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View Diary: Why a Flat-Rate Tax is Unfair: A Quick Overview of America's Wealth Inequality and Tax Structure (153 comments)

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  •  Flat Rate taxes are as Unfair as Sin Taxes (4+ / 0-)

    on alcohol and cigarettes.

    Yet, many Kossacks do support these REGRESSIVE sin taxes that exacerbate income and wealth inequality.

    Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. www.hamiltonproject.org

    by PatriciaVa on Tue May 14, 2013 at 09:45:46 AM PDT

    •  You need income. You don't need alcohol. (15+ / 0-)

      Same reason we generally don't have sales taxes on unprepared food, but do have tax on the bill when you eat out.

      •  You don't need a 4Star Meal for Dinner (4+ / 0-)

        Yet, I don't see The Four Seasons charging a 50% excise tax, as a struggling member of the working class would have to pay for cigarettes.

        Let's have The Four Seasons and Marlboro compete on a level playing field.

        Regrettably, many of you would rather have the struggling family in East LA shoulder a higher tax burden than a wealthy American.

        And I say all this as a non-smoker (I did smoke for about five years in my 20s, when I was working as an expat in Mexico City) who occasionally dines at high-end restaurants.

        Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. www.hamiltonproject.org

        by PatriciaVa on Tue May 14, 2013 at 10:35:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Negative externalities (13+ / 0-)

          Smoking passes on costs to society (YOUR choosing to smoke affects MY health); high taxes make the person choosing to make pay more of the total costs. Going out for a nice meal doesn't have the same costs to society.

          It's the same reason we should have a carbon tax - make the person or company choosing to do X pay more of the actual costs of X.

          •  Smokers cost less than NonSmokers (4+ / 0-)

            Recent studies show that smokers die far earlier and consume less health care dollars than NonSmokers.  And this is before accounting for less pension/ss benefits.

            The truth is, smokers are easy marks for too many politicians, who refuse to tax the really wealthy.  And by really wealthy I mean the likes of Ellison and Buffet.

            Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. www.hamiltonproject.org

            by PatriciaVa on Tue May 14, 2013 at 10:47:52 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  And it's so much easier for them (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              PatriciaVa, Chitownliberal7, DFWmom

              to tax smokers since so many of us are poor and lower class.   I would imagine that if most smokers were rich, cigarettes wouldn't be taxed at all.

              Only the rich and well connected have advocates.

              There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

              by Puddytat on Tue May 14, 2013 at 10:04:35 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Hmmm...those 'countless studies' sound bogus (0+ / 0-)

              Because it's looking at a "dollars out" and doesn't consider any  "dollars in" metric, I suspect.

              If you are killed by an auto accident at age 55, society will be spared any long-term health care costs, true. Society will be also denied your income and any associated taxes, as well as the benefits of any unpaid labor you contribute in retirement (remember, GDP doesn't account for everything, and seniors often do a lot of volunteer community work plus family assisstance chores).

              With alcohol, we know that the social costs are nearly double the amount from alcohol SALES (not taxes, SALES). Smoking probably isn't as great a burden as alcohol but I would think its true impact is still negative.

          •  I used to smoke... (6+ / 0-)

            another engineer I worked with went off on me one day saying he didn't think it was fair that he paid higher health care cost because I smoked (outside in the cold no where near him).  

            I let it go for a couple of days and then, one day he was talking about his kids going on a mountain biking expedition and showed me a video of the wild riding they did down these really steep cliff paths.  I said, has any of your kids ever fell and hurt themselves doing that?  He proudly told me about broken extremities and blood and hospital visits like they were badges of honor.

            I said, I do not ride mountain bikes so why should I have to pay for your kids recreation?  Are your supplies already taxed at 200% or 300% to pay for injuries like that?  I have never been to the hospital or even the doctor's office because of smoking and yet you say I drive up your health care costs?

            He apologized and shut up about my smoking from that day forward.

            "Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour..."

            by Buckeye Nut Schell on Tue May 14, 2013 at 03:31:49 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  However, activities like biking are excellent (0+ / 0-)

              for overall health. And for every broken bone there is a long-deferred heart attack, etc.  Smoking, on the other hand, does nothing good ever for anyone. So in my opinion that's not a great analogy.

              Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!

              by bigtimecynic on Wed May 15, 2013 at 06:57:33 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Also (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                JerryNA, socindemsclothing

                Smoking and mountain biking may both affect your health, but YOUR biking doesn't give ME cancer.

                •  MY smoking doesn't give YOU cancer either... (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  PaloAltoPixie, Praxical

                  I do not even know you, never met you and there is no way MY smoking affects you in any way.

                  I quit in Novenber of 2011 because I agree that it is a nasty habit but the second hand smoke stuff that people site is way over the top.

