Give me five minutes to explain taxes to you:
The top marginal tax rate is currently 39.6 percent, which remember, is an altogether different thing from the effective tax rate that wealthy people end up actually paying after taking advantage of various tax loopholes.
What does that even mean - a ‘marginal tax’ rate of 39.6 percent?
Does it mean the average person pays 39.6% in taxes? No.
Does it mean that the income earners in the top one percent pays 39.6% in taxes? NO!
Here’s what a marginal tax rate of 39.6% means:
First, as of 2013 the top tax rate for individuals currently doesn’t begin unless you earn $406,750 dollars. Actually, that tax rate doesn’t even take effect until you make $406,750 + $1 dollar. Got that part? That’s important.
Here’s the tricky detail that most people miss: the 39.6% tax rate is only applicable on anything OVER $406,750 dollars. So if you made $406,752 dollars, then only two ($2) of those dollars will be taxed at the highest rate of 39.6%…and the other $406,750 is not.
Of course, this does not take into account the numerous tax loopholes that I alluded to earlier. Thus, if the top marginal tax rate is 39.6 percent, then after using any number of tax loopholes, write offs and various other cheats, it’s entirely possible earn over $406,750 dollars per year and still pay even less in taxes than a working class American earning much less.
SN: this applies only to people who do actual work for a paycheck. If, on the other hand, your primary income is from inheritance or stock investments and you pay all your bills off of that interest (aka “capital gains”), then your taxes work differently altogether (hint: they’re even lower). Take multi-billionaire Mitt Romney, for example. In 2010 he only paid an effective (real) tax rate of 13.9 percent, odds are that’s much lower than the tax rate you (or your parents) just paid.
Here’s the last thing you should remember: Only one percent of Americans make $400,750 a year or higher. Stated differently, the top income tax rate effects around 3.5 million —out of 350,000,000 Americans. And that’s only on the dollars ABOVE $400,750.
BOO HOO right? Approximately 3.5 million Americans might, maybe, perhaps *possibly* have to pay the top federal income tax rate…but only on anything above $406,750 dollars…and only if they refuse to take advantage of ridiculously huge tax loopholes so big you could fly a jumbo jet through them.
THAT is what conservatives are crying about when they complain about the top tax rate. That’s it.
Some people are willfully ignorant…but some people just don’t know what they have no reason to know.
There are a lot of white people in this country who engage with minorities on the Internet in conversations about race and police harassment and profiling who don’t “see” it. They don’t understand why some Black people are so upset with law enforcement and why we have a hair trigger in cases like Michael Brown, because that’s not the life they lead. If — and this is a very big if — those white people have had any interactions with the police whatsoever, the situation was probably respectful, calm, and a minor disruption without an overwhelming fear of physical force.
When I’ve been stopped by the police, not only is there an overwhelming sense of annoyance at being stopped for no reason other than being brown, but there’s the very real fear of the unknown because anything could happen once you’re stopped by the police. I got stopped because I “fit the description” which is code for being a young Black male, and I didn’t know if I would end up in Rikers for the next three years waiting on a trial to clear my name of a charge I had nothing to do with. (That still happens, in case you’ve forgotten.)
So this is a good explanation from for all of us to remember when we find ourselves in conversations with white people who don’t have that experience of being terrified of law enforcement.