Taxes. Now there's a word that's sure to get the blood flowing.
Although perennially a subject for discussion, it seems that it's become more a part of our national and state and even local discourse over the past few months.
So, always interested in learning what my fellow citizens are thinking, I conducted my own statistically insignificant survey of friends and acquaintances. Here's what I learned.
There are three major points of view about the subject of taxes.
First, a significant portion of the population believes it's OK not to pay any federal income tax so long as property, sales and paycheck tax deductions are paid.
Assuming they receive a paycheck, which, in this "Occupy Someplace or Other" era, is an assumption that we can no longer routinely make. They think the "rich" ought to pay more, as President Obama tells us, even if for no reason other than simple "fairness." After all, "They can afford it, right?"
Then there's the group that believes the so-called "rich" are paying way more than their "fair share" right now. They believe that they put their time, effort, energy and money at risk by investing in and building the companies that hire nearly everybody.
They think they pay the lion's and the tiger's and the leopard's share of all income taxes. They believe that the "makers" should not unfairly subsidize the "takers."
They believe that this whole "fair share" drumbeat is nothing more than class warfare jealousy, being waged by Obama and the Democrats to change the subject away from a failed economy, sky-high unemployment, ballooning federal debt and the forced introduction of European-style socialism on a massive scale.
In short, they think they should actually be permitted to keep most of what they've earned. What a concept.
And then there's the third group that believes that "taxes" is a really big state down South somewhere. This is the group for whom there is no "hope," even though we sincerely wish they'd "change."
This is the group that should stay home on Election Day and watch "Jerry Springer" reruns.
So let's take a look at the facts (such stubborn things, those facts). According to the Internal Revenue Services' website, the top 1% of earners in America bring in 16.9% of all income and pay 36.7% of all income taxes.
The top 5% earn 31% of all income and pay 58.7% of all income taxes. The top 10% earn 43.2% and pay 70.5%. And 49.1% pay no income taxes at all.
That's what's meant by a progressive tax system. The more you earn the more you pay. And Obama is begging Congress to tack another 4.9% on top bracket earners by allowing the Bush tax cuts for everybody to expire only on the $250,000-a-year "millionaires and billionaires."
Consider this: Purloining 100% of the earnings of the "rich" would bring in about $1 trillion the first year. That's about $200 billion less than this year's increase to the federal debt.
And next year? Nothing. Poof.
The "rich" would no longer exist. And neither would your job.
But I have a feeling that most thinking people believe there should be some sort of limit to this whole progressivity thing. Otherwise, the old "if some's good, more's better" philosophy will know no bounds, and the "takers" will peel the "makers" like grapes at the voting booth, effectively destroying the engine of our economy.
And with Gov. Brown's plan to pass a $9-billion tax increase come November, California tax rates will increase from a top rate of 9.55% on $46,349 of income (I guess they're "rich" too) to as much as 12.55% if you're even "richer." Oh, and let's also not forget that extra 0.5% sales tax hike, if the measure passes in California.
So let's see. If you own a company and struggle to make it work so you can meet both your payroll and your mortgage obligations, and manage somehow to bring in $250,000 or more, even though the president tells us you're not really earning it and somebody else is making it happen, and you live in California, you'll pay an effective rate of 52.45% to the feds and Brown.
So, once the campaign rhetoric has reached a crescendo, and it's time to pull the lever Nov. 6, you'll have to decide for yourself: Does all of this class warfare punish the "rich" enough, or should we just keep on milking this cow until it keels over and dies?
CHUCK CASSITY is a longtime Costa Mesa resident active in education, youth sports and other causes. His column appears every other Friday.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun