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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Income Taxes on Everybody?

This is the lead in for Jim Cohen of Bethesda’s letter to The Washington Post which tells Ruth Marcus to lay off poor Rick Perry for complaining that 50% of American households pay no federal income taxes.  I wish I dared reproduce the entire letter because he makes some nice points about citizen participation in the essential functions of government: You can read it at the following url:

Let’s put the letter in perspective.  There is only one James Cohen listed in Bethesda and no Jim Cohens. The James Cohen whose house on Fairfield Drive is listed at $577300 may or may not be the writer of the letter, but I can advise that for Bethesda it is a moderately priced house.  Only one other house on that side of the street is listed for less.  The Cohen’s 1128 sq. ft. House sits on a 5362 sq. ft. lot and has 2 baths.  The estimated rent on the house would be $2896 per month and the owner’s monthly payments are estimated at $2220 per month.  If you threw in utilities and taxes, it would cost about the same per month to own or rent, maybe less to own if the taxes are included in the mortgage payments.  The annual rent would come to $34,752.
If a person making the Maryland minimum wage of $7.50 per hour worked 52 weeks, he or she would earn $15,600 for the year.  My question for Mr. Cohen and Governor Perry and all those talking heads on Fox News is this:  How much of that $15,600 should be paid in federal income taxes.  Maybe we should start at $16,600 or $17,600.  I hope it’s not too provocative to ask which part of the earnings should go for tax.  Would they recommend the food part or the clothing part or the housing part or what.  As it happens a majority of the members of the House of Representatives and a super majority of the Senate have decided over time that the right place to start collecting federal income tax was at about the 51st percentile of household earnings.  Despite their performance this summer, I have to think they knew what they were doing. 
During a Fox News tirade on class warfare I learned that 98% of households in that bottom 50 % have refrigerators.  Maybe if they went to the market every day instead of blowing money on refrigerators, they could put something by for federal taxes.  O, wait, if they did that they would pay more for their food.  I guess the solution is to eat less or get an ice box.  I’m old enough to remember those.  O, wait, the iceman doesn’t come any more.  My suggestion is that Cohen et al read Nickel and Dimed.  I heard on NPR that it’s just been updated and reissued.  Here’s the note I made when I read the earlier version last March:
Barbara Ehrenreich.  Nickel and Dimed.  Ehrenreich is a PhD biologist who decided to have a career as a political activist instead of as a scientist.  She is a self-proclaimed social democrat.  In her late 50s her editor suggested she take a year off and try to live on the minimum wage or the going wage for that kind of work.  Her objective was to feed and house herself on what she could earn working in jobs like waitress, Wal-Mart associate and Merry Maids.  Eventually she failed but not before she had collected enough data to provide some fascinating insights into the invisible world that we know is out there but try to avoid acknowledging.   I can sum it up in one short quote:  “They go hungry all day so that we can eat cheaply.”

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