The Most Important Election in American History

The stakes of losing will be catastrophic. Either way.

Every U.S. Presidential election in my memory, going back to at least 1980, has been touted in dramatic terms, even in cases where the differences between the two candidates were relatively modest. This, year, though, people really believe the hype.

Mark Fischer at WaPo (“The end of democracy? To many Americans, the future looks dark if the other side wins.“):

One week before Americans choose their path forward, the quadrennial crossroads reeks of despair. In almost every generation, politicians pose certain elections as the most important of their time. But the 2020 vote is taking place with the country in a historically dark mood — low on hope, running on spiritual empty, convinced that the wrong outcome will bring disaster.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Frank Luntz, a Republican political consultant who has been convening focus groups of undecided voters for seven presidential cycles. “Even the most balanced, mainstream people are talking about this election in language that is more caffeinated and cataclysmic than anything I’ve ever heard.

“If you are a believer in climate change, reelecting Trump is literally the end of the world. If taxes are your issue, you think a Biden victory will bankrupt you. If your top concern is health care, you think a Biden loss will kill you.”

There’s a long history of lurid foreboding in American politics. Among the nation’s founders were pamphleteers who made their names decrying the dire future the colonists faced if their revolution failed. But the current language is so apocalyptic that even those who are steeped in the country’s episodes of extreme rhetoric are alarmed.

“I didn’t take it seriously for a long time, but in the last six weeks, it’s become very concerning,” said Michael Barkun, a political scientist at Syracuse University who studies political extremism. “This idea that the other side winning the election will produce a precipitous decline and the disintegration of institutions is completely at variance with American history.”

Historians say that in past bouts of insecurity and self-doubt, Americans often focused on foreign threats — the ideological battle with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the worry about unrest in the Middle East after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

But now, the worry on the right that a Democratic win would plunge the nation into catastrophic socialism and the fear on the left that a Trump victory would produce a turn toward totalitarianism have created “a perilous moment — the idea that if the other side wins, we’re in for it,” said Peter Stearns, a historian of emotions at George Mason University.

“The two sides have come to view each other not as opponents, but as deeply evil,” he said. “And that’s happening when trust in institutions has collapsed and each group is choosing not to live near each other. It seems there’s no middle ground.”

The rejection of the other side is so thoroughgoing that 31 percent of Biden supporters in Virginia say they would not accept a Trump victory as legitimate and 26 percent of Trump supporters are similarly unwilling to accept a Biden victory, according to a new Washington Post-Schar School poll.

From rumors of civil war to threats of voter intimidation, Americans’ concerns about the election and its aftermath have arisen as once-fringe ideas have leached into the mainstream. One-third of Republican voters said in a Daily Kos/Civiqs poll this fall that they think there’s truth to the QAnon fantasy of a deep state elite that secretly controls the government. The FBI concluded in May that QAnon and similar “political conspiracy theories very likely will [foster] increasing political tensions and . . . criminal or violent acts.”

Americans are especially susceptible to a dark, pessimistic view of the country right now because several powerful forces are undermining institutions that people have trusted for centuries, according to scholars who have studied the shift in popular attitudes:

A populist president with a showman’s predilection for apocalyptic language. A flowering of unfounded beliefs, such as QAnon, “fake news” and fear of rampaging immigrants. A revolution in technology and media that has significantly altered how Americans consume news and learn about politics.

Add a frightening pandemic, a burst of protest and anger about racial inequalities, and a sudden economic collapse, and the result is pervasive mistrust, a sense that the world’s most powerful nation can no longer come together in common cause.

“We’re facing a difficult time,” Barkun said. “The threat — the virus — is invisible, and that makes it more frightening. There’s an increasingly widespread belief that authority — scientific, political, informational — is suspect. It can be more comforting to believe in an unpleasant outcome than to embrace uncertainty.”

I don’t have a lot to add here, aside from acknowledging how depressing it all is.

Donald Trump is obviously unfit to be President and yet a solid 35 percent of the country think it will be simply catastrophic if Joe Biden takes over for him. And, while I’ve supported Biden from the outset of the contest, I can see why they think so.

Yes, it’s largely a function of cynical manipulation by Trump and a right-wing media complex. Going back to at least the 1994 election, Republicans have relied on scaring suburban white voters by demonizing the other side. Still, Democrats have at least played into it.

Mitch McConnell and the Republicans ruthlessly used their power to stop even legislation they agreed with from passing under Barack Obama. This culminated in denying a vote to a qualified, moderate appointee to the Supreme Court in the final months of Obama’s administration. The gambit worked, holding a seat open for their own party once Trump shocked us all by winning the Presidency. Now, they’re cynically speeding Amy Comey Barrett’s nomination days before an election that’s likely to repudiate them.

Still, the sturm and drang over the effects on the Court three successive Trump Justices will have works both ways. If a conservative Court is more likely to overturn the judicially-created “right” to an abortion, a liberal court is more likely to strike down restrictions imposed by Republican-leaning states. We have, like it or not, raised the stakes of confirmation battles tremendously by making unelected judges the principal deciders of our most controversial issues.

It seems obvious that Trump and company have done more to sew discord and distrust than the other side. Biden, in particular, has worked pretty hard to lower the volume. Still, even at the elite levels, Democrats have made it clear that they believe the only way they can lose the election—whether at the Presidential or Senate level—is if it’s stolen. Still, while dangerous in its own way, at least they’re not peddling nonsense conspiracy theories or propping up hate groups.

There’s no obvious way to fix any of this, at least not quickly. Biden will surely at least try to be, to coin a phrase, a uniter not a divider while Trump lives to amplify the differences. But in a world where everyone has their own sources of information, Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s old line about people being entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts is no longer accurate.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. KM says:

    Still, even at the elite levels, Democrats have made it clear that they believe the only way they can lose the election—whether at the Presidential or Senate level—is if it’s stolen.

    To be fair, there’s a lot more to support this assumption from Dems then when it comes from the GOP this election. We *know* that foreign governments have meddled for the GOP and are likely to do it again. We *know* that Trump and his cronies have been trying to reach out for illegal assistance and are getting foreign propaganda to push (looking at you, Rudy). We *know* the GOP was warned of insecure election systems and did nothing – in fact, they went out of their way to make it worse and screw with the Post Office to boot. We *know* Trump told his nutcase followers to show up armed at polling places to observe and they have, prompting police to have to be called. We *know* they’re rushing a SC judge who refuses to answer how she’s rule on an election issues like this or even if she’d recuse when Trump’s repeatedly said he’s depending on the SC to give him a win. Unless one is deep into QAnon, these are basic facts about our world for years now.

    There’s a chance the GOP can win their elections legitimately, including Trump. However, all the rampant and blatant ratfuckery means that even a legit will has the taint of corruption and will always elicit accusations of cheating. I forget who said it here but the analogy was a known cheater at poker wins a legit single round with a royal flush but nobody believes it since he’s been cheating all damn night.

    Dems are right to suspect that any GOP win might be stolen, especially given all the current signs and facts on the ground. Conservatives on the other hand are repeating QAnon Deep State nonsense and can’t offer any proof of their claims.

    36
  2. Gustopher says:

    Everything @KM said, but also this:

    The Republicans have been fighting to ensure people cannot vote or will not vote. For years, but they’ve stepped it up this year. Even if everything goes smoothly on Election Day, and the counting is swift and unchallengeable, they have no democratic legitimacy.

