Sometimes I love my Internet trolls. Not very often — mostly, the anonymous folks who call me a success-hating commie who’s just jealous because he wasn’t smart enough to start Facebook seem to come from somewhere far to the right of San Francisco. And they’re rude. And they won’t give their names. And fuck all of you, ya know?
But someone came along the other day and made a comment that so perfectly summarizes everything that’s wrong with American political economics today that I just wanted to wave it around like a flag and tell everyone:
This is it. This is the problem we’re facing. Wrapped up in two perfect sentences.
I had written a blog about how little tax Mark Zuckerberg will pay on his massive wealth when Facebook goes public.
According to the company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Zuckerberg intends to exercise $5 billion worth of stock options (out of $28 billion he will own). If he does that, he’ll pay almost 40 percent in state and federal taxes — that’s $2 billion — making him perhaps the single largest taxpayer in US history.
But he may never pay a penny of tax on the other $23 billion. So his actual effective tax rate is about 7 percent — far less than even low-income Americans typically pay.
Now, my trolls complain that I hate America and all that, and they say taxes are too high anyway. Then came this, from someone named DanO:
“I can’t get too upset about a guy’s tax rate when he has already dedicated the bulk of his fortune to worthwhile causes. In this case, I have more faith in Z getting his money into beneficial hands than I do the State of CA.”
There — right there. That’s the Republican mantra, going back to Ronald Reagan: American families know what to do with their money better than the government (that’s gummint to you) does. Better to let the rich give their money to charity than to tax it and let the corrupt politicians give it away.
I feel as if I’m being transported back to the Middle Ages, when the noble king, the monarch of the realm, would upon occasion grant a boon to his loyal subjects — maybe free some peasant farmer of his debts, or hand out a few extra barrels of mead. Drink up, commoners, then kneel and bow to your lord.
Representative democracy sucks, and tax money is wasted and decisions by elected officials are often wrong. But it’s still better than living under economic monarchy, no matter how bountiful is the grace of our masters.