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Morning Feature – Solving Non-Existence? (Ask Ms. Crissie)

December 30, 2012

Morning Feature

Morning Feature – Solving Non-Existence? (Ask Ms. Crissie)

“I think Republicans may try to solve us,” Professor Plum said, brows furrowed. “After all, we don’t exist.”

He read the mail. (More)

The faculty, staff, and student body of BPI are rather proud of our proud institution’s non-existence. We even sponsor awards for non-existence each summer, the curvacious and coveted Bippies. Ms. Scarlet reassured Professor Plum that our non-existence is too non-existent to concern the Republican Party, and led him off to join the resident faculty in the wine cellar mail room, where they’ll spend the weekend drinking thinking on our motto of Magis vinum, magis verum (“More wine, more truth”).

The Professor of Astrology Janitor was also pondering non-existence, in a more tangible sense. He opened by raising with his Six and Seven of Hearts, hoping Chef would think he had a pair or two high cards and simply call or, failing that, that the flop would help him make a hand. Chef instead reraised, bringing to mind the old poker adage: “Never raise if a reraise will make you regret it.” She clearly had a better hand than his measly suited connector. Still, he called, only to see the flop bring still more non-existence in the form of the Ace and Jack of Clubs and the Four of Diamonds. He checked and made a pretense of considering whether to call her bet at the flop. But with no hope of making better than three of a kind, which might already be beaten, he folded and began his plaintive mewling. Chef went to the kitchen to make Ham and Cheese Puff Pastries, leaving your lowly mail room clerk to review the week’s correspondence….

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Dear Ms. Crissie,

We need to reconsider middle-class taxes. An unwavering commitment to keep middle-class taxes low could be one reason the political process has become so deeply dysfunctional. Under current policy, the federal government is spending vastly more than it is collecting in tax revenue. And that will be true for the next several decades, thanks largely to the growth in entitlement spending that will occur automatically as the population ages and health care costs increase. As a result, the ratio of government debt to the nation’s gross domestic product is projected to rise, substantially and without an end in sight. Fairness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Unfortunately, people’s judgment is often based on anecdotes that distort rather than illuminate. The story of the undertaxed Warren Buffett and his overtaxed secretary looms larger in the public’s mind than it should.

In 2009, the most recent year for which data are available, the richest 1 percent of Americans paid 28.9 percent of their income in federal taxes, according to the Congressional Budget Office. (That includes income taxes, both individual and corporate, and payroll taxes.) Members of the middle class, defined as the middle fifth of households, paid 11.1 percent of their income in taxes. Some of this difference in tax rates is attributable to temporary tax changes passed in response to the recent recession. But not all. In 2006, before the financial crisis, the top 1 percent paid 30 percent of their income in taxes, compared with 13.9 percent for the middle class.

Ultimately, unless we scale back entitlement programs far more than anyone in Washington is now seriously considering, we will have no choice but to increase taxes on a vast majority of Americans. This could involve higher tax rates or an elimination of popular deductions. Or it could mean an entirely new tax, such as a value-added tax or a carbon tax. To be sure, the path ahead is not easy. No politician who wants to be re-elected is eager to entertain the possibility of higher taxes on the middle class. But fiscal negotiations might become a bit easier if everyone started by agreeing that the policies we choose must be constrained by the laws of arithmetic.

Gregory in MA

Dear Gregory,

We applaud your commitment to arithmetic, however we question your presumptions. For example, while the CBO add corporate taxes to the individual income taxes paid by wealthy Americans for purposes of income quintile accounting, a 2006 CBO study found that 70% of corporate taxes are borne by workers in the form of lower pay. To treat all corporate taxes as if they were paid by investors is to presume that, without such taxes, business owners would take all of the difference rather than raising employees’ pay, lowering prices, or reinvesting to grow their businesses. In fact, wealthy Americans do not pay the near-30% rate you state.

Moreover, like all of today’s deficit hawks, you presume that health care costs will continue to rise above the rate of inflation. In fact the growth of health care costs has slowed, and Medicare costs have fallen below CBO estimates for the past three years. In other words, the panic over future entitlement costs may be mooted by cost efficiencies in Obamacare and other reforms … making the debt crisis yet another of those non-existent problems that Republicans like to solve … by raising taxes or cutting programs for hardworking families who can least afford the added burdens.

