Sunday, November 04, 2007

Surprisingly Rich

Imagine my astonishment today when I found out precisely who the politicians mean when they say we need to tax the rich. I have always wondered precisely who these rich people are they need to be more heavily taxed. Well I nearly fainted when I found out that virtually everyone I know is “rich” in the eyes of the government. It seems the Federal Reserve Board is very diligent in tracking the financial wealth of Americans – apparently excluding all of the illegal immigrants. According to the Federal Government 40% of Americans are poverty stricken (family income of $25,000) with another 30% falling into the middle class with a median family income of $65,000. What is astonishing is that the remaining 20% are “rich” with the top 10% showing a family median income of $170,000. This means a husband and wife each earning $85,000 are rich, which I’m sure would come as a total shock to them. Looking at this from another perspective if you take average salaries a husband and wife team of a teacher and a policeman their combined incomes would place them in the top 75% or upper middleclass. In fact any family whose median income is in six figures, they are in the top income bracket targeted by the politicians who are always trolling for votes on the basis that the “rich need to pay their fair share”.

Income Level Percentile Median Family Income
Rich 90% - 100% $170,000
Upper Middle Class 80% -- 89.9% $99,000
Middle Class 60% -- 79.9% $65,000
Lower Middle Class 40% -- 59.9% $40,000
Poverty 20% -- 39.9% $24,000
Level II Poverty Less than 20% $10,000

So after looking at these numbers it is easy to see why the politicians are so vague about precisely whom they mean when they are on their annual electoral crusade to “tax the rich”.

But as we all know what you bring in goes out pretty much as fast as it comes in and the real test is how much can you keep after the government takes as much as they can because after all the rich should pay more because they make more – I think this is the precise position of the American Democratic Party and the Socialist Parties of various European countries. So does making over $100,000 a year make you rich? The reality is that very few people in these upper income levels feel rich or even consider themselves rich.

Of course income really doesn’t mean much in defining where you stand overall. The better measure would be net worth, that is the total sum of a family’s assets minus all outstanding liabilities. When viewed from this perspective it seems that the national median net worth of the average American Family is $86,000 and this includes all assets like home equity, jewelry, savings, autos, collections, furnishings, etc.

Income Level Percentile Median Family Income
Rich 90% - 100% $833,000
Upper Middle Class 80% -- 89.9% $263,000
Middle Class 60% -- 79.9% $141,500
Lower Middle Class 40% -- 59.9% $62,500
Poverty 20% -- 39.9% $37,200
Level II Poverty Less than 20% $7900

At first glance it would appear that the top 10% (approximately 30 million people) have more substantially more money than the remaining 70% of the population. But included in that top ten percent are Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Warren Buffet, all of those professional athletes, and most assuredly all of those actors in Hollywood who command multi-million dollar salaries while crusading for the poor and demanding that the rich should pay their fair share. Of course at these multi-million dollar income levels, taxes are for the “little people” because batteries of accountants and lawyers insure that little to no tax is paid. These tax loopholes are carefully protected by judicious political contributions (to both parties) while the recipients beat the drum for higher taxes on the rich.

If you would believe what you see on television there is a whole segment of society living the high life in retirement communities. You see them every night as they dance the night away on their Caribbean vacations, where they jog, they fish, they bike, and in general live a great life in retirement because they are rich. Well I think if you would talk to most seniors you would quickly discover that few – very few – can live like these advertisements. In fact even those people in these median income brackets can not afford to live lavishly. Suppose the entire income tax structure were abolished and instead a flat tax was installed with no deductions whatsoever. Everyone and all businesses would simply pay a flat tax on their gross incomes. Do you think the people in the very top brackets, those who support the various politicians would ever allow this to happen? Can you imagine a George Soros, or George Clooney, or MicorSoft paying a flat percentage of their gross incomes to the government? Not a chance! These people want to tax the rich – not themselves. It is important that all of us rich people keep this in perspective when we go to vote for those candidates who think the rich should pay their fair share – that my friend is YOU and you clearly aren’t paying your way. Think about that!!

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