How You Can Have a Billion-Dollar Income in America and Pay No Taxes
Continued from previous page
TM: This obviously was the argument behind renewing the Bush tax cuts that both parties went along with in December, but it's clear that it doesn't work. If you give money to poor people they spend it, if you give money to state governments, they spend it, but the very wealthy are choosy about when and where and how they spend.
DCJ: I stumbled upon a Medicare tax database by accident one day that includes everybody in America who has a job and shows to the penny how much they get paid. It goes all the way up to $50,000,000, so I can tell you how many workers in America make $50 million a year or more. It was 72 in 2009 and 74 the year before, and on average they made over $80 million.
From the year 2000 to the year 2009, the median wage has been a little over $500 a week every single year. It grew six-tenths of one percent from 2000 to 2009. Even in the peak year of 2007, when the economy was doing well, it went up 2 percent. From 2000 to 2009, the average wage has gone up 2.2 percent.
The average wage is right around $39,000, or $750 a week. But that's all because of the growth at the top. 75 percent of workers make less than $50,000 a year, 99 percent make less than $200,000 a year. The growth is all in the group that makes $100,000 and up.
I'm old enough to remember that Richard Nixon once said that cleaning bedpans has the same dignity as the presidency. In Europe janitors and practical nurses make enough money that they can live a decent life, but not in America.
TM: Do workers in Europe make enough because they make relatively more or because the safety net of necessities is taken care of -- or is it both?
DCJ: It's both.
First of all, they have minimum income policies. Then there are many things paid for with the tax system there that you and I pay for with our after-tax dollars. While Europeans have lower incomes and higher taxes, they generally live better lives and they have more job security. Only in America, amongst modern countries, do people go bankrupt because of medical bills or do they die for lack of medical care. What we're doing is immoral.
I am shocked by politicians who spout their religious beliefs and then say universal health care is wrong. They are no different than people 100 years ago who said that if you wanted a child labor law you were an agent of the devil. It was God's plan that children work in the mills.
If we ran public schools the way we run the health care system, every kindergarten teacher would have to fill out a daily cost accounting report: I issued so many green crayons today, so many red crayons, so many paste pots, so many safety scissors to my kindergarteners. That's what we do with doctors. It is wasteful, it makes a few people very rich, and more than 1,000 people a day die for lack of health care.
TM: Our linking employers and insurance goes back to World War II when it was a way to get around price controls. Today it's an inducement to send jobs overseas.
DCJ: Overseas, the costs are on society's books, not on the company's.
Not only that, many people in America who have health care, have crummy health care. If the average worker in America had been shot the way that Representative Giffords was in Tucson, do you think they would have been put in a private jet and flown to rehab at the top place in Houston?