Friday, January 6, 2017

What's America Worth To You?

Can You Spare A Quarter For Your Country?
By Nick Paleologos

I grew up in Woburn Massachusetts. My grandfather settled there from Greece in the early 1900’s. He labored in one of those tanneries the city became famous for. Our sports teams are still called the Woburn Tanners.

It was mostly immigrants who did that work because stripping animal hides and transferring them by hand - one at a time - into a series of increasingly toxic open baths was the best job they could get. Every day, “Papou” left his modest home on Conn Street, walked a few blocks, donned his “protective” apron and rubber gloves, then inhaled poisonous chromium-sulfate fumes from dawn till dusk.  

And not once did he ever complain about paying taxes to his adopted country.

Donald Trump on the other hand is a billionaire. He loves billionaires. His cabinet is lousy with them. You know what most of these billionaires have in common – besides not having to sweat the price of gas?

They can’t stop complaining about the taxes they pay to their country. 

They are among the richest people on the planet and all they can do is whine incessantly about how rough it is to make a buck in America with a personal tax rate of 39% for billionaires and 35% for corporations – even though not one of these chronic cry babies have ever paid anything close to those tax rates.

You would think they’d have the common decency of my immigrant grandfather and shut up about it already. But they just can’t help themselves. Whenever America says it wants universal healthcare or higher education, we get the same answer. Our country can’t afford it. Which begs the obvious question. How much is your country worth to you? Or put another way, how much are you willing to pay for the stuff you want in the country you say you love?

In 2015, total personal income in America was $15.45 trillion. And that’s with the average person’s wages being essentially flat for the last thirty years. US Corporate profits that same year were $6.44 trillion. That totals nearly $22 trillion and includes everybody – Main Street, Wall Street, and everyone in between. So if we all kicked in a quarter for every dollar of earnings and profits in 2015, our country would have had revenue of $5.5 trillion. The entire federal budget in 2015 was $3.8 trillion.

In other words, if we cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25% and cut the top personal income tax rate from 39% to 25% - and everybody actually paid their 25 cents on the dollar - we could afford everything the country currently does for its citizens, and still have a $1.7 trillion surplus left over -- every year.  

But wait, you say. It's not fair for Joe Six Pack to pay the same tax rate as Richie Rich -- because the basic costs of living take a much bigger bite out of Joe than Richie. And you are right. So here's how we fix that. The first $75,000 of everybody's income should be federal tax free. That shouldn't be a big problem since the top 20% in America already pay 87% of individual federal income taxes. By the way, that ought to tell you something, since few if any of them are paying the top rate now.

So you see if we all paid just a quarter on every dollar we earned (over $75,000 per year) there would be no need for any deductions at all; we'd have a massive annual budget surplus immediately; our country would be debt free in just over a decade; Social Security would be solvent for all time; Medicare could be extended to every citizen from birth; and we'd still be spending more on our military than the next ten largest countries combinedIn short, we’d have a country that can keep us safe and secure, guarantee our healthcare and education, and treat us fairly so that every citizen can have the opportunity to be the most that they can be.

My immigrant grandfather was happy to pay for that country. Are you?