US taxation datapoints of the day

By Felix Salmon
April 13, 2011
David Cay Johnston, has a fantastic cover story in the Willamette Week (of all places), shining a bright light on just how unfair and unequal the US tax system is.

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The dean of tax reporters, David Cay Johnston, has a fantastic cover story in the Willamette Week (of all places and 40 other alt-weeklies), shining a bright light on just how unfair and unequal the US tax system is. The whole 3,000-word article is well worth reading in full, but here are some highlights:

  • In Alabama, the tax burden on the poor is more than twice that of the top 1 percent. The one-fifth of Alabama families making less than $13,000 pay almost 11 percent of their income in state and local taxes, compared with less than 4 percent for those who make $229,000 or more.
  • Between 2000 and 2009, the US population increased by 25,584,644. Meanwhile, the number of people with jobs increased by just 2,803,967.
  • John Paulson has paid no taxes at all on the $9 billion of income that he made in 2008 and 2009.
  • Frank and Jamie McCourt, the owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers, have not paid any income taxes since at least 2004.
  • Between 2000 and 2008, corporate profits rose by 12% while corporate income taxes fell by 8%. Without any change in the corporate income-tax rate.
  • George W Bush did sign one — just one — tax increase. It was on children under the age of 17.

None of this is likely to come as any surprise to tax wonks, but it’s well worth publicizing as Barack Obama now wades into the turbulent waters of long-term fiscal policy. The simple fact is that corporations and the rich aren’t paying as much tax as they have to if we’re going to make a serious dent in the deficit. And although anybody pointing that out is always going to risk being tarred as a class warrior, the country is not going to make any serious progress, fiscally speaking, unless and until it grows up and addresses that fact face-on.

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