    13
  3. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Anything for a bit of “both sides do it”, eh James?

    14
  4. Kathy says:

    It’s no exaggeration to say Trump the Lamest has been damaging democratic, ethical, and legal norms, and he has been hampering government from functioning, and has been weakening America’s alliances abroad, and has royally f**d up the response to the COVID-19 pandemic with the resultant hundreds of thousands of deaths, and that these trends will continue if he wins the election.

    It is also true that just about anyone else would do a better, fairer job in handling the presidency. Hell, just about anyone else will actually do the job of the presidency.

    5
  5. Jax says:

    Imagine being terrified of a political party who wants to improve your healthcare/health insurance, make sure the rich pay their fair share of taxes, save the planet, keep Americans alive during a pandemic, and ensure equal opportunity and justice under the law.

    The brainwashing is complete.

    30
  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    I could be 100% wrong, but I suspect if Biden wins convincingly, Cult45 will collapse. There will be some white terrorism, but the FBI will knock that down. There will be new Fox-lite outlets profiting from conspiracy theories. But beyond that? I have my doubts.

    As to the GOP, even with their built-in rural advantage, I expect them to shuffle on down the ramp toward overt lunacy on one hand, with a separate faction trying to salvage the party by adapting to the new reality. Which faction will end up with the ‘Republican’ name plate? Who knows, who cares. My guess is it’s a Democrat vs. Dixiecrat moment and the GOP will be consumed by internecine warfare.

    The policy battles will be between liberals and progressives. I suspect, and yes hope, that Republicans will be irrelevant to government.

    12
  7. Joe says:

    Two things:
    I have not seen anyone anywhere say that the Republicans can hold the Senate only through stealing the election. Everything I have read anywhere give the Democrats little more than even odds.

    “If you are a believer in climate change, reelecting Trump is literally the end of the world. If taxes are your issue, you think a Biden victory will bankrupt you. If your top concern is health care, you think a Biden loss will kill you.”

    In agreeing with Not the IT Dept., when I see the reasons given for fearing that the Democrats will escort in the apocalypse, the idea that they will bankrupt everyone with taxes is counter to the last forever of history. Compared to Trump’s demonstrated steps toward authoritarianism, I would say that, while Democrats are pointing to specifics of this administration, the Republicans are using the perennial stereotypes, which history has disproved time and again.

    17
  8. Bill says:

    Catastrophe could still happen with a Biden win but before he is inaugurated. If he loses, Trump will sulk and not lift a finger if some calamity happens. He will justify it to himself by saying the public has rejected him, so he will reject them back.

    7
  9. Blue Galangal says:

    @KM:

    Dems are right to suspect that any GOP win might be stolen, especially given all the current signs and facts on the ground. Conservatives on the other hand are repeating QAnon Deep State nonsense and can’t offer any proof of their claims.

    Part of my giving cycle includes Ohio Democrats, in part because of an effort to remove the supermajority of Republicans in the Ohio House. Democrats win over 54% of the vote in Ohio… but have only 33% of the seats. This is what has to be addressed – this is what has to change.

    6
  10. Teve says:

    FWIW here’s how individuals’ taxes would change under Biden’s proposal:

    Details of Biden Tax Plan

    Biden’s plan includes the following payroll tax, individual income tax, and estate and gift tax changes:

    Imposes a 12.4 percent Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (Social Security) payroll tax on income earned above $400,000, evenly split between employers and employees. This would create a “donut hole” in the current Social Security payroll tax, where wages between $137,700, the current wage cap, and $400,000 are not taxed.[1]

    Reverts the top individual income tax rate for taxable incomes above $400,000 from 37 percent under current law to the pre-Tax Cuts and Jobs Act level of 39.6 percent.

    Taxes long-term capital gains and qualified dividends at the ordinary income tax rate of 39.6 percent on income above $1 million and eliminates step-up in basis for capital gains taxation.[2]

    Caps the tax benefit of itemized deductions to 28 percent of value for those earning more than $400,000, which means that taxpayers earning above that income threshold with tax rates higher than 28 percent would face limited itemized deductions.

    Restores the Pease limitation on itemized deductions for taxable incomes above $400,000.

    Phases out the qualified business income deduction (Section 199A) for filers with taxable income above $400,000.

    Expands the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for childless workers aged 65+; provides renewable-energy-related tax credits to individuals.

    Expands the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) from a maximum of $3,000 in qualified expenses to $8,000 ($16,000 for multiple dependents) and increases the maximum reimbursement rate from 35 percent to 50 percent.

    For 2021 and as long as economic conditions require, increases the Child Tax Credit (CTC) from a maximum value of $2,000 to $3,000 for children 17 or younger, while providing a $600 bonus credit for children under 6. The CTC would also be made fully refundable, removing the $2,500 reimbursement threshold and 15 percent phase-in rate.[3]

    Reestablishes the First-Time Homebuyers’ Tax Credit, which was originally created during the Great Recession to help the housing market. Biden’s homebuyers’ credit would provide up to $15,000 for first-time homebuyers.[4]

    Expands the estate and gift tax by restoring the rate and exemption to 2009 levels.

    It’s more than a trivial increase on high incomes, but isn’t even close to the tax rates of the 50’s or 60’s.

    8
  11. gVOR08 says:

    This idea that the other side winning the election will produce a precipitous decline and the disintegration of institutions is completely at variance with American history.

    The idea that Russia would not be ruled by a Czar, or that Germany would be ruled by a non-monarchical dictatorship, was completely at variance with history.

    10
  12. Northerner says:

    Every current election is the most important in history, because its the only one you can act upon. Past elections are already determined, and future ones are at the end of a long chain of unpredictable events (ie the future). Hence the need to vote in current elections.

    8
  13. gVOR08 says:

    @Joe:

    the Republicans are using the perennial stereotypes, which history has disproved time and again.

    The letters column of local semi-pro newspaper is full of Democrats are dreaded Socialists. I ran across a bit of history trivia yesterday. The Salk vaccine for polio became ready for distribution in the mid 50s. Eisenhower wanted the newly formed Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to take the lead in distribution. The first head of HEW, Oveta Culp Hobby, refused. She said it would inevitably lead to socialized medicine. The GOPs have been flogging these same boogie man stories back at least to the New Deal, three generations. It’s amazing to me that it still works.

    12
  14. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Not the IT Dept.: Always remember that in the dark night of his soul, Dr. Joyner has been and is now a conservative and a Republican. He has no problems that I’ve been able to recognize with the program–only with the current spokesmodel for it. Of course, Biden is only the less-worse choice for him. As soon as Trump is gone, the GOP will have rehabilitated themselves in his mind no matter who the candidate is as long as that candidate’s name isn’t Trump.

    5
  15. James Joyner says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I’ve honestly assumed the GOP would adjust to current realities going back to at least 2012, if not 2008. But the built-in rural advantage allowed them to keep control of the Senate and even regain the White House despite being well under majority support.

    One would think a shellacking in a week’s time, giving Democrats control off all three elected bodies, would force reconsideration. But there’s strong incentive to chalk it up to the bad luck of the pandemic and double down on white nationalism in the short run.

