Publisher's Note: Jim Bispo's weekly column appears in the Beaufort Observer.
The ninth Commandment says something like "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor". Does that mean you are not supposed to tell lies about others?? Or does it mean you are not supposed to tell lies, period?? I would suggest that it is the latter which I believe is accepted by most folks.
How about "misleading" with quasi truths?? Does that count as "bearing false witness", or doesn't "misleading" count?? I would suggest that "misleading" on purpose counts. Take for example a campaign ad which has appeared quite a number of times. It has Scott Pelley shown interviewing Mitt Romney on a Sept. 23, 2012 airing of 60 Minutes. Following is what was said,
Pelley: You made on your investments personally about $20 million dollars last year and you paid 14% in federal income taxes. That's the capital gains rate.
(In the context of this discussion the Capital Gains rate is 15%. Mr. Pelley is incorrect. - jb) Is that fair to the guy who makes $50 thousand dollars and pays a higher rate than you did??
Romney: (Response not heard )
Pelley: So you think it is fair??
Romney: Yeah. I think it's the right way to encourage economic growth.
Announcer: Lower tax rates for him than us. Is that the way to grow America?
Obama: I'm Barack Obama and I approved this message.
That is the Warren Buffett tax argument all over again. And it is as misleading when the anointed one says it as when the Sage of Omaha says it. No matter how often it is discredited, it
simply won't go away - but that won't stop me from taking another run at it.
That $50k person mentioned (if he is single with no dependents and took the standard deduction would pay on an adjusted gross income of $40,600 ($50,000 W-2 income less $5700 std deduction less $3700 personal exemption = $40,600). The taxes would be $6269. That person's marginal tax rate is 25% He (or she) pays an effective rate of about 12.5%.
So where does the Buffett argument come from?? It comes from quoting a "marginal tax rate" on one side of the argument and an "effective tax rate" on the other side of the argument.
Marginal tax rate is the rate you pay on the last (highest) dollar of your taxable income. The Buffett tax rate argument compares the marginal tax rate of one person (who doesn't have much
capital gains income) against the effective tax rate of a"rich guy" who has a great deal of capital gains income and "voila" the "rich guy" is paying "less" tax. In the case of Romney's 2011 taxes the "less" tax he paid was $1,935,708.00. Does that sound like less tax than the $50k per
year person pays??
As long as you work with percentages, instead of real numbers, it is fairly easy to convince folks that the rich are getting a "free ride". There are two reasons: First, it is a whole lot easier to
mislead using percentages instead of "real" numbers; and second, as soon as you start talking taxes, people's eyes begin to glaze over. I find it terribly difficult to believe Warren Buffett doesn't know he is making a fallacious (i.e. dishonest) argument when he couches his example in percentages. I would have expected better from him. Had he displayed that much lack of integrity as he was becoming wealthy, he could well be living next door to Bernie Madoff today.
Who cares how disingenuous anyone (like the Prez and Mr. Buffett) is, so long as it brings votes?? I rather suspect that there are a lot of folks who if they ever figured out that they are being misled by ads like the one cited above they would take great umbrage at the idiot treatment to which they are being subjected.
One more point to make. Who cares how much money someone makes as long as it is done legally?? If income and spending patterns are so important, why do you suppose no one is finding fault with the Prez' wife who wore $600 sneakers to a soup kitchen when she went "to wave the flag" for the Prez. Why do you suppose no one found fault with her when she wore an outfit to the second debate that cost over $3,000, almost twice as much as the $1,700 outfit the rich guy's wife wore?? All the while, we are hearing about how the Prez is one of the middle class. Hypocrisy??
This is the person we want to be our President??