Streams

Taxes Aren’t Fair

Monday, March 31, 2008

David Cay Johnston, investigative reporter from the New York Times, says that America’s tax system is incredibly unfair and needs to be changed quickly before the rich-poor gap widens even more. His new book is Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill).

Weigh in: How do you think the U.S. tax system should be changed?

Guests:

David Cay Johnston

Comments [17]

Peter Talbot from Harrison, NJ

David Johnston sings the hymn of democracy vs. capital special concessions forgetting that democracies (including the USA since the beginning of the railroad booms) have been unwilling to commit the capital OVER THE LONG TERM that is necessary to secure consistent project results regarding the general welfare. In fact, democracies don't spend enough on their own infrastructure or other heavy capital expenditures when left to themselves to survive foreign interventions and off shore capital. This is the reason why the Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation, pushed by that aristocrat: Alexander Hamilton. Democracies have a tendency not to pay their own armies much less take care of their common welfare, I believe.

The freight railroad story is same as above: the American public didn't want to foot the bill to keep the American railroads in repair so we forgave the combined railroads for the tab associated with safety in return for keeping many non-competitive tracks, routes and ramps open at the hysterical insistence of local and federal governments which have lost all leverage and credibility with regard to infrastructure improvements, safety and capital expenditure.

PS: the CSX is the modern version of combined defunct railroads including the Baltimore & Ohio, Chesapeake and Southern and half of what was Conrail (the old New York Central). It's track contains much of what was once the Erie Lackawanna.

Rgds.

Mar. 31 2008 02:20 PM
jj

Paul, Big accounting firms earn millions every day helping high net worth individuals protecting their capital from the IRS. Offshore, gifts, investments, it is easy to avoid paying tax on wealth -- and if you disagree with the way taxes are spent it can be more moral to avoid taxes by simply going for the writeoff (Bill Gates Foundation, anyone?)

Mar. 31 2008 01:07 PM
Paul from Manhattan

I respect your answer on the question of a flat tax on wealth instead of income. Wealth is hard to measure, and easy to hide. Would you please reconsider in the light of recent advances in computers and database storage. If a person did not declare ownership, then the item of wealth could be confiscated. Since the actual percentage to pay would be low, there would be little incentive to hide wealth. Surveillance may be bad but in this case it could be good for society.

Please pass this message to the guest. Thanks, Paul

Mar. 31 2008 12:42 PM
jj

Great guy.

Mar. 31 2008 12:39 PM
kenneth from Brooklyn

Come on Lenny, ask. Solutions?

Mar. 31 2008 12:36 PM
superf88

& also it's unlikely that our WW2 war bonds were bought by the good citizens of China...

Mar. 31 2008 12:36 PM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

But aren't the war bonds the perfect way to have a market-driven war! My my... why haven't the conservatives supported this one?

Mar. 31 2008 12:31 PM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

Sounds like it's time to bring back the guillotine!

Mar. 31 2008 12:30 PM
veronica from manhattan

This is long what I have suspected.

So what can an everyday taxpayer do about this?
How can we bring about change?

Mar. 31 2008 12:27 PM
kenneth

I find this very interesting and research a lot about taxes and what I don't get on my own. Thank you for writing this book but now what? I know I'm paying too much for nothing so what do we do? Does your book offer solutions?

Mar. 31 2008 12:25 PM
Simon from Manhattan

I disagree with one point, the reason for example in NYC companies can get away with asking for tax subsidies under the threat of moving is that the tax structure in NYC is so uncompetitive. Just moving across the river saves so much. Unfortunately, that goes to regular people as well. Instead of trying to figure out ways to tax more, we need to figure out how to get by with much less.

Mar. 31 2008 12:22 PM
Ana from NJ

This has been happening for many years in the third world where there is such a fierce competition to get multinational companies to open shop in their country. The subsidies include tax beaks, utility subsidies, construction of infraestructure (roads, water, sewer) all to get jobs.

Mar. 31 2008 12:21 PM
superf88

Current and future taxes are paying for current US military and war operations in Iraq, Afghan., and elsewhere.

Wasn't WW2 paid for with US War Bonds?

Given that precedent are we possibly misusing tax dollars by funding the war via tax rather than WAR BONDS? What would the risk be in that?

Mar. 31 2008 12:18 PM
jl

this week's "free skies" deregulation -- A victory for the free market, transparent economic view?

Mar. 31 2008 12:15 PM
levjos

(responding to question) Majority of (at least front office) operations must be based in US or a corporation cannot claim US status and benefit from corresponding US taxpayer corporate welfare.

Mar. 31 2008 12:10 PM
Linda from Sunnyside Queens

What's so unfair about our tax system is the services we don't get for paying for them. All told, my weekly paycheck is reduced by about 40% for taxes. How is it that Americans aren't more vocal about getting more bang for their buck, like single-payer health care. I've read that Candians, on average, pay only about 2.5% more in personal income tax than the average American. Yet they get numerous more services. How blind can we be to allow the mishandling of our taxes?

Mar. 31 2008 12:05 PM
stu from manhattan

let's talk about the alternative minimum tax vs the federal poverty level:
the poverty level has been adjusted for inflation many times since its inception. (Is it adjusted for geographic location, since housing costs are higher here?) yet, the alternative minimum tax has never been adjusted for inflation or geographic location.
our household doesn't earn a ton of money by NYC standards (we're not investment bankers, CEOs, or talk-show hosts), we don't have off-shore tax shelters, or any of the hallmarks that people use to get out of paying taxes. but yet we have to pay more than what the tax tables says because of AMT. our mortgage interest deduction gets thrown out the window, and our state and local taxes that have been withheld from our salaries cannot be deducted either. we pay our non-live-in nanny for our 2 pre-schoolers on the books, and live a fairly honest life. since our government wants to rescue people who can't pay their mortgage (and the banks who gave them their mortgages), what is our government doing to come to our rescue, and what (if anything) have the major presidential candidates said about reforming this gross inequity (they must be affected more than we are, or are they so wealthy that it doesn't matter)?

Mar. 31 2008 10:58 AM

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