The Fuzzy Math of 1%-99%

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President Obama came to office on a promise of unifying America.  He still likes to pretend that he’s interested in the fate of all Americans.  In late October, while travelling on his “non-campaign” bus campaign for re-election, he said,

A number of people have been asking during the course of this road trip, “Why have you been visiting some of the most Republican parts of North Carolina and Virginia?” And what I’ve had to remind them is that I’m not the Democratic president. I’m not the Republican president. I’m the president of the United States of America, and I don’t care what party you belong to. We’re all Americans, and we’re all in this together.

Except for the 1%.  President Obama has also expressed admiration for the Occupy Wall Street movement, which is an almost random agglomeration of leftist causes, all unified by a simple theme: 99% of Americans vs. the top 1% of income earners.

But this is a false dichotomy, of course.  The top 1% of income earners in the United States pull down at least $344,000 in adjusted gross income every year, earn just under 17% of the total income of the country, and pay almost 37% of all taxes.  The top 5% of income earners make at least $155,000 and pay 59% of all taxes.  The top 10% of income earners make at least $112,000 and pay over 70% of all taxes.

So, where would you draw the line between Americans, separating the good ones from the bad?  It makes no sense to draw it at 1%, since those who make $344,000 are closer to those who make $343,000 than those who make $1 million every year.

If income doesn’t work, should taxation be the standard?  Many conservatives have suggested that the line between Americans should be drawn at 53% and 47% — 53% of Americans pay taxes and the rest don’t—although they tend to vote for higher taxes on those who do pay.

The important point here is that these percentages are changeable.  By separating Americans along any percentage lines, we cut out people we could possibly reach.  Aside from Americans who are ideological layabouts – the actual Mr. EBTs of the world – most Americans want to work.  They want a job.  They want to raise their families.  And they simply want the government to allow them to do it in the most efficient possible way.  They simply have to learn what it is that will allow them to achieve their goals.  More than that, they have to learn what will allow them to achieve their goals morally.  On that score, Republicans have done a poor job.

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  • davarino

    Makes sense to me. What more can you add to that piece of wisdom? Thats why the phrase "liberalism is a mental disorder" has caught on, because it turn logic upside down.

  • StephenD

    Mr. Shapiro, you need to be out there talking to these misguided kids. Imagine turning them our way by telling them the truth which is still the most powerful weapon we have in this fight against the Soros and SEIU's and ACORNS of the world. A very well stated piece indeed.

    • Herman Caintonette

      Even Limbaugh admits that America is no longer a meritocracy. What part of this do you not get?

      • tagalog

        You listen to Limbaugh?

        • Herman Caintonette

          Yes. I'm not one to get my news from only one source.

          My fave is Michael "born a Weiner, died a Whiner" Savage; I want to be listening when he finally has an on-air nervous breakdown.

          • tagalog

            Just a little clue: Limbaugh is not a newsman, he's a commentator. So the only news you get from him is coincidental. What you get from him is opinion.

            Given your clear political proclivities, I assume you listen to Limbaugh, not for news but to get your blood pressure up.

  • tagalog

    Some folks refer to them as the "0.99%."

    I know that I'm not among them, and I'm also not one of the top income earners in our economy, so I refer to the OWS folks as the "98.999999%."

  • mrbean

    Let me see. about 50% of Americans say they are fiscally conservative about large government and socially conservative about entitlements being only safety nets and only 20% want large government with a redistribution of wealth through ahighly progressive tax system abd entitlements. So this 99% is bogus.

    • Herman Caintonette

      While people will say that they are fiscally conservative, if you get down to brass tacks, most folks like the concept of a safety net. Social Security and Medicare are two of the most popular government programs for a reason.

      • mrbean

        You pay into social security and medicare for 50 years and the government owes almost two trillion dollars to the so-called locked box as IOUs from the government.

      • tanstaafl

        There is no safety net. As my mother used to say – "In each life, a little rain must fall." There is no certainty in human existence.

  • Herman Caintonette

    These are the facts:… But then again, like most lawyers, Shapiro isn't particularly good at math.

  • tagalog

    I don't think that Communism is a beautiful concept. The concept consistently fails in practice in such way that it enslaves many and impoverishes those it does not enslave. I personally subscribe to the concept that people should be left alone by government to be autonomous and make their own choices. It is better to be free than it is to be taken care of. Perhaps there is some point at which one becomes dependent and (depending on how much that person has contributed to society in his independent life) society should help him, but that help should involve as little governmental intrusion as possible.

