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Thursday, February 06, 2014

If we persecuted the 1%

[Tom] Perkins, a founder of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, in January wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal in which he said the public's turn against the rich represents a "dangerous rift" in America and compares such progressive radicalism to the German Kristallnacht.

"I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its '1 percent,' namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American 1 percent, namely the 'rich,'" he wrote.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chi-sam-zell-1-percent-20140206,0,2270803.story

To which Sam Zell added:

"The 1 percent are getting pummeled because it's politically convenient to do so," Zell said, an interview Wednesday on Bloomberg Television’s "In the Loop" with Betty Liu.

People "should not talk about envy of the 1 percent, they should talk about emulating the 1 percent. The 1 percent work harder, the 1 percent are much bigger factors in all forms of our society."

Do the 1% work harder? Well, probably the ones who made a substantial amount of that money themselves, as Zell did. Zell probably works harder than most people.

But are the 1% getting pummeled?

  • If they were getting pummeled, wouldn’t we at least know who they were so we could be sure they were pummeled? But there’s no list of the 1% anywhere (unlike the Jews, who had to wear identifiable clothing).  The IRS doesn’t even keep a list, let alone publish it.If the rich wear special clothing, it’s because they want to stay in fashion. Persecuted groups don’t generally wear special clothing by choice.

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  • If they were getting pummeled, wouldn’t their taxes have risen? Yet the highest tax brackets are lower than they were when I was a kid.

from http://www.ntu.org/tax-basics/history-of-federal-individual-1.html 

The top federal tax bracket is 35%.

It was about 40% in the 1990s.

It was about 50% in the 1980s.

It was about 70% in the 1960s.

It was 92% in 1952.

It’s hard to say that a long term trend of mostly lowering the top tax brackets means the top 1% is being pummeled.

  • If they were getting pummeled, then their share of the national wealth would be decreasing. But it’s increasing.
  • If they were getting pummeled, then they would commonly be convicted of minor white collar crimes and sent to prison. But sending the 1% is so rare that the very few cases of it become national news stories (and often involve fraud involving many millions of dollars, such as Bernie Madoff). For just making money, you don’t get put away.
  • If they were getting pummeled, they would have their freedoms restricted. They might be limited to only one yacht (per ocean, of course). Or only so many vehicles. Or the amount of land they could own would be limited. Or they might be allowed to have only one child. Or they would have to send their children to public schools. No such limitations exist.
  • If they were getting pummeled, their access to the political process would be limited. But it’s less limited all the time as campaign finance limitations are lifted and we decide corporations are people and money can be donated anonymously to “educational” PACs.

Not much evidence of pummeling anywhere that I can see.

Whining, yet. Pummeling, no.