    10
  16. Moosebreath says:

    “Yes, it’s largely a function of cynical manipulation by Trump and a right-wing media complex. Going back to at least the 1994 election, Republicans have relied on scaring suburban white voters by demonizing the other side. Still, Democrats have at least played into it.

    Support for the bolded language seems missing.

    11
  17. KM says:

    @Joe:

    when I see the reasons given for fearing that the Democrats will escort in the apocalypse, the idea that they will bankrupt everyone with taxes is counter to the last forever of history.

    This is all I’m seeing in my local GOP ads – taxes, taxes, Dems are gonna raise your taxes!!!! Even with all their culture war BS, it’s the #1 hit with idiots for a reason – they don’t understand what taxes do, only that money is being “taken” from them. Innumeracy is its basic form permeates this since spending thousands a year on private insurance that still leaves you with huge medical bills to pay is somehow preferable to a small % of your income. The average American spends $5,000 a year on out-of-pocket health care plus premiums; if you make $50K, that 10% of your before tax income. If they “raised taxes” by including a 5% taxes to get single-payer up and running, that’s a decent decrease. 10% tax would mean breaking even or better since prices would probably be fixed or at least capped for the average citizen. However, that takes *thinking* – instead, someone goes “they’re stealing from you!!” and you don’t connect that proposed taxes for healthcare means you would pay less in your overall healthcare expenditures for the year.

    The GOP have trained generations of Americans to think the libs steal their money. In particular, they’ve trained them to think liberals demanding the rich pay their fair share somehow means the little guy’s pocket is getting picked because “raising taxes” is misconstrued to mean *everyone* gets the same hike. It’s one of the best examples of “look over there!!!” in politics. Even Trump himself admits Dems are better for the economy since the GOP is all about slashing and stealing for the rich; growth requires input and capital, not deprivation.

    3
  18. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Teve:

    I see a lot of people making $400k asking for a salary cut down to $375k.* With the lower tier and being able to keep deductions, they’ll pocket more money. The “reduction” will just be converted to something else that isn’t taxed as personal income.

    Anyone who’s making $400k has accountants who are smart enough to play the system.

    *The SS tax and the bump in the tax rate comes to just over $25k

    1
  19. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:
    Oh, absolutely, a big chunk of the GOP will do just that, but the result will be that they’re reduced to permanent minority status and be little more than a regional party with strength only in the south and the Mountain states. White supremacy won’t even hold Texas or Georgia, those are states with businesses to consider, states with a future, and the future is not white supremacy.

    When you look at polls of Gen X and Gen Z you see the death of the GOP as a national party.

    9
  20. Teve says:

    @RMcTutor

    Someone dear to me who voted for trump in 16 is not voting for him this time. I asked her what it was that changed her mind. She said, “I see the people who support him, and I don’t want to be like them or associated with them.”

    16
  21. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    I see a lot of people making $400k asking for a salary cut down to $375k.

    From personal experience, as a self-employed person who’ll be hit with the full load, I call b.s. You know what taxes are? A business expense. Like rent or labor costs or bookkeeping or insurance. Cost of doing business.

    Say it costs me 100 dollars a year to maintain my current lifestyle. Let’s say I earn exactly that $100 net under current rates. Taxes go up, so I’m only taking home $90. The theory is that my response will be to cut production, earn even less? Why on earth would I do that?

    If I want to go on spending $100 the logical conclusion is that I’ll have to earn a bit more, not less. In effect a tax increase just means I need to be more efficient and more productive. So that’s what I’ll do. I know that’s what I’ll do, because that’s what I’ve done in the past.

    I used to pay no taxes because I was poor. Then I paid middle class taxes. Then I paid upper class taxes. If taxes were the bugaboo why didn’t I stop trying to earn more when I was poor? Or when I was middle class?

    26
  22. Teve says:

    @Mu Yixiao: you see “a lot” of people making $400,000 and asking for high 300s? Back in the day when I had a PTIN I saw damn few people who would’ve fit in the exact range. There are already deduction limits after $313,800, except for a few things like medical bills.

    3
  23. Modulo Myself says:

    The thing about a Trump victory is that he’s not gonna win. He’s not a winner. Nobody sane looks at the assemblage of Jim Jordans and Qanons and Rod Drehers and average GOP voters with their minds locked in 1992 forever and thinks these people are the future. They can overturn Roe and they could give Rod Dreher the right to discriminate against every gay person, but they’re not going to be winners. That’s the real danger. You overturn Roe but you can’t make doctors believe in some dogmatic Catholic dogshit. If Trump wins, he has to figure out a way to punish doctors for not believing in paperwork by a bunch of child molesters.

    2
  24. Michael Reynolds says:

    Here’s another way to look at it. I earn $399,999. Biden raises taxes on incomes over $400k, so if I earn, say, $450,000, I’m going to lose an 12% of that last $50,000. Pity, cause I want that $50k, but with the tax increases it’ll only be $44,000.

    Is there some reason I’d want 50K but I’d turn my nose up at 44k?

    22
  25. Jen says:

    @Michael Reynolds: All of my evidence is anecdotal, but I’m Gen X and just recently I started thinking about how many people I used to know through politics who have moved away from the GOP, either to “independent” or are now full-on Democrats.

    It’s a lot. The most active members of the College Republican club–of the ones I’ve kept in touch with, none still identify as Republicans. None. Additionally, I know at least a dozen women I worked with in politics who used to be Republicans and now identify as Democrats.

    I hadn’t really thought much about it before because it was gradual, but I probably personally know at least 20-30 formerly Republican voters who are now solid Dems.

    It’s fascinating because I remember learning about a study that indicated one’s political ID can be traced back to when the individual turns 18. I know that anecdotes are not data, but it seems to me that my experience isn’t that unusual.

    5
  26. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mu Yixiao: Having just this past month phased into the “donut hole” stage of prescription drug coverage, I, too, am disenchanted with donut holes–for about 25 more days. My suggestion for Social Security tax is still what it has been for the entire 25 or so years since the “problem” of insolvency presented itself–tax the employee at the current constant rate for the whole nut and the employer at the current constant rate up to the current cap. It seems to me that such a proposal will serve to not incentivize employers declining to hire or grant salary increases and provide the needed income structure by raising the income from the person who will benefit from the program most directly.

    Even though the program was then, is now, and always will be an income transfer program, the argument calling to “make capital pay” was then, is not, and probably always will be counterproductive in achieving worthwhile social goals. Capital has a duty to pay, but the power to leave. Balance is the key. The main weakness hampering the progressive impulse, to me at least, is intemperance.

    3
  27. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Teve:

    you see “a lot” of people making $400,000 and asking for high 300s?

    Better phrasing: I see a lot of the people who are making $400k….

  28. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: typo correction: the passage reading “…calling to “make capital pay” was then, is not, and probably always will be counterproductive…” should read “is now.”

    2
  29. de stijl says:

    Frank Luntz actively helped make this happen with his own actions he chose to do.

    He is deeply culpable.

    4
  30. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    I’m going to pile on. Few individuals in the mid 6 figure earning bracket and higher can predict their incomes accurately enough to say I want to make only $375k this coming year. Their income is too variable as some will come as bonuses, some from investment income outside of tax deferred accounts, etc.

    2
  31. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I used to clean the local post office when I was in HS. There was a lot of overtime available for the carriers, but they’d turn it down–because it would bump them into a higher tax bracket and they’d have a smaller take-home.

