Since there is nothing interesting going on my life right now and I would rather poke myself in the eye with a fork than continue with my Obligatory Travelogue–and I do not want to poke myself in the eye with a fork–I thought I would blog about current events.  My usual problem with blogging about current events is that I’m not usually current on current events.  I’m always playing catch-up with the news, so by the time I know a) that something is going on and b) what I think about it, it’s no longer news.  Or rather, it’s old news.  And who wants to read a blog about old news?  Well!  It appears I’m in luck because not many people are reading my blog anymore, so I have to assume that those who still are reading are true devotees of your gentle giraffe and will probably read anything I write, even if it’s less than timely.  (Have I told you lately, gentle readers, that I love you?)  And anyone who just happens to stumble across this blog on accident will most likely not care, either, because if you’ve found me, gentle strangers, and are still reading, you can’t be that persnickety.

So I’m going to talk about this budget deal that, if I’m to believe Facebook and random news commentary sites, everyone hates.  (Except for, I guess, John Boehner and maybe Pres. Obama.  But who cares about them?)  Conservatives don’t like it because it doesn’t cut spending enough.  Whatever “enough” is.   Where exactly are we supposed to cut?  Everyone talks about cutting waste, fraud and abuse–or as I like to refer to them, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the male birth-control pill.  It would be nice if we could decrease government spending by cutting waste, fraud and abuse, but it’s time to be grown-ups and admit to ourselves that this just isn’t going to happen.  The only way to decrease government spending is to cut actual government programs, and I have another piece of bad news:  There isn’t a single government program out there that somebody, somewhere, doesn’t depend on.  If we’re going to be honest, there probably isn’t a single government program out there that couldn’t stand to have its funding increased.  These programs weren’t created just for giggles; they were created because people had needs, and the voting public decided that government could and should meet those needs.  If you think the government is currently meeting everyone’s needs and then some, you are a very naive Republican indeed.

On the other hand, liberals don’t like this deal because it doesn’t raise taxes on the wealthy–and that, my dears, is a big problem because wealthy people are where the money is.  It sure doesn’t make sense to raise taxes on anyone else, SO if you need money–which we do, because we have a) all this debt and b) all this stuff we want to buy–but raising taxes on the wealthy is off the table, what do you end up with?  What Rep. Cleaver saida big Satan sandwich.  Do you want fries with that?  I didn’t think so.  I can’t think of anything in this deal for Democrats to like, unless they want to be grateful that there weren’t as many spending cuts as the Tea Party would have liked, which I don’t think they do.  Now our credit rating is a AA+ instead of AAA, and that’s only good in bra sizes.

Now, while our family is relatively affluent, I’m not a wealthy person by current government standards, i.e. I am not part of a household that makes more than $250,000 a year.  Like most Republicans, I joined the party because I’m mean-spirited and racist, not because I personally stand to gain something from conservative policies.  So I don’t have a dog in this fight.  Not really.  I mean, I hope someday I will be wealthy because if I’m wealthy, unless the government takes 100% of my income, I will always have enough money to buy everything I want.  (Assuming I’m super-wealthy, which is my current plan.)  That’s why there are just as many super-wealthy Democrats as there are super-wealthy Republicans; when you have that much money, it really doesn’t matter what happens to most of it.  (Not to you.)  And like I said, I’m not wealthy now, so I think I’m theoretically capable of approaching this problem objectively.  Obviously, my preference is for conservative policies, but that’s purely for emotional reasons.  (I’m not a good person.)  For the purposes of this blog post (and this blog post only), I’m going to put on my liberal/progressive hat and try to solve this budget-slash-debt thingy with reason and common sense.

I bet you didn’t know I still had my liberal/progressive hat.  Yeah, it’s one of many things from my youth that I haven’t had the heart to throw out yet.  Unfortunately, all of the numbers and figures that I used to use back then are out of date, so I’m going to need help from my liberal/progressive readers (new and old alike) in the “fact” department.  I’m pretty good at math, but too lazy to do research.  (That isn’t why I dropped out of grad school, but it’s why I’ll never go back.)  Together, we can come up with a new deal (not to be confused with the New Deal) that only half of the country will hate, and which will definitely work because it will involve raising taxes on the wealthy.