                  If you live with a smoker who smokes around you then you are at an increased risk.  But occasionally coming into contact with smoke will not do you any significant harm (unless you have an allergy which peanuts could do the same thing).

                  You are around exhaust fumes all the time which are way more hazardous, you are around chemical sprays like insecticides which are way more hazardous all of the time.  You are around dusts that contain toxins all the time.  Get off the high horse about a smokers causing you cancer.  

                  I was standing outside a restaurant, well away for the door, in Indiana and I saw a nicely dressed lady walking hand in jand with a little 3-4 year old through a busy mall parking lot.  When she got near where I was standing, she covered the little girl's mouth and nose and looked at me with a mean glance.  I was twenty feet from her at least.  She had walked by several running vehicles whose exhaust was a few feet from this little girl's face and it was no big deal.  I bet they have cooked hotdogs by a campfire before and the smoke probably choked the little girl.  But for her to see a smoker, twenty feet away, she was appalled.

                  Smokers are people and you are not better than them.  There are rude people who do not respect other people's rights in both groups.  You have no right to look down on peole and you have no right to say my smoking gives you cancer.  It is rude and it is wrong.

                  "Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour..."

                  by Buckeye Nut Schell on Wed May 15, 2013 at 08:09:50 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Sorry, but the fact of the matter is (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Gordob

                    smokers smell bad.  Maybe you burned your nose out with all your smoking and can't tell anymore, but smokers smell really, really stomach-turningly bad.  I don't know why there aren't any anti-smoking commercials about that--give the kid that smokes the nickname "Stinky" and very few of the other kids will think smoking is cool and want to try it themselves.  

                    When everyone smoked in the bad old days, nobody realized just how bad cigarette smoke, especially old cigarette smoke in someone's clothing and hair, smelled.  But not a lot of people smoke these days, and the stink surrounding a smoker, even when he or she hasn't got one lit up, is a very unpleasant miasma that is going to get a smoker some dirty looks and people walking around them to avoid the smell.  If their cigarette smoke gets on your clothes, you'll catch whiffs all day.  If a smoker hugs you, it's worse: the stink gets all over you.

                    My parents were smokers when I was a kid, and they destroyed my lungs: I've had asthma and been generally sickly my whole life.  They quit when I was in my teens but by then it was too late.  My husband will have a tiny cold for 3 or 4 days; I'll catch it and it will invariably develop into a raging chest cold that lasts a month or more.  Smokers are nausea-inducing poison factories and I don't want them anywhere near me.

                    •  I heartily agree. (0+ / 0-)

                      Both my parents smoked. My Dad quit cold turkey from a 2 1/2 pack a day habit because it was supposed to help his ulcers. I was in high school at the time.

                      My Mom didn't quit smoking until two years before her death at age 56.

                      When my niece was an infant my Mom thought nothing of lighting up a cigarette while she was in her lap. (My sister and her husband both smoked) I'm positive my sister and I were subjected to the same thing.

                      As the only non-smoker in the family, in my head I was thinking, if that baby was mine, you would not be allowed near him or her with a cigarette or even smoke in the house.

                      My niece and I both have asthma problems. My niece's father ended up dying of lung cancer at 58, smoking right to the last minute. My sister died at age 62 and had COPD and heart disease. She smoked to the last day. I had a first cousin who meant much more to me than that relationship might infer. She died of COPD at age 75, smoking to the last day (not good with pure oxygen around). Her sister, who I hardly knew, died a few years earlier of lung cancer.

                      The money thing is only part of the story. The suffering of those who die and those who watch them die should never be ignored.

              •  The point was... (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                DFWmom, 18038

                My smoking was not impacting his health care costs.  I was not using my insurance while he was.  I was paying an exorbitant amount of taxes to cover the additional health risks where he wasn't.  

                It may be socially acceptable to bash smokers but that doesn't make it right.

                "Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour..."

                by Buckeye Nut Schell on Wed May 15, 2013 at 07:48:57 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  After nearly 30 years of being a smoker (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              kobaltkween

              A recent chest X-ray found my lungs to be pink.

              I'd always been told they'd turn black from smoking.

          •  Sent off to Top Comments. (0+ / 0-)

            I must end each day with a dose of Top Comments. A TC diary is a must for developing the calmness I need to get the required eight hours of sleep. - cohenzee

            by cohenzee on Tue May 14, 2013 at 04:28:15 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  EXCEPT.. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            kobaltkween

            NOBODY "chooses" to smoke, and I am pretty sure that smoking is banned in many public places, so its likely that NOBODY'S smoking affects YOUR health.  It does affect the cost of healthcare.  But, back to the basic argument, a stupid teenager may choose to try smoking for any number of reasons...nobody "chooses" any addiction.  That is preposterous!  But your right, it seems totally logical to tax people who already have numerous personal health problems.  Seems legit...if you have no basic understanding of why people smoke, how the majority of those who do are poor, or how addiction in general works.  