    Yes, taxes are part of doing business. But doing business also means maximizing profits.

    If holding your gross income results in lower net profit, but lowering the gross income would hold the net profit–it’s only good business to drop the gross and retain the net.

    If you’re making much more than the cut-off, you’ll take the hit. If you’re near the cut-off, it’s smart to look at what’s best for your pocketbook.

    1
  32. inhumans99 says:

    Folks, Kevin Drum had a couple posts up over the past several days detailing how the earth will not stop spinning if Trump is re-elected. I am just thinking of those posts right now to keep me in a happy place until the election. We are finally basically one week out from the actual event and win or lose to President Trump I think that I will not be as weirded out the morning after if Trump is declared the winner.

    Will he continue to be petty and vindictive yes, do I think that “blue” states can still thread the needle and survive another Trump term, yes. He wants blue state money in the government’s coffers so he does have to be careful, if he tries to engineer only a a recession for CA putting most of the state out of work it will do nothing for say, KY, who needs to get their money from somewhere, and as of now that somewhere is mostly from the Tax dollars the government gets from blue states.

    I am sure Sheldon, the Koch Bros, the founder of Home Depot, etc.. will remind Trump that they can only do so much to help Trump prop up the economy so wrecking the economy of CA may make him feel warm and fuzzy but at the end of the day you need warm bodies to be in a position to be employed and contributing lots of money into the IRS’s accounts. CA has lots of warm bodies so as long as our Governor says the right words to Trump I think we will survive just fine.

    Anyway, to reiterate…I am just glad the election is almost over and one with even if that means waking up on Nov 4 to the news of Trump as our President.

    At that point the constant jockeying to get re-elected will end for a bit because Trump can stop campaigning (unless the GOP tells him they are okay with him getting a third term, but too many Republicans are eying 2024 as the time for them to get what’s theirs and get into a position of power such as becoming the next President so I do not see them stepping aside to let Trump run again, he gets a 2nd term and 4 years later we pick up the pieces and move on with life.

  33. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds: There are a few of us who do go that route–settling on “enough” as the measure and adjusting accordingly–buying a compact car instead of a Mercedes or SUV, purchasing our cigars from a wholesaler instead of the cigar store, etc. And yes, some of us know that if everybody lived like we do, the economy would tank globally and the social safety net would be shredded beyond repair. But we can do it because we know that you won’t. And for this unwillingness to skimp, we heartily thank you!

    5
  34. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    There was a lot of overtime available for the carriers, but they’d turn it down–because it would bump them into a higher tax bracket and they’d have a smaller take-home.

    That’s because they didn’t understand how tax brackets work. Anyone making $400000 understands the basics of tax ramifications, a postal worker, maybe not. But if he/she took the time to inquire from HR or the union, someone would have sorted that out. My guess is they didn’t want the overtime and taxes was a convenient excuse.

    14
  35. Michael Cain says:

    @James Joyner:

    One would think a shellacking in a week’s time, giving Democrats control off all three elected bodies, would force reconsideration.

    Granted that I largely pay attention only in the West, but consider California about 30 years ago. Did the Republicans there do reconsideration when they started losing, or did they double down? (Note that shortly after that change started, I was heard to remark, “Geez, the Republicans have lost their collective mind.”) When the big blue swing started in Colorado 15 years ago, did the Republicans there do reconsideration when they started losing, or did they double down? Nevada? Arizona?

    4
  36. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Capital has a duty to pay, but the power to leave. Balance is the key.

    To be clear: I’m not saying that cutting income to dodge the tax is what should happen, but I see it as what will happen when possible. It already happens a lot–“income” is shifted around to not be taxable.

    I haven’t looked at the numbers in a while, but the last time I read about a flat tax (which has problems of its own) it was estimated that a 15% tax–with a no-tax tier where it currently is–would fund the federal government at (then) current rates. The appealing thing about the flat tax is that there aren’t any loopholes. It’s a straight percentage.

    It’ll never happen, but it’s an interesting thought experiment.

    3
  37. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    My guess is they didn’t want the overtime and taxes was a convenient excuse.

    Nope. They took the OT–then refused when they saw their paychecks.

  38. KM says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Is there some reason I’d want 50K but I’d turn my nose up at 44k?

    I’m gonna play Devil’s Advocate on this one and say @Mu Yixiao isn’t entirely wrong there. That kind of mindset actually does exist but it takes a certain kind of spite to motivate it. The money is secondary to the screwing over of…. well, whomever they think they’re spiting. They’ll take the loss because the victory of not giving the government a dime more than they have to or to pwn the libs. I don’t think there’s a lot of them, especially now with the economy being what it is but they do exist.

    4
  39. charon says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Is there some reason I’d want 50K but I’d turn my nose up at 44k?

    I think the point is they would find ways to defer the income or take some part in some tax-free fashion above the magic number.

    Back in the day, no one really paid at that 90% rate.

    3
  40. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner:

    One would think a shellacking in a week’s time, giving Democrats control off all three elected bodies, would force reconsideration.

    I’m pretty sure the national Republican Party has moved past the point of no return for this. Just from my own observations any organization that has moved towards extremism has a limited time to reverse the course or it enters a downward spiral. I’ve seen this play out in organizations as small as a neighborhood association, and in non-political entities like youth sports groups or individual Catholic Church parishes.

    1
  41. Paine says:

    @inhumans99: I’m usually a fan of KD but I found his take on the question incredibly optimistic. I think it will really be that bad if Trump wins.

    3
  42. MarkedMan says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    I see a lot of people making $400k asking for a salary cut down to $375k.

    That’s not the way taxes usually work. Is this somehow different? I would be surprised if it were. Normally, if something takes place at $400K the difference either a) only applies to the income above $400K, or b) is gradually phased in above that mark to insure that the gamesmanship you described provides not meaningful benefit.

    11
  43. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mu Yixiao: I’ve been in the situation of earning an income where my wage was right on a tax cusp. Mostly I worked the overtime because it was steady income, but I also know that I declined to work 60+-hour weeks (I usually worked 48-50) because the tax hit was high enough that my weekly income declined. But for regular income, my taxes were never high enough that the tax increase out stripped the gain in income.

    It’s possible that your postal workers example is an example of cost benefit comparisons–their hours were long enough already, so the money wasn’t worth the loss of personal time or that the application of that overtime was like my situation where I crossed, in essence, as second cusp in one pay period and the second tax hit was a short term bridge too far.

    Either way, the work got done, and you benefitted. A win-win all around (particularly if the other worker’s decision was a cost/benefit analysis instead of a false analysis based on marginal tax rate).

    2
  44. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Is there some reason I’d want 50K but I’d turn my nose up at 44k?

    If $6k is the difference between being able to make your mortgage payments or losing your house? Yes.

  45. Modulo Myself says:

    @charon:

    There are definitely ways to rearrange one’s payout at a high level. That said, it’s not rocket science. America has turned tax avoidance into algebraic topology. It’s not like the IRS couldn’t hire people to figure this stuff out and it’s not like taxation could not be handled aggressively by Congress. Thing is: they don’t want to. And a ton of money has gone into turning simple human greed into an inalienable right.

    What’s interesting is that nobody gives a shit ideologically about taxation now. When Bush passed his tax cuts, there was a year or so of heavy debate about whether not or slashing tax rates at the high end worked. When Trump passed his tax cuts, no one cared to defend their assumptions. They just wanted the money and the hole in the budget.