  • StephenD

    I LOVE that no one is responding to Herman "killing Jewish kids is morally legitimate" Caintonette.
    Invalidation is what he deserves here on FPM.

    • johnnywoods

      I`m not even giving him the "thumbs down". He deserves No Response.

      • BS77

        that's right, boycott that Herman….he's a puffed up fool anyway.

        • johnnywoods

          He has every right to post and I have every right to ignore him. I believe that falls under the First Amendment.

  • sod

    The income distrubitino is actually not very fair, consider that Japanese CEOs make less than 50 times than that paid to the average worker in that company and US CEOs consistently make over 100 times more than their average worker. Does that mean our CEOs are twice as smart than Japanese CEOs? Or are they 100 times more smarter than their average employee? Denefitely not, since we're in a financial mess caused by those CEOs. The current system allows board of directors to give compensation to the CEOs, while the directors are themselves CEOs and are on each other companies board, they are giving favor to each other, thinking the companies are their own private bank.
    It's a common practice that by laying off employees, the executives get big bonus in return and no laws are against it. It's also common that board of directors give executives big bonus on short term (within a year) gain, but most of the time the sort term gain results in long term loss and no law is against it.

    • MikeGiles

      Explain why any particular distribution isn't fair. You say that Japanese CEO's don't make as much as American CEO's; but obviously you haven't noticed that America is on this side of the Pacific, two different countries. Is there some reason the US should emulate Japan. If so explain why. You complain about executives laying off workers. Is there some reason a business should continue to employ people it doesn't need? after all it's a business not a charity. And it's not that CEO's are 100 hundred times smarter than the average employee, it's that the people paying both (the stockholders/owners) consider the CEO's work 100 times more valuable.

  • sod

    It's no question people are for themselves, so the OWS want money from the CEOs while claiming the CEOs took money unfairly. This will not solve the problem. The solution should be a fair distribution and taxation.
    For example, do we really need to have a 20,000 sq. ft mansion, a 100 ft. yacht and a jet as a person? Maybe, but it will be unfair to give it to a person in just a few years' income. If the 112k is the top 10%, can we give a flat tax for everyone under that level? Can we tax people with income higher than that using a 100k bracket and stop at a tax ceiling? Apparently there would be no system that will satisfy everyone, but fairness to majority should be the consideration.

  • BLJ

    OWS: 1% have had a job, 99% have no plans to get one.

  • Paul Winter

    When Shapiro critricises the protesters and professional layabouts he makes some good points. He also has some good points regarding taxpayers, although he does not actually tell us what deductions high income earners can make as opposed to low income earners for whom all income is taxable. Where he comes unstuck is where he criticises socialism unfairly. True, under some forms of socialism the drive to create is extinguished by the nanny state. But to say that Cuba is all bad is to ignore that in the USA health care is worse and while in Cuba almoste everyone is impoverished, there is no homeless underclass as exists in the USA. It is ridiculous to assert that comunism and socialism are based on theft; the practice should not be equated to the ideology. And to justify starvation in capitalist societies as a form of incentiviser is as callous as it is crass. FrontPage is a valuable source of comment and balance against the politically correct left wing extermism that seems to be gripping Western democracies. Opposing that by extremism of the right is counter -productive.

    • Herman Caintonette

      Shapiro is a propagandist, minus the panache of an Ann Coulter.

      Whereas a poor man's income is taxed when he earns it, the rich man has substantial control over the timing and character of his income. For him, the federal income tax is in large part voluntary.

      • tanstaafl

        The IRS has a different idea.

        • Herman Caintonette

          Not that they can do anything about it….

          Perfect example: I once had a client who inherited a building in San Francisco. As its value went up, he borrowed on the increased rents and lived like a king. Never paid any taxes and if he died in 2010, his children hit the jackpot.

      • Western Canadian

        Becoming informed and educated are also in large part voluntary. You should consider both.

        • Herman Caintonette

          You obviously got your "superior education" from the dregs of a bottle of Labatt's.

