By Paul Craig Roberts
March 30, 2009
Obama and his public relations team have made it appear that his trillion dollars in higher taxes will fall only on “the rich.” Obama stresses that his tax increase is only for the richest 5 percent of Americans while the other 95 percent receive a tax cut.
The fact of the matter is that the income differences within the top
5% are far wider than the differences between the lower tax brackets and the “rich” American in the 96th percentile.
For Obama, being “rich” begins with $250,000 in annual income, the bottom rung of the top 5 percent. Compare this “rich” income to that of, for example, Hank Paulson, President George W. Bush’s Treasury Secretary when he was the head of Goldman Sachs.
In 2005 Paulson was paid $38.3 million in salary, stock and options. That is 153 times the annual income of the “rich” $250,000 person.
Despite his massive income, Paulson himself was not among the super rich of that year, when a dozen hedge fund operators made $1,000 million. The hedge fund honchos incomes were 26 times greater than Paulson’s and 4,000 times greater than the “rich” man’s or family’s $250,000.
For most Americans, a $250,000 income would be a godsend, but envy can make us blind. A $250,000 income is not one that will support a rich lifestyle. Moreover, many people prefer lesser incomes to the years of education, long work hours and stress of personal liability that are associated with many $250,000 incomes. In truth, those with $250,000 gross incomes have more in common with those at the lower end of the income distribution than with the rich. A $250,000 income is ten times greater than a $25,000 income, not hundreds or thousands of times greater. On an after-tax basis, the difference shrinks to about 6 times.