    A Democratic Congress could very easily get control over this situation, and create laws and an IRS that went after shelters and pass-throughs like a death squad. This is not the 70s and there’s no taxpayer revolt on the horizon.

    2
  46. Mu Yixiao says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I’m drastically over-simplifying.

    The point is that whenever the government says “Our tax plan will rais $X”, they’re inevitably wrong–usually by a massive margin. Because @Modulo says–anyone making enough money to get hit with the “tax the rich” schemes have accountants that know how to get around the new taxes. They might pay a smidge more, but not what’s predicted.

    It’s similar to how states that legalized pot projected massive tax influx based on current sales and a tax of 25% or more. Anyone who was already buying pot looked at the prices and said… “Why would I pay that when I can keep getting it from Ricky at the current price?”

    2
  47. Modulo Myself says:

    If $6k is the difference between being able to make your mortgage payments or losing your house? Yes.

    Anyone who makes around 400K a year and has to worry about the effects of getting a raise in relation to making mortgage payments is a pure symbol of financial catastrophe. It’s like a couple I know who have a house in Newport and a house in Boca, and who call their friends who own jets unironically ‘rich’. The proper political response to these people is fuck ’em if they can’t figure out a way to live with their wealth.

    8
  48. Jen says:

    @James Joyner:

    One would think a shellacking in a week’s time, giving Democrats control off all three elected bodies, would force reconsideration. But there’s strong incentive to chalk it up to the bad luck of the pandemic and double down on white nationalism in the short run.

    It depends on who you’re talking about. The people running the party likely know full well what they need to be doing. However, the voting rank-and-file are completely different.

    This is what happened after 2012–the postmortem went into great detail about what needed to be done. The rank and file…nominated Trump. That schism has been further deepened by the realization that the Trump wing can raise money, is vocal and active, etc.

    What do you do when you *know* the future of the party depends on your ability to reconsider what you’ve been doing, but your ongoing existence depends on keeping happy the very same people you must marginalize if there’s to be a future?

    3
  49. Michael Cain says:

    It is not uncommon for “I got a raise and ended up worse off” to show up at the low-income end of things where people are receiving other benefits. Eg, someone gets a $10/week raise and loses $15/week in SNAP (formerly food stamps). The increase pushes the recipient over the Medicaid qualifying limit, in a state where the Medicaid premium is zero, but the subsidized exchange policy premium is larger than the increase in income. When I worked for my state’s legislative budget staff, we spent some amount of effort working with the executive branch agencies to try to eliminate situations like those. Not always possible — some times there was no way to fudge the federal rules.

    1
  50. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mu Yixiao: The biggest problem with flat tax proposals is that their proponents lie about what they will do. The argument is long and old you can do your own research and come to your own conclusions, but the last time I looked a 15% tax would not provide the 37% of the GDP that government spending is said to represent.

    2
  51. MarkedMan says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    White supremacy won’t even hold Texas or Georgia, those are states with businesses to consider, states with a future, and the future is not white supremacy.

    I think it’s bigger than just the white supremacy, although that much alone is probably sufficient. If, say, Illinois is trying to recruit Peugeot to build a plant they can say, sure, Alabama looks good because state leaders are committed to keep the workers paid as low as feasible and will look the other way on environmental messes, but on the other hand Alabama didn’t even attempt to deal with a frickin’ pandemic! Five years from now do you really want to explain to your board why the plant is operating at 50% capacity because everyone is out sick or too scared to come in? Or why you are facing a world wide boycott because Alabama arrested one of your employees for having an out of state abortion and now she’s on death row? Or your plant in France went on strike in support of their fellow Alabamian employee who was just arrested for being a homosexual?

    These plants are usually located in inexpensive areas far from major cities. It’s tough as hell to get execs and managers to relocate to them to begin with, and that relocation is especially important during the startup phase. How much harder will it be to convince some poor European bastard to move to Alabama with their kids when they are told that the response to a major outbreak of disease in the schools is to stop collecting data? And that the average good ol’ boy immediate reaction is to dress up like some Frank Miller comic book character and run around waving real assault rifles and screaming in the faces of the hapless public health officials?

    Texas and Georgia could actually make a change. But history tells us pretty clearly where Alabama, Mississippi and the usual suspects will land.

    3
  52. inhumans99 says:

    @Paine:

    Fair enough, but I think it may be a real nail biter and I still think the Senate will be in GOP control on 11/04 so I can appreciate a bit of optimism from someone who says yup, there is the very real possibility Democrats are fooling themselves thinking that a blue wave is going to hit the GOP so let me lay out why it is not a complete disaster if Trump and the GOP still retain control of 2/3 branches of our government on 11/04.

    It is my way of preparing to roll with the punches. Because I think you are right, things could continue the way they are but if Trump ratchets up his anger against blue states to 15 (lets say his anger is at 10 right now) he might get the rioting and revolt from citizens that he wants so he can exercise his itch to declare Marshall Law and have law enforcement shoot looters on sight, etc..

    I believe if we go down the Marshall Law route that it will have its own set of dire repercussions for the GOP who will not be immune to the the pain and suffering the nation will experience. However, that is a discussion for another day.

    2
  53. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Anyone who makes around 400K a year and has to worry about the effects of getting a raise in relation to making mortgage payments is a pure symbol of financial catastrophe.

    Michael’s question wasn’t about $400k, however. It was 50 vs 44. When you get down to those levels, a 12% drop in income is very significant.

  54. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Mu’s manifesto only makes sense if you have no understanding of how marginal tax rates work. He seems to believe that if you make $399,999.99 then you pay tax rate A on the whole thing, and if you make $400,000 then you’re going to pay the much higher tax rate B on the entire salary, so of course you’re going to beg for a penny pay cut to save you thousands…

    10
  55. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @charon: Well certainly nobody paid at the 90% rate on their entire income. But I suppose that some might have paid the equivalent of 90% of the income that was above that step rate. Not many because of deductions, but part of the reason that I finally decided to buy a house that was too large for the one person my family constituted was to gain some deductions to lower my net income. Up until then, with just the standard deduction for a single not head of household, I paid pretty much the whole nut of what I earned.

    1
  56. Modulo Myself says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    It was on the marginal tax rate for those making over 400K. Your response still didn’t make any sense re: how marginal tax rates work. But nobody making 44K is turning down a 6K raise because of taxes.

    4
  57. wr says:

    @Mu Yixiao: “I’m not saying that cutting income to dodge the tax is what should happen, but I see it as what will happen when possible.”

    This is a standard anti-tax response — you can’t raise taxes, because the rich will find ways to avoid them!!!

    Of course they don’t think you should make murder legal because murderers get away with their crimes under the current system.

    The answer is to close loopholes as they come up and fund the IRS in such a way that they are incentivized to go after rich cheats like Trump instead of easy marks getting the EITC.

    7
  58. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mu Yixiao: If $6000 in additional taxes out of $50k in additional income is going to make you lose your house because you default, you have bigger problems than fixing the tax system can solve. You’re probably over leveraged and don’t know it.

    4
  59. wr says:

    @Mu Yixiao: “Is there some reason I’d want 50K but I’d turn my nose up at 44k?

    If $6k is the difference between being able to make your mortgage payments or losing your house? Yes.”

