Letters to Wingnuts: In which I rebut people I kinda know
Now I actually kinda know this guy. I met him years ago and was friends with the woman he married (years before they married). She was a very funny, sweet person (I'm not sure she is still married to him, but probably). He is a very smart lawyer. He lays out a nice lawyerly argument below. But what is always interesting to me is the way people will try and defend things that are morally repugnant (like torture) or morally questionable (destroying charities on the way to “fixing” social security) with arguments that "seem" reasonable. You have to look at the assumptions as well as the supporting evidence. My first impulse on reading this was the same as the highly reflective Mr. F . He said, "What? Man, we gotta stop these people."
As always, wingnut in black, Spocko logic in blue.
Charities may take hit
The proposal to fix Social Security's structural defects by removing or increasing the earnings limit would end up hurting charities and the poor.
First, which proposal is he talking about? The one that was proposed by some Democrats in response to the "no-details" proposal from Bush? In Bush's comments about a privatization plan he hasn't presented, he admitted that it does NOT address the longer term financial issues in Social Security funding. By long term I mean beyond 2042 or 2052.
Most wage earners who earn between $90,000 and $200,000 a year are making mortgage and car payments as well as college tuition payments and contributions to their retirement and 401(k) plans. Some tend to donate 5 percent to 10 percent of their incomes to charity.
He says wage earners as if he is talking about Wal-Mart workers or Joe 12 pack down at the Kellogg plant. Lots of people would consider someone who makes over 90,000 a year pretty well off, especial in Nebraska.
"Some tend to donate 5 percent to 10 percent" Yes, those people are the called the poor. In fact, the average American gives about 3.2% of his or her income (before taxes) to charity. The people that give the most actually make the least. Households earning under $10,000 a year -- far below the poverty line -- gave 5.2% of their income to charity. That's a larger percentage of their money than any other income group.
So the average person gives 3.2 percent of his taxable income. Say their taxable income is $150,000 a year. The average they give is $4,800 per year. As we all know, the tax code rewards giving. So this fictional person is not even giving $4,800 per year. Tax savings vary depending on your overall tax rate, but for a rough example:
Federal tax rate Donation Simple tax savings After-tax cost
35% $ 4,800 $ 1,680 $3,120
If payroll tax caps are increased or removed, would these wage-earners pull their kids out of college or private schools? Would they reduce their retirement contributions or sell their house and cars? Not likely.
(I’m inclined to say “Of course not, because they are selfish bastards who care more about their new SUVs and club memberships than any charity!” But I’m not going to go there.) Clearly they will discontinue ANY giving because of this new tax. The logic is, "If the government taxes me to maintain a safety net for the less fortunate in society, I will punish the charities I give to." Is the code here "I've got mine, pull up the ladder?" It appears so. Why should they have to pay more? It appears they should not have to make any sacrifices in their lifestyle since clearly they aren't part of overall society. It appears that no one they know has or will fall upon hard times. They don't want to pay an additional incremental amount to deal with the long term security of people. Maybe they have NEVER benefited by the programs and policies of the federal government. Not in the roads they drive on, the air they breath or the defense of their country. For make no doubt about it, the "defense of the country" is what is taking a huge chunk of the tax dollars. Has that money been spent wisely? There will be a price to pay for this fiscally reckless government’s wars, but clearly they don't want to pay it. Is the logic that the people who should pay for it are the poor and others who need social security to be there for them? Why? Because the Republicans want to shift the problems of the outrageous deficit to someone other than the people who created it.
The one discretionary spending item in most personal budgets is charitable contributions.
Increasing the payroll tax caps likely would result in an immediate drop in charitable giving, hurting the charities and people who rely on them.
So the first thing he thinks of in this situation is that people will screw charities. Fascinating insight into your world. This is the "stern father" model that Lakoff talks about. You see your world as an isolated island, were people fly around the room from pulling themselves up from their own bootstraps. So when push comes to shove in government spending people are always last and benefits for them are always too high, yet wasted government spending on ridiculous wars and insane Star Wars programs are sacred cows. I'm also guessing here that this whole letter could be a ruse from yet another elite who makes even MORE that $200,000. A tax roll back of these richest one percent would have dealt with these shortfalls better. But clearly that is not a proposal that you can push forward. In your world it is better to appeal to the lesser nature of people who are already think they are giving too much, who also think they aren't part of the whole community, that only see waste when it comes to helping people and never things that benefit the few, the powerful, the Republicans.
Terrence P. Maher, Omaha
Mr. Spocko (last name unpronounceable by humans), Star Fleet Academy, SF, CA, Earth. Federation Sector, 0,0,0