Let’s start with what we know:

1.  The wealthy are not paying their fair share.

According to the results of my Google search, the top 1% of earners paid 38% of total income taxes in 2010.  The top 5% paid 58.72%.  The top 10% paid 69.96%  I don’t know if those numbers are correct or not.  I found them on a few different sites, all of which claimed to get them from the IRS–but they were all sites with names like “The Tax Foundation” and whatnot, and I’m not sure they can be trusted.  If any of you have different figures, let me know, but for now let’s assume these are more or less accurate.  Clearly, this is not fair.  We know it’s not fair because we don’t have all the money we need yet.  Let’s concentrate on the top 1% of earners because this is the only tier that includes the super-wealthy.  (The top 5% includes some people who make less than $200,000 a year, and the top 10% includes some people who make less than $125,000 a year–according to the “IRS.”)  Thirty-eight percent is too small a piece of the pie, when you consider how much money these people have.  So…

Question:  What percentage of the total tax “pie” should the top 1% of earners be responsible for?  Fifty percent?  Seventy-five percent?  Ninety percent?  I have no idea.  Last time I thought this specifically about the issue, it was the ’90s and I was living off my parents.

2.  The wealthy do not pay a large enough percentage of their income in taxes.

The “IRS” has figures for this, too, but I don’t think there’s much point in getting technical, since wealthy people have enough money to cheat on their taxes and get away with it.  Is there any way we can know how much money wealthy people really have and what percentage of it they really pay in taxes?  I don’t know.  EDITED FOR CLARITY AND TRUTH (thank transvestite_rabbit):  The tax brackets are 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, and 35%.  If you have taxable income of $379,500 or above, you are supposed to pay 35% of however many dollars are over that line.  Each chunk of your income up to that line is taxed in the appropriate tax bracket.  So multi-millionaires (the super-wealthy) may pay around 35% of their taxable income in federal income tax, but someone just over the line (the merely wealthy) will pay more like 29%.  (State and local taxes are a whole other ball of wax that we won’t get into here.)  For sure, at least some percentage of rich people is cheating on their taxes or taking advantage of loopholes or whatever.  But even assuming that most are honest (hahahahaha!), 35% just doesn’t seem like that much.  Twenty-nine percent is definitely not that much.  If it were a test score, you’d fail.  And failure is not an option when Grandma’s Social Security is on the line.  So…

Question:  What should the top income tax rate be?  Something more Clintonesque (39.6%)?  Or more Kennedyesque (77%)?  Something in between?  Something higher?  In 1944 and 1945, the top rate was 94%–which makes sense because there was a war on.  (Heck, we’ve got two wars on now–but even if we left the Middle East, there is another, more important war:  the War on Poverty.  And doesn’t that deserve at least as much funding as the Pacific and European theaters?)  The top rate was 91% throughout the ’50s, and aren’t conservatives always talking about how awesome the ’50s were (except for the racial discrimination and crap)?  It was 50% through much of the Reagan administration (although it eventually dropped to 28%, which is just crazy–no wonder everyone was homeless back then).  What makes sense these days?

More Important Question:  If we raise taxes on the people who already cheat on their taxes, how will we get them to pay everything they really owe when they have even more incentive to cheat?  (Follow-up question:  Why haven’t we done that already?)

Now, I know that some of you gentle readers don’t believe we should raise taxes on the wealthy (*cough*terrorists*cough*).  I don’t want you to feel left out of the conversation, so if you want to comment on how we can solve our financial problems without raising taxes, please specify which government programs you would cut or eliminate and what you recommend people using those programs do instead of “depending on the government”?  (Not nearly as sexy as tax rates, but that’s what you get for being ignorant and heartless.)

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