    Math isn’t your friend, is it? The situation here gives Michael $44K MORE than before he got the raise. Somehow I don’t think that will lead to him losing his house.

    7
  60. MarkedMan says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    There was a lot of overtime available for the carriers, but they’d turn it down–because it would bump them into a higher tax bracket and they’d have a smaller take-home.

    Either these carriers didn’t understand how tax brackets work, or they had another reason for not taking the income.

    I assume you understand that they will not actually have less money at the end of the year. Using (unrealistic) round numbers, if someone is in the 10% bracket at $1000/yr they take home $900. If the tax bracket rises to 15% at $1001/year, then if they work $100 overtime they will take home $985 out of $1100 as compared to $990/$1100.

    What sometimes happens though, is that someone working in a very low bracket can work overtime and get a big bump in one pay period. Since taxes are often taken out every period based on the annualized rate for that period, it can result in an actual decline. Say they are paying an effective rate of 2-3% and that’s how their deductions are setup. Suddenly, in one period they make enough that the annualized rate puts them in the 12% bracket. Then they may have a pay packet that is short. But they get that money back at the end of the year. And if you are living hand to mouth, the few dollars less that week could be a real problem even if you are going to get it in your refund deposit.

    7
  61. wr says:

    @Mu Yixiao: “Michael’s question wasn’t about $400k, however. It was 50 vs 44. When you get down to those levels, a 12% drop in income is very significant.”

    No, he was specifically describing a scenario in which he was making $399,999 and still wanted to make more in the face of a tax increase at 400k. He was saying that if he earned an extra 50k he’d have to pay that extra 12% on it, which would cost him $6k and net him 44. An extra 44.

    6
  62. Monala says:

    @Michael Reynolds: exactly. People don’t get, or deliberately misconstrue, marginal tax rates. The increased tax rate only applies on income above a certain threshold.

    @Mu Yixiao: but the difference isn’t $50k vs $44k. It’s $375,000 vs $425,000, and turning down the latter because the increase will cost you $6k more in taxes.

    8
  63. Teve says:

    I used to clean the local post office when I was in HS. There was a lot of overtime available for the carriers, but they’d turn it down–because it would bump them into a higher tax bracket and they’d have a smaller take-home.

    That’s not how marginal tax rates work.

    4
  64. Sleeping Dog says:

    Republicans closely resemble autocratic parties in Hungary and Turkey – study

    “The data shows that the Republican party in 2018 was far more illiberal than almost all other governing parties in democracies,” the V-Dem study found. “Only very few governing parties in democracies in this millennium (15%) were considered more illiberal than the Republican party in the US.”

    @James sees hope that a thrashing next week will wake Rs up. I doubt it will. The rapidity of the US election cycle encourages a we’ll get them next time attitude and discourages change. Rs took a thrashing 2006 and 2008 and doubled down and took back Congress in 2010. That reinforced their belief that they could win without changing. It will take multiple election cycles where Rs take a beating to get them to change. And given the variability of the US electorate in presidential and non-presidential years, one shouldn’t be surprised that if Dems take the Senate this year that R’s take it back in 22. The House is a much bigger lift, but that could flip as well.

    7
  65. Teve says:

    I really should make a habit of reading all the comments before I reply to something.

    1
  66. gVOR08 says:

    @Jen:

    That schism has been further deepened by the realization that the Trump wing can raise money, is vocal and active, etc.

    I fear I think that’s backwards. The plutocratic wing, the remaining Koch Bro, Adelson, Mercer, etc. provide the money, and they realize they have no prayer of winning an election unless they can hold the GOP base. The base stuck them with a deeply repellant figurehead. I expect that Chuckles Koch is moving to get more control of the GOP nominating process as we speak.

    Interestingly, I saw a Dem insider say that this year the Ds are funded almost entirely with “non-tranactional” small donor money. Small being not $20 each from widows and orphans but more typically $500 a pop from lawyers and doctors and my COVID relief check.

    1
  67. Jen says:

    I don’t think I have ever heard anyone on salary say they’d rather make less money than more money because their marginal rates might go up. Instead, they look for other ways to reduce taxes somehow.

    4
  68. Not the IT Dept. says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Oh I know that. He’s already started. That’s why we’ve got watch him like a hawk and correct him when needed.

    2
  69. Jen says:

    @gVOR08: It’s not completely backwards.

    The Trumpian wing of the party is willing to spend all kinds of money on Trump-branded merchandise, books, hats, MAGA paraphernalia and so on. The amount of this purchased garbage is a proxy for deep support, it’s like the people who buy all of Limbaugh’s books, Laura Ingram’s books, etc. That’s what I was getting at–this deep, almost fanatical support.

    Yes, the Mercers and to some extent the Koch brothers (they are more libertarian than GOP and tend to focus efforts on ALEC and Americans for Prosperity) are the deep pockets and are now realizing that they are no longer in control of the messaging. And yes, certain GOP Senators are losing their minds over ActBlue’s success this cycle, suggesting that something untoward is happening with $200 donations that don’t need to be disclosed, rather than focusing on the dark money that flows through 501(c)4s.

    It will be very interesting to watch how this ends up playing out.

    1
  70. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan:

    And if you are living hand to mouth, the few dollars less that week could be a real problem even if you are going to get it in your refund deposit.

    I can’t speak to current situation as we’ve speculated the fwk out of the economy over the past 1o or 15 years, but my past experience was that postal workers were. at least usually, not in the sorts of low income brackets where that problem presented itself. Much as I was not in my own example. For me, the big tax hit that week was an annoyance, not “omg, how am I going to buy groceries this week?”

    1
  71. Barry says:

    @James Joyner: “One would think a shellacking in a week’s time, giving Democrats control off all three elected bodies, would force reconsideration. But there’s strong incentive to chalk it up to the bad luck of the pandemic and double down on white nationalism in the short run.”

    James, please note that in ’09, after having trashed the country and getting shellacked hard and deservedly so, chose the route of insanity, lies, corruption and trashing the country. *And it worked*. They hobbled Obama and then worked their way back in.

    7
  72. Kathy says:

    I used to do payroll for a small family company. The taxes retained, exclusive of Social Security healthcare and retirement contributions, in the payroll were determined by a table that progressively raised the rate according to income. I forget how it worked, and later it was complicated by a second table determining a “tax subsidy.”

    On occasion, a small raise in daily salary resulted in a lower net income as compared to the salary before the raise. This was rare, and usually the result of just going over an income limit on the table. In all the years I did this, it happened twice. In both cases the salaries were raised further to make up for the loss.

    2
  73. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve: Big picture: if the most significant problem you face in any given day is having made a comment that seems redundant to you, your life is pretty good. 😀

  74. Barry says:

    @Mu Yixiao: “I see a lot of people making $400k asking for a salary cut down to $375k.* With the lower tier and being able to keep deductions, they’ll pocket more money. The “reduction” will just be converted to something else that isn’t taxed as personal income.
    Anyone who’s making $400k has accountants who are smart enough to play the system.”

    For as long as I can remember, the Wall St Journal editorial page has pushed ‘tax increases will destroy the economy’ right alongside ‘the rich will avoid the tax increases’.

  75. Barry says:

    @Mu Yixiao: “I used to clean the local post office when I was in HS. There was a lot of overtime available for the carriers, but they’d turn it down–because it would bump them into a higher tax bracket and they’d have a smaller take-home.”

