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Monday, April 05, 2004

Taxes and class warfare

I am doing my taxes today and I thought it might be instructive to demonstrate exactly how badly we are getting screwed by taxes under the Republicans. The Republicans like to bandy around the income tax, saying how "unfair" it is that the wealthy have to pay a higher percentage of their taxes in income tax than the "lucky duckies" at the bottom, like myself for instance. I'm not telling you how much my boyfriend and I pull in, but suffice it to say, we are solidly lower middle class, the much-rhapsodized about but mostly screwed working class. Instead of just calculating how much we paid in income tax, I added up payroll taxes, income tax and property tax and found that we pay 22% of our income.
And all that is before you add in sales taxes. Sales taxes are incredibly regressive but they are roundly ignored because they are pretty hard to estimate. But I'm game, since I used to be a banker. Estimating sales tax has to done backwards, not from percentage of income or a fixed number, but by figuring out how much a person spends on taxable items and pays in taxable bills. The best way to figure it out is probably to start with monthly take-home pay, subtract amount spent on non-taxed bills and on food, subtract the amount put towards savings and figure that the rest spent is taxed at 8.25%, Texas's sales tax. I was extremely generous to myself in alloting what is spent on non-taxed items. I probably pay more in sales taxes than this, but I'm trying to be conservative.
To make sure my numbers are right, I multipled the actual amount of cash spent on sales tax each month times 12 and added that total to my income, property and payroll tax totals. With the amount of our money that goes to sales tax each year, 25% of our income went to the government this year.
A big chunk of this is due to the double punch we got from Governor Bush and then President Bush. Both ushered in budget cuts from public schools that meant that the schools had to raise property taxes to make up the difference. Our property taxes more than doubled. A Democrat wouldn't have done anything about our income, payroll or sales taxes, but he wouldn't have starved the schools so property taxes wouldn't have gone up so dramatically. Property taxes holding steady or just undergoing a slight increase would have resulted in our altogether taxes being 22% of our income instead of 25%.
My taxes increased by three percentage points thanks to President Bush. If the wealthy had a 3 percentage point tax increase, there would be a full-court press to remove the offender from office. Ghastly amounts of money would pour into his opponent's campaign coffers. But ordinary working people just can't buy off candidates like that.
But we can vote. The problem is that people are confused and unwittingly voting themselves lower-paying jobs and higher taxes all bundled up under a simplified version of a "tax cut". That $300 check was payoff to distract you from how your money is being rerouted into the pockets of the rich.


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