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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Trickle Down Teachers

On your mark, get set, GO! This is simple. This is so simple my dog actually understands it. (And we don't have an especially gifted dog. Her only trick is sniffing around for leftover toast and after, oh, maybe three or four minutes, she notices it under her nose). So this is that simple: no sniffing required. The top 13 hedge fund managers in the United States earn an average of one billion dollars each. One of them took home five billion last year. We're looking at a total of 18 billion dollars income from these 13 guys alone. Real money. That money is taxed as capital gains, at a rate of 15%. If they paid at a normal rich person's income tax rate, they would pay more than 30%, or twice as much, taxes as they do. And, if they paid at that normal rate, around 30%, these 13 billionaires ALONE could pay the salaries and benefits of 300,000 teachers. I can say that again. If those top 13 billionaires who, among them, earn 18 billion dollars from their hedge fund hedging and funding, that is,from their work, would pay taxes at the normal public rate even that would fund the salaries and benefits of 300,000 teachers. BUT, since these 13 billionaires are only taxed at the 15% capital gains tax rate, which is less than half of what they would pay if they paid taxes at the same rate you and I do, they keep more than twice as much as they would have paid otherwise. Which is to say, you and I just paid these 13 billionaires to keep for themselves the cash we could use to pay for a few hundred thousand teachers. But hey, it's worth it right? They have gorgeous silver lamps, after all. And anyway, it's all going to trickle down. Right? Instead of pay checks from their school districts, some teachers get their salaries from a vending machine that says "Trickle down cash." A pretty clever idea. You can put in a dollar for a bottle of water or a bag of Doritos or, if you have the special chit, you can watch as your paycheck goes pflunk to the bottom of the collection bin where you have to do some fancy finger work to fish it out. That's that-there trickle down cash and we could not be more grateful. 13 guys are each already giving up 15% of their billion dollars (hold on, I need a calculator), or one hundred and fifty million dollars, also real money. Sacrifice, those capital gains taxes. Personally, I'd buy more Ding Dongs. The premise of those capital gains taxes, where the really rich pay a lot less percentage-wise than, say, teachers, is that their money is going to trickle down. These guys now have at least twice as much income to keep for themselves as they would have, were they burdened with a 27 - 35% tax rate, like just normal rich people. Think of it as an infinity pool. That means, according to the dog, her toast, and me, that instead of being able to pay for a mere 300,000 teachers salaries and benefits, they now could pay for as many as 600,000 teachers. Of course, they might want to pay for a few fire fighters or librarians or police or EMT's so it could get spread around differently. And that's on top of paying for all the other government people who get paid to be government people (including the people who did all this counting and collecting and non-collecting and voting and not-voting and eating -- lobbyists' dinners -- lounging -- on lobbyists' yachts. So maybe we're only talking 400,000 teachers. That doesn't even pass the sniff test. The point of this privileged, small tax rate is so their billions can trickle down. We can see where these billions need to trickle. So billions, start trickling. On your mark, get set, GO! (And could we please all get a lot more outraged about this, now?)

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