    The tax system does not work that way.

    6
  76. Mu Yixiao says:

    @wr:

    No, he was specifically describing a scenario in which he was making $399,999 and still wanted to make more in the face of a tax increase at 400k. He was saying that if he earned an extra 50k he’d have to pay that extra 12% on it, which would cost him $6k and net him 44. An extra 44.

    Okay. I missed that part.

    @wr:

    He seems to believe that if you make $399,999.99 then you pay tax rate A on the whole thing, and if you make $400,000 then you’re going to pay the much higher tax rate B on the entire salary, so of course you’re going to beg for a penny pay cut to save you thousands…

    Social Security is currently capped at $142,800. I know that the full calculation is based and either 85% of income or Line X + something. But for simplicity, 6.2% of $142,800 is a little over $8,800. Move the cap to $400,000 and that tax jumpts to $24,000–an increase of $16,000 (note that the the “donut hole” doesn’t pay increased SSI, so that’s a straight increase of $16,000–which you do not pay if you “make one penny less”–to use your smarmy retort).

    Someone making $400k is paying 35% on the top $96k (35% starts at $204k). The 37% doesn’t kick in until $510k. If that drops to $400k and jumps to 39.6%, they’re paying 4.6% more*.

    And the new $400k limit results in the loss of all sorts of deductions. So… with the $16k in SSI that they won’t be paying and the additional 4.6% in taxes combined with the loss of tax breaks–which I’m sure could easily total another $10k–dropping below that $4ook mark will save thousands of dollars

    *The quoted plan says that $400k is taxed at 37%, but the 2019 top tier doesn’t star until $510k, so I’m curious about this.

  77. Michael Reynolds says:

    I really wish it were true that people making money have all sorts of clever ways to avoid paying. It’s not. Every quarter I write a check. (If I remember.) At the end of the year I write a bigger check. There is no magic accounting fairy. Between the IRS and California I give up about 40 cents on the dollar. If they raise my taxes, I pay a bit more. If they cut my taxes, I pay a bit less. It’s really pretty simple math.

    2
  78. @Michael Reynolds: What you describe is both logical and what I do myself. When I pay a big tax bill, I remind myself that it is because I made a whole lot of money.

    And yet, I am aware that taxes make some people do stupid things, like buying big life insurance policies because it means “The IRS won’t get it’s filthy hands on my money”. Even though that will very likely pass less money on to your heirs, because you’re looking at a likely 20 years of compound interest that will do much, much better than that life insurance policy you’re buying. Even after taxes.

    But taxes make lots of people do stupid things. Like asking for a salary cut. And it makes them think they are smart, too. So there really isn’t much point in arguing with them.

    7
  79. Michael Reynolds says:

    My issue is less the tax rate than what it’s spent on. I don’t want to sit by my pool knowing there are homeless people a quarter mile away. I want them to be helped. That’s sort of the definition of a Democrat. Also the definition of ‘not a sociopath.’

    7
  80. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    I waste money so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

    5
  81. Sleeping Dog says:

    @gVOR08:
    @Jen:

    The Times this AM had an interesting article on where the money the Dems and Rs raise is coming from. The short version being all those well-to-do (former) suburban Republicans who once sent the party regular 3 figure donations are now sending that money to the Dems. In this sector, fund raising has been a zero sum game.

    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/10/25/us/politics/trump-biden-campaign-donations.html

    2
  82. Michael Cain says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Back in the day when marginal tax rates were very high and upper-rank professionals were routinely in those brackets, tax planning was an ongoing process. You didn’t do something this year to reduce this year’s tax bill. You did something last year to reduce this year’s tax bill, or the year before. Loopholes made it possible to do things like invest a modest amount in a firm that was in the oil drilling business and whose (unstated) specialty was drilling dry holes. Then a loophole made it possible to claim quite large losses the next year — capital losses, depreciation, depletion, etc. All paper losses, none of it actually money out of your pocket. For example, you might invest $10K this year so that you could claim a $50K loss due to depreciation for each of the next two years. In the 70% bracket, you’re well ahead after three years.

    There were accounting firms that specialized in such shady practices. Presumably the President’s personal accountants still do. One of the reasons for the Trump Organization’s grotesque structure as hundreds of interlocking LLCs is almost certainly to allow profits and losses to be shuffled around, claimed at different times, classified in different ways, in order to avoid paying taxes. Remember when part of his NY state tax returns for some year in the 1990s was revealed and showed almost a billion dollars in capital losses? It’s a safe bet that those were all paper losses of some sort. But he could carry them forward for up to 20 years, making a billion dollars of capital gains tax free.

    1
  83. Jen says:

    @Sleeping Dog: That chart also seems to support what I said earlier–Trump is raising a not-insubstantial amount of his money from households earning less than $100K (but, so is Biden).

  84. An Interested Party says:

    The point is that whenever the government says “Our tax plan will rais $X”, they’re inevitably wrong–usually by a massive margin.

    Perhaps politicians should just say something like, “Well, we’re going to raise taxes on rich people, and, in the end, we’ll get whatever we can get…”

    2
  85. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I don’t look at it as “wasting money” as much as I look at it as “conspicuous consumption.” Someone needs to engage in it because the economy demands it. Enjoy your prosperity. I enjoyed mine while I had it and you were poor.

    The circle of life and all that.

    4
  86. Kathy says:

    @An Interested Party:

    I may just be stating the obvious here, but if I were drafting tax codes, I’d hire lawyers and accountants, and pay them well, to find loopholes, exceptions, exemptions, and menas to game the system, and ask them for suggestions to plug all that.

    Then after fixing it, I’d run it past the lawyers and accountants again.

    1
  87. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Cain: While I understand how what you explained works, I don’t see Trump as one of the people who would be able to successfully pull off those types of tax works. Moreover, the bankos are very real because the creditors have accountants who are also very good at locating the types of deals that you discuss and will fight against money being hidden in them.

    Trump’s taxes are certainly too low and tax avoidance provides a glimpse into the world that he’s from, but still for every person I’ve known personally who tried to get rich by tax avoidance, I’ve known two who did by saving their money and just paying their taxes.

  88. Grewgills says:

    @Mu Yixiao:
    It was still a misunderstanding. The people processing the paychecks take out taxes at a rate assuming that higher rate will be for all 26 pay periods over the year. That may make a big overtime week(s) look like they are taking a big bite. However, at the end of the year when they filed, they’d get most of that bite back. Taxes for typical postal worker wages aren’t going to hit donut holes. They are still going to be paying the percentage per bracket. Ignorance did them out of money.

    7
  89. MarkedMan says:

    Just voted at the historic Camden Yards in the heart of Baltimore. When I saw Trump’s name at the top of the ballot my heart skipped a couple of beats. Funny how knowledge cannot prevent a purely visceral reaction. When I was done I turned the ballot back to the beginning and focused on my neatly filled oval for Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris. Started at it for a good ten seconds. Wanted it to be the impression I left with.

    3
  90. An Interested Party says:

    @Kathy: That sounds like a wonderful idea, but since, thanks to SCOTUS, money is considered free speech, politicians receive cash from people who don’t want your very sensible scenario to take place, so the tax code is full of loopholes, exceptions, exemptions, and ways to game the system…

    2
  91. Kathy says:

    @An Interested Party:

    That sounds like a wonderful idea

    Of course it does. it’s my idea 😉

    Seriously, to be fair, lobbyists have been writing tax laws long before Citizens United.