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Dear Ms. Crissie,

I hope Republicans don’t try to solve BPI, as I would miss Chef’s non-existence. How do I make her Ham and Cheese Puff Pastries?

Hungrily Existent in Blogistan

Dear Hungrily Existent,

Chef begins by defrosting 2 sheets of frozen puff pastry and rolling one sheet out to 10×12″ on a floured board. Place the pastry on a sheet pan atop parchment paper, then brush the center of the pastry with Dijon mustard and place a layer of sliced ham on the pastry, followed by a layer of Gruyere cheese, leaving a 1″ border around the edge. Brush the border with an egg wash, then roll the second layer of pastry to 10×12″ and lay it atop the first. Cut the edges of both pastry sheets with a sharp knife and press them together firmly, then brush the top sheet with the egg wash and make small slits to let the steam escape. Bake at 450° for 20-25 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and golden brown. Bon appétit!

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Sources:

Gregory in MA; CBO add corporate taxes to individual income taxes paid by the wealthy; 70% of corporate taxes are borne by workers; growth of health care costs has slowed; Medicare costs below CBO estimates for past three years; panic over future entitlement costs may be mooted by cost efficiencies in Obamacare and other reforms; non-existent problems that Republicans like to solve.

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Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  • addisnana

    I’m not sure I should be commenting on our non-existence after only one cup of existing coffee. The pot is brewing more so I will be really sure of my non-existence after another cup.

    The idea that the poor or working class don’t pay enough to solve the problems created by billionaires being pampered for thirty years does frost the real butt upon which I am sitting.

    • Gardener

      :smile: :smile: :smile:

    • NCrissieB

      Coffee certainly helps your lowly mail room clerk assess non-existence. The precise ratio of caffeine to understanding non-existence is the topic of ongoing research in the Math Department, where they specialize in turning coffee into theorems. ;-)

      We agree that hardworking families should not bear the cost of solving problems created by pampering billionaires … especially if the “problems” to be solved would qualify for Bippie awards….

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  • winterbanyan

    What a load of of hogwash and distraction being spewed by Gregory in MA. Of course the cost of corporate taxes are borne by workers, either in lower pay or in the cost of the goods they buy. That’s so obvious a ten-yr-old could figure it out. Corporations sacrifice nothing, they merely pass the costs along.

    Unfortunately, the rest of hard-working America can’t pass those costs along to anyone. Being self-employed, I see it all the time. My publisher passes costs along to me by two different methods (I won’t detail them here) and that results in lower income for me. I don’t get to pass those costs along to anyone at all. I simply pay a lower tax rate because I make so little.

    So who pays in the end: workers and the government that needs tax revenue. Not the big corporations and billionaires. Never them.

    I join addisnana in the frosted butt business.

    • Gardener

      We have 17 degrees, 3-4″ of snow, and enough frosted butts to go around!

    • NCrissieB

      We agree that “billionaires pay all corporate taxes” is an old conservative meme. Gregory in MA was the Romney campaign’s principal economic advisor and he trotted out the same meme to defend Mitt in La MANHCA’s low tax rate.

      Somehow, when it comes time to discuss the budget, conservatives always find a way to say that hardworking families have too much and the wealthy have too little….

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  • Gardener

    The part of the debate I’d like to see the R’s reminded of is that the budget was balanced in 2000, when Junior took over. In fact, there were dire warnings at the time about the dangers of paying down the public debt too quickly. Well, they solved that one, didn’t they???

    And for a long time to come!

    • Gardener

      BTW, have just returned from the stove, which at 650 degrees, is a sure-fire cure for FBS!!

      (Frosted Butt Syndrome)………….. ;-)

    • NCrissieB

      While it’s true that the federal budget ran a surplus at the end of the 1990s, we must note that was because: (1) the dot-com bubble gave the illusion of greater economic growth than we really had; and, (2) the largest cohorts of Baby Boomers were in their peak earning (thus peak tax-paying) years.

      We didn’t have space to include it in responding to Gregory in MA, but Business Insider‘s Joe Wiesenthal presents very compelling evidence that the federal deficit correlates closely to unemployment. Simply, the best and indeed only way to fix the deficit over the long-term … is to get more Americans back to work at living wages, so they pay taxes rather than needing social safety net programs.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::