        •  That doesn't represent a major incremental (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JerryNA, Panama Pete

          cost to society. Invalid argument.

          Voting is the means by which the public is distracted from the realities of power and its exercise.

          by Anne Elk on Tue May 14, 2013 at 03:04:40 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Nobody's forcing anyone to smoke (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Calamity Jean, caul, JerryNA

          If I wasn't making much money, I can think of cheaper hobbies than cigarettes.

          If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

          by Major Kong on Tue May 14, 2013 at 07:29:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  This is debatable (0+ / 0-)

          There are costs to society of obesity from too much availability of prepared foods.  

          There are costs to society of search and rescue missions for skiers.

          And costs to society for podiatry care for people who wear flip flops.

          And costs to society for people who SIT AT A DESK ALL DAY WORKING.

          And, costs to society of drinking coffee, tea, fruit juice and cokes.

          It's like the ogre who lives under the bridge.  Each time a person chooses to spend the money that they worked to earn, there is a "fee" for exercising their free choice, if the Ogre decides their choice is unworthy.  

          There is great danger in allowing the government to decide what you "need".   When I was little, and the Blue Laws were in effect, whole aisles were roped off in the stores, and the government might decide you didn't need baby bottles, or safety pins for diapers.    What the government thinks you need, and what you think you need, may be two entirely different things.

          •  All of which is no reason... (0+ / 0-)

            To take the typical libertarian response and throw science and morality both out the window and say all "free choices" are equivalent.  Some activities do, objectively speaking, shorten lifespans signiiicantly and measurably and do impose large costs upon others. Others do so to a much lesser extent if not at all, and some actually are a net positive.

            We CAN and SHOULD make such judgements and discriminations, both personally and nationally.

      •  Some of us do pay tax on groceries. (0+ / 0-)

        Conservatism is an obsession with the past ... with little regard for the future.

        by RUNDOWN on Tue May 14, 2013 at 05:07:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  so why target cigs and alcohol? (0+ / 0-)

        why not a national sales tax on everything?  Why not tax soft drinks and potato chips?  

        Short answer:  everyone drinks soft drinks and everyone eats chips...and everyone is okay with taxing cigarette smokers and beer drinkers.  They "deserve to be taxed."

        Everyone wants their services...and everyone wants somebody else to pay for them.

        _"Love is the rosebud of an hour; Friendship the everlasting flower."_ Brook Boothby

        by Keith930 on Tue May 14, 2013 at 08:18:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  There is a very good rationale (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JerryNA, Panama Pete

      for taxing things that create a significant cost burden to society. Alcohol and tobacco are excellent examples of that. They both cost us collectively a lot of money. It's only fair that we try to recoup some of the cost. This type of tax is most definitely not regressive.

      Voting is the means by which the public is distracted from the realities of power and its exercise.

      by Anne Elk on Tue May 14, 2013 at 03:03:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sure it is... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Tim DeLaney, unfangus

        Guns cost our society more than that but they are not taxed that way.  Alcohol is protected by the constitution in the 21st amendment.

        Sin taxes target the poor disporportionately.  It is therefore regressive.  If something is legal, it should not be given a sin tax.  If it is a sin, then outlaw it.  You see how effective prohibition was.  

        This is just a way of injecting religious morality into the law and making money off poor people to boot.

        "Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour..."

        by Buckeye Nut Schell on Tue May 14, 2013 at 03:43:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Yes (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        happy camper

        By taxing certain items, we can keep the Poor people from using them.  There are so many poor people, that all of society benefits when we can control the behavior of Poor people.  

        And, by using taxes to control these items, that means that the Rich people are not inconvenienced.  While it is  prohibited for the Poor people due to cost, it is not even noticed by the Rich people.

        And, that is the society that we want?   Right?   Poor people under our thumb, and Rich people doing what they want.   Poor people cost society so much already, right?   We have to stop them costing us more.

        Not regressive at all.

        •  Some might say (0+ / 0-)

          that in many ways this is exactly how much of American society (and politics) already works.  Sort of like the monumental failure of Republican governors drug-testing welfare recipients in a couple of states.  Poor people under the thumb of the government, because they are poor, and therefore, must be deviant.  

          It is a ludicrous argument to begin with, any rational thinking person (like yourself) already knows that poverty never prevented anyone from addiction, it in fact, it lends to it.    

    •  The purpose of sin taxes isn't to raise (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JerryNA, Panama Pete, caul, leftywright

      revenue, it's to discourage undesirable behavior.  