    I wonder, too, whether that might be a good stunt to pull. Have a tax accountant do a video detailing how wealthy individuals and large corporations will game the system is such laws are passed. Probably too complex a subject for a viral video.

  92. An Interested Party says:

    Seriously, to be fair, lobbyists have been writing tax laws long before Citizens United.

    Of course they were…it’s not like they weren’t trying to funnel money to politicians before…Citizens United only made it easier…

    I wonder, too, whether that might be a good stunt to pull. Have a tax accountant do a video detailing how wealthy individuals and large corporations will game the system is such laws are passed. Probably too complex a subject for a viral video.

    I’ll bet a good viral video could be made of that…look at all the books, TV shows, and videos there are now to explain complex ideas…

    1
  93. flat earth luddite says:

    @Jay L Gischer:
    @Michael Reynolds:
    Quite possibly this is, in large part, because you both intrinsically understand the underlying purpose of taxation. On the surface, taxes are paid for roads, schools, sewers, etc. But the underlying (unspoken) purpose of taxation is so that the wealthy/ruling classes don’t find themselves strung up by their entrails from trees because the poor/lower classes have run out of available lampposts and rope.
    @Michael Reynolds:
    I have it on very good authority that I am, in fact, a sociopath. I’ve learned to fake being a normal, empathetic human. Doesn’t change the fact that I don’t see the scenario I described above as a bad thing. Or something that can (or should) be avoided. Arguably the biggest mistake my generation made was not helping Angela and Huey to burn the sucker to the ground.

    3
  94. de stijl says:

    When I was pup I was the person who signed for the Minding The Shop Thanksgiving Day, day after Thanksgiving duty, or for Christmas Day. Pay x 2. Yes, please.

    The day after Thanksgiving is great. No one there. No ringing phones. Post-apocalyptic dead. I was the only person on the whole floor the size of a city block. Maybe 10,000 square feet of utter silence.

    At noon I was so bored I went out and bought a bottle. It was wicked. I behaved shamefully.

    Ended up too drunk and had to call a taxi at 5pm.

    Had to call another next morning to go fetch my car back home.

    Totally worth it.

    1
  95. Gustopher says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    The point is that whenever the government says “Our tax plan will rais $X”, they’re inevitably wrong–usually by a massive margin.

    Especially when they say that tax cuts pay for themselves.

    It’s similar to how states that legalized pot projected massive tax influx based on current sales and a tax of 25% or more. Anyone who was already buying pot looked at the prices and said… “Why would I pay that when I can keep getting it from Ricky at the current price?”

    No one is buying from Ricky anymore.

    https://tre.wa.gov/portfolio-item/washington-state-marijuana-revenues-and-health/

    Washington state collected a total of $395.5 million in legal marijuana income and license fees in fiscal year 2019, all but $5.2 million of it from the state’s marijuana excise, or sales tax. The data is available in the Liquor and Cannabis Control Board’s FY 2019 Annual Report (p. 14).

    The report also shows that the marijuana revenues were $172 million more than that of liquor, and that the marijuana tax income to the state for fiscal 2019 of $395.5 million grew by slightly more than $28 million from the prior fiscal year.

    Pot is bigger than booze. But, is it bigger than the initial estimates?

    https://taxfoundation.org/marijuana-taxes-lessons-colorado-washington/

    Marijuana tax collections in Colorado and Washington have exceeded initial estimates, and a nationwide legalization-and-tax regime could see states raise billions of dollars per year in marijuana tax revenue.

    You’re working off old data. It took a while to get the pot industry rolling, and then it took off.

    3
  96. DrDaveT says:

    @Moosebreath:

    Support for the bolded language seems missing.

    They’ve been annoyingly right on all major issues for 50 years now, and on everything but race for 100 years. That would piss anyone off, right?

  97. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I don’t want to sit by my pool knowing there are homeless people a quarter mile away.

    If you phrase it just like that, and don’t elaborate on the solution, I think you will find common ground with some of your well-heeled Republican neighbors. A rare thing in these polarized times.

    I donate to a food bank one neighborhood over that does really good homeless outreach and services. I’m hoping the homeless in my neighborhood go over there. I just want to be able to go into a grocery without having to dodge eye contact with someone asking for money for food. So far, no effect other than helping some people one neighborhood over.

    I think we need to create a whole bunch of non-profit homeless shelters and food banks in Wyoming, and encourage our homeless to go there. And then register them to vote. I think we can flip that state. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh was thinking too small with taking over a town.

    2
  98. Gustopher says:

    @Grewgills:

    The people processing the paychecks take out taxes at a rate assuming that higher rate will be for all 26 pay periods over the year. That may make a big overtime week(s) look like they are taking a big bite. However, at the end of the year when they filed, they’d get most of that bite back. Taxes for typical postal worker wages aren’t going to hit donut holes. They are still going to be paying the percentage per bracket. Ignorance did them out of money.

    A lot of people can’t afford to absorb that variation in their income. If you’re living month to month, reliably getting $X a month may be more valuable than averaging a bit more, but having a bit less some months.

    Sure, these are middle class jobs, but we’ve hollowed out the middle class in this country. Do you want your kids to have a good education? Well, then you have to buy into the expensive neighborhood with the good schools, etc. a lot of people are living month to month.

    1
  99. de stijl says:

    If you have clothes you no longer wear and are laundered, your local shelter will take them gladly.

    Socks, toiletries, cash money.

    It all helps and is appreciated.

    2
  100. JohnSF says:

    @MarkedMan:
    Family anecdotage time; back in the 70’s my father worked for Chrysler UK, after they took over Rootes Motors Corporation.
    When they decided to pull out c 1978 they offered him a job in Detroit (he was very good at what he did) which he seriously considered for a while.
    Decided against because labour relations in Detroit were way worse than even UK (apparently manager had bodyguards on the shop floor IIRC); mother not keen; and got a good offer from BLMC-Triumph.
    (And thus you avoided the horror of having me as a fellow citizen!)

    I think I can safely say that, had it been an offer for a move to Alabama, he’d have turned it down in a second flat.
    Heh. No one from Coventry likes the idea of moving to Birmingham LOL 🙂

  101. JohnSF says:

    @flat earth luddite:
    And there in a nutshell is the cynical version of the conservative/communitarian case for a welfare state.
    Also: the alternative is a police state; and have you seen the cost of policemen these days, my dear?

    Not to mention, after you police/militia have put down the rioters, you have the eternal problem:
    Captain of the Guard: “Now we’ve put down the rebels, me and the lads were thinking, yer eminenceryness…”
    Effete aristo: “Yeesss, my maan?”
    Captain of the Guard: “We’d like a bit more money, your high mucka-muckery-ness.”
    Effete aristo: “Oahwh. Hoaw much?”
    Captain of the Guard {cocks pistol}: “ALL of it.”

  102. JohnSF says:

    @flat earth luddite:
    Burning MF to ground may sound tempting.
    Rarely ends well.
    Those who live around what you are burning tend to get peeved; and that opens up career paths for others.
    See Napoleon Bonaparte.
    … the Freikorps.
    … the re-invigoration of the monarchies after 1845.
    … the English Civil War (arguably)
    etc etc