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Your income is no one's business

Posted: January 22, 2012 - 12:00am  |  Updated: January 22, 2012 - 5:00am

Since when is it anyone’s business how much money someone else makes?

This question comes after several days of presidential candidates sparring over the release of their income tax returns. The target, mostly, is bajillionaire Mitt Romney, because the other Republican candidates are such anti-capitalists.

Wait; that isn’t exactly right. They just oppose any capitalist who isn’t supporting them with his or her money. Such money given to them, of course, is clean and pure; it’s all the other money in politics that’s dirty.

Back to the question: Since when is it anyone’s business how much money someone else makes?

I’d love to have been around when the income tax was created to hear the rationale for why citizens of a free country should have to report to the government how much money they make.

If you’re a public employee, it’s everyone’s business; your pay comes from the public.

Privately earned money, however, should be private. Why should anyone have to tell the government how much money they earn?

There are many arguments for a consumption tax, such as the “FairTax.” One is that the level of taxation is based on spending; if you don’t want to pay the tax, don’t spend the money.

Our current system is just the opposite. Imagine going to McDonald’s, and the cost of your Egg McMuffin is based on your tax return – even if you and the millionaire in front of you, and the Walmart greeter behind you, all get the same sandwich.

Some also like a “flat tax,” an income tax in which everyone pays the same rate. But whether it’s 10 percent of a millionaire’s income or 10 percent of a Walmart greeter’s income, you still have to tell the government how much money you make before it sends you a bill.

Logically, the fairest tax is a dues system. If I join, say, a health club, they’ll charge me the same thing as the millionaire or the Walmart greeter, and we’ll both have access to exactly the same facilities. Why not tax us the same way?

“But what about poor people!” advocates for poor people whine. “It will cost a greater share of their income to pay than it would for that millionaire!” Yes, it will. That’s a great incentive to work harder and not be poor anymore, isn’t it? Isn’t that the essence of capitalism?

Besides; both the poor man and the rich man get the same access to the same public services (and the poor actually use them more). Why should the rich man pay more? “From each according to his means” sounds an awful lot like Karl Marx to me, comrade.

Yet because we’re such a generous, magnanimous country, I’m sure citizens would be willing to compromise – foregoing a dues system by instead paying for services as you use them by way of a consumption tax. That way, if you spend less, you pay less in taxes, and if you spend more, you pay more. Sounds fair to me.

If Romney had been smarter, when his opponents started beating on him this past week about releasing his income tax returns, he would have spoken in favor of freedom. “What I make is none of your business, and none of Uncle Sam’s business,” he should have said. “And when I’m elected I’m going to work to change our tax system to one that tells the government to stay out of your business.”

It’s already out of his, though. He paid a lot lower percentage of his income last year than I did, and I bet he can buy an Egg McMuffin whenever he wants. And you know what? It’s none of my or Uncle Sam’s business.


(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/

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Comments (6)


Average EFFECTIVE Tax Rates

15% is Romney's EFFECTIVE rate. Most Americans pay far less. Average effective tax rate for households with incomes below $200,000 a year is only 9.9%. At $1 million a year it finally goes up to 18.9%. It's entirely possible with most of his income coming from capital gains he only would pay 15%.

Math Does Matter

Romney paid 15% effective tax rate? No, he didn't, much less

Riverman1 is correct in that people pay much lower federal tax rates than they assume. One study had people estimate their federal tax rates -- they often said 30 or 40%. When they brought in their tax forms, they were shown their tax rates were typically less than 1/2 of that.

In other words, people have bought into the myth that US taxpayers pay very high income taxes.

However, by the same token, Governor Romney paid an astonishing low tax rate -- and its NOT 15%. It's much lower.

What Romney is not showing is his overall income -- and it's overall income that matters. They money he has in Caymen, and any other places, matter. He is not paying any US taxes on that, so his real effective tax rate could be much lower -- some say as low as 8%

That's right, we can't know his real tax rate, because as least SOME, and maybe a lot, of his income is hidden from taxes, and won't show up on his tax forms.

Even so, his 14% tax rate is drastically lower than the myth of the very wealthy paying such high tax rates. Self employed and small business in US can pay 40% tax rates, effective tax rates. Compare Romney's 14% -- which is actually much lower -- to the 40% that a self employed carpenter or dentist could pay.

But what is even more amazing, Gov Romney wants his tax rates -- which are less than 14% -- cut dramatically. Newt Gingrich would have much of Romney's income untaxable -- ZERO taxes.

Neither party is honest about taxes, because our tax code is so complex, it's easy and politically wise to fool as many people as you can, about it.

Little Lamb

Tax Returns

This is a great column. Thank you, Mr. Paschal.

I continue to be an eager supporter of Mitt Romney for president. He did fumble the reporter's question about the tax return, but that's because he is a decent and caring man. Here's what Little Lamb would have answered: “My income and my income tax return is my business and not yours. I will release the tax return at a time of my choosing. Next question.”

Whatever the press fallout would have been to that answer would have been no worse than the fallout to the actual answer.

And, hey, how come they're picking on only Romney? Many if not all of the others haven't released their returns, either. I wish we would get away from this notion that we get to peek into the tax returns of candidates or office-holders.

And what is this nonsense about the public knowing who gave how much money to which candidates? Isn't anything private anymore? They were belly-aching on NPR last week about not knowing who gave the money to the Super PACs. Well, I say don't worry about who and concentrate only on the message. Is the message true or false? Is the message positive or hateful — designed to inform or deceive? Concentrate on the content.


Nice Explanation, Math Does Matter

MDM, excellent explanation. Are you related to Many Arrows? Ha. Heck, maybe Barry makes $1 million a year. Much as I comment, maybe he can send me a little of that.

easy breezy

No one's business?

Yes, I agree this was a good article but why is the Richmond and Columbia County Employees salaries available for anyone to see?


Public employees

Easy breezy: Government employees are paid with taxpayer dollars, and taxpayers are entitled to know how their money is spent.