and economic efficiency increases.” Taxes distort investment decisions. Why throw money into productive assets — corporate securities, a rental property or new employees for a small business — if the income they generate will be taxed away?

Taxes on the rich are taxes on people who create jobs. And jobs are an unalloyed good thing for an economy. Excessively taxing the capital that makes the economy go is poor public policy. And we have a recent example of how the opposite works well: Unemployment declined by a third in the four years after the Bush tax cuts were fully implemented in 2003, dropping to 4.2 percent from 6.2 percent. Meanwhile, federal revenue increased 44 percent in those years. If these tax cuts put people to work and generated money for the government, shouldn’t Obama consider the possibility that tax increases should be avoided?

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