  • Brujo Blanco

    Every country under communism has suppressed basic freedom. They have imprisoned people for political crimes. Cuba has executed children for political crimes. We still have our freedom but we may lose it to the likes of Comrade Obama.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    The clowns of OWS want to now occupy eveything, if they started occupying
    a brain the rest would be predictable, a job, a home, a family, National pride.
    Our founders stated our rights came from our Creator and I note that those
    Nations who say there is no God are Nations who's citizens have no rights,
    no freedoms and no future. It would seem that if they would occupy a Church
    or Synagogue first they may then move on to constructive action, until then
    they will build down in true socialist destructive fashion………………….William

  • 13Sisters76

    Every single OWS-bot who has been asked has replied that the wealth of the top tier should be taken from them, by force if necessary.
    What part of "right to personal property" do these idiots not understand? I am not, never have been, and (at my age, and unless I win the lottery), probably never WILL be, part of that top tier. However, I DO understand that "99%" of wealth in this country was EARNED, and none of these little idiots has a right to it.
    For ALL those who believe they have the right to take what belongs to others- get a job, get a life and stop thinking the world owes you a living. Oh…and be very, very careful what you wish for…

  • Ben

    passivness of conservatives against occupiers astonish me. Long speaches or hysterical cries* are met with olimpic calm or arrogant (justifiable) comments. That`s all!
    Tiny part of the population can in other circumstancies impose their will to everybody?
    Long, eloquent reasonable articles for their supporters only-are they the substitution of political actions?

    • Jim_C

      Who is imposing whose will on whom? Try to be more specific.

  • Jim

    The Republicans have done a good job explaining why Capitalism is good for us.
    Yes Socialism is based on theft
    Yes Individual rights and freedom for all is good
    Most people want to work
    Non of the above is questioned by the core of the Occupy movement
    What they question is the control Big Money has over congress.
    Every one now knows that lobbyists representing wall street and beyond write the laws and tell the congressmen to vote them into law. The Big Moneyed institutions especially wall street and agra business have financial control over most congressmen. Their lobbyists employ the ex congressmen and their relatives. The big moneyed institutions finance the campaigns both for primaries and general elections. Thus they control the elections. In short these Big Financial interests are our government. The congress is only for show and every one knows it. These big money interests acting as our real government had all restraints removed from their activities and they gambled us into disaster. People lost their homes ,jobs and lives because of the wild speculation and massive fraud by these same Big Institutions. While the public became destitute the Financial institutions that created the mass poverty got huge bail outs and kept on doing business as usual. On top of that their paid propagandists spread the lie that the public was at fault.
    Is this what you call capitalism.. If it is then where is the benefit to our country?
    If this is capitalism then why are the poor getting poorer?
    Occupy is for every one because it's program is to remove the Big Financials as our defacto government and bring back democracy to to America.

  • BS77

    OWS has the math backwards. They are the 1%….the rest of America is busy caring for their kids, getting to work, going to school, planting crops, digging coal, building businesses, fixing cars etc etc. These are the 99%.

    • Steeloak

      More like the .01%

  • paul

    very misleading article. Ows are protesting a system which allowed 1% to gain 42 % of this country's wealth while the bottom 80% ended up with 7% of the country's wealth(1). people could have different views but it is very unproductive to intentionally mislead the public

    1) "Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%, Joseph E. Stiglitz, Vanity Fair, May 2011"

  • BS77

    The OWS leftists have not studied their history. The supposed "wealth redistribution" scheme has never worked and never will work. It's all in Orwell's ANIMAL FARM.

    • Jim_C

      "Wealth redistribution" is what happens when people come together to form a little thing called "society." Since some American conservatives, these days, also happen to be pathlogically anti-social, despising pretty much everything about America except money and military power, they miss this tidbit.

      Has the demonstrable fact that our government has effectively redistrbuted wealth upwards, SYSTEMATICALLY, for the last 30 years escaped your notice? Did the fact that government deregulation allowed Wall Street to treat people's savings like they were in a casino escape your notice?

      Privatized gain, socialized loss. That's what OWS is protesting.

  • Kenny

    Income redistribution is just a cover for centralization of power by a Washington elite.
    The "rich" are whipping boys used to get at those making anything over $250,000. Obama is interested only indidentally in "millionaires and billionaires." He's interested i those making $250.000 to $1 million because that's where more of the money is. The "millionaires and billionaires" crap is just demagoguery to get the funds to buy off more voters without electoral cost. Besides, the problem is not inadequate revenue, but excess spending which will drive the country to bankruptcy. Before the pssage of Obamacare, the CBO projected that, by 2080, the current 10% tax bracket will have to rise to 25%, the 25% bracket to 66%, and the 35% bracket to 88% just to pay for current programs. And this is just federal income taxes. Not much freedom left when those rates kick in. This is the precipace to which the mindless left has brought in its quest for political power.

    • Jim_C

      There is no "Washington elite" that is not the errand boy for the private elite.

      The difference is that we elect the Washington elite. And unless the dirty hippies and/or NASCAR fans make noise, they'll continue to do the bidding of the elite whom we don't elect.