    •  I support a kind of flat tax... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Leftcenterlibertarian

      I believe that there should be a flat tax of 30% for everyone with only one deduction... the poverty level.

      This flat tax should include the social security and medicare taxes and should not be in addition to.

      We should not tax poor people... period.

      If we taxed everyone thirty percent on all income including capital gains and investments with no deductions except the poverty level, then someone making the poverty level or below would pay nothing (or even pay a negative tax to subsidize their income like the EIC).

      Let's say the poverty level was $25,000 / year for a single person.

      If a single person made $35,000, they would pay $3,000 in taxes (less than 9%).  If someone made $45,000, they would pay $6,000 (13.3%).  If someone made $75,000, they would pay $15,000 or 20%.  As a person approaches infinite income, they approach 30% total taxes.

      Keep it simple.  There are some issues that would have to be worked out but overall, I think it would be fair.

      "Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour..."

      by Buckeye Nut Schell on Tue May 14, 2013 at 03:23:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Disagree... (8+ / 0-)

        ...because the complexity of the tax code is not caused by multiple tax brackets.  It is caused by all the deductions, tax credits, etc that go into determining how much of your income those tax brackets apply to.

        Tax simplification doesn't mean eliminating tax brackets.  It does mean eliminating deductions and tax credits.

        So why not make income below, say, 150% of the poverty line tax exempt?  Then, perhaps, a 10% bracket up to 400% of poverty level, a 20% bracket up to 800% of poverty level, and so on.  Perhaps peaking out at a 50% bracket for those making over, perhaps, $5 million.

        That would be fair.  And it would also be simple.

        Political Compass: -6.75, -3.08

        by TexasTom on Wed May 15, 2013 at 06:10:06 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yep (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TexasTom, JerryNA

          The progressive nature of the income tax is uncomplicated.  There's a chart! You don't even have to do the math (and this if you're not doing your taxes on a computer in the first place).  Determining your taxable income is hard, determining the amount of tax on a given amount of taxable income is trivial, even if we added 30 more brackets.

        •  Exactly. The incremental tax bracket system works. (6+ / 0-)

          What doesn't work is the complicated system of deductions and credits, and the absurd fact that investment income is taxed more lightly than wages from actual work.

          Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!

          by bigtimecynic on Wed May 15, 2013 at 07:06:42 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Or (see below also) expand the zero bracket (0+ / 0-)

          ...to include 51% of Americans.

          This is supposed to be a democracy, after all.

          "You've got that eternal idiotic idea that if anarchy came it would come from the poor. Why should it? The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all." -- "The Man Who Was Thursday"

          by tallen387 on Tue Feb 24, 2015 at 11:07:35 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  add a different word (0+ / 0-)

        30% of total GROSS worth. to include market value of everything a person owns. wages, real estate, stocks, bonds, hedge funds, insurance policies, every investment.
        AND offshore account, international investment.

        of course every country would have to agree, since tax havens woud have to give up being tax havens.

        every financial entity in the world would have to comply.

        good lord, heads would explode - sounds way too much like that dreaded one worlder stuff or even worse - socialism.  can't have that! like the cowboy with his gun, avoiding taxes is the 'merkin way".

      •  Wont stop or reverse income disparity (0+ / 0-)

        Even with your tweaks.

        .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

        by Roger Fox on Wed May 15, 2013 at 01:57:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I support those taxes IF (0+ / 0-)

      the revenue from them is used to treat the damage and problems that the "sins" cause.  Use cigarette taxes for medical care, and I'm happy. Use it for funding highways, and I'm NOT happy.

    •  Sales taxes are even worse. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      debocracy

      Most places exclude food and prescribed medications from sales taxes, but there are many other necessities that the poor pay tax on, including clothes, cleaning and hygeine products, and OTC meds.  For the very wealthy, even the tax on a luxury car doesn't take as great a bite compared to means to pay as these items do for the very poor.

      If anyone questions whether flat rate taxes are fair, they need only look at who the main proponents of such a tax are.  The very rich don't care about complex tax codes - they don't fill out their own tax forms.

      BTW, I'm pretty sure that there is a strong correlation, but this piece equates accumulated wealth with income without doing anything to explain a correlation.

    •  Sin taxes (0+ / 0-)

      Especially the kind of cigarettes are designed to target the poor.  Poor people smoke cigarettes at a larger percentage than all other economic groups.  And they do not have the resources of other economic groups to quit smoking.  

      Many people view smoking as some sort of character flaw.  This is wrong headed.  Most smokers are addicted to the chemicals found in tobacco or to the act itself.  I will be in favor in even higher cigarette taxes if smoking were looked at as the addiction and disease it is.  Until then, not so much.

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