Keller @ Large: Rich Just Get Richer

BOSTON (CBS) – Forbes Magazine has just come out with its ranking of the richest Americans, and taxing the wealthy has recently been the talk of Washington.

The Democrats have been calling for higher taxes on them, even though the richest ten percent already provide most of our federal income tax revenue. But while the Republicans claim taxing the rich more would chill job creation, it’s hard to be too sympathetic when you see the numbers on the latest list of the 400 richest Americans.

The names atop the Forbes list are familiar, and politically diverse.

WBZ-TV’s Jon Keller Is At Large

Bill Gates, $59 billion: Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is number one for the 18th year in a row, with a $59 billion haul that grew by $5 billion in the past year alone.

Warren Buffett, $39 billion: When investor Warren Buffet says he wants to pay more taxes, he can afford it, coming in second with $39 billion despite a $6 billion loss last year.

Charles Koch & David Koch, $25 billion each: Also in the top ten, the arch-conservative oil baron Koch brothers at $25 billion apiece.

George Soros, $22 billion: and arch-liberal hedge fund genius George Soros, who’s made a $22 billion killing on the global economic slump.

Michael Bloomberg $19.5 billion: New Yorkers might consider asking Mayor Michael Bloomberg to bail their city out personally. He’s 12th on the list with a $19.5 billion kitty.

John Henry $1.1 billion: And baseball, as well as futures trading – has been very, very good to Red Sox co-owner John Henry, who crashed the list at #375 with $1.1 billion.

What’s the bottom line? The old saying “the rich just get richer” seems to be true, according to Forbes. During a year when so many of us struggled, 65 percent of the 400 richest Americans enjoyed gains in their wealth, while only 18 percent suffered setbacks.

So, no tears for the super-rich if they have to pay more. But keep something in mind – if the government grabbed all the wealth of the top 400 it would be a haul of about a trillion dollars. The current federal deficit is estimated to be more than one-and-a-half trillion. Problem, not solved.

More from Jon Keller
  • Ron T

    But it would be a step in the right direction if the very wealthy would end up paying their fair share with a tax reform, instead of the republican posture of benefit cuts only, affecting low to middle income income seniors!

  • .

    I’m by no means rich but I’m thankful to be in overall good health, especially at my age.

    Now, to address this topic, It appears to me that the money derived from “taxing the rich” won’t be used for deficit or debt reduction, instead the federal government will “blow it.”

    • Stanley11

      My thoughts exactly. My fear is that the money derived from taxing the rich will not go to improving education, job growth, national secutiry, or infrastructure, but rather to social entitlement programs that do nothing for the growth of our country.

      • tsal

        You point is well made. How is it set up so that the money does go to the programs you listed – which it should. Which entitlement programs do you mean?

      • tsal

        As an added comment, because the money may not go where you and I want it to go (and I believe it should) does not excuse paying a fair share.

  • FireGuyFrank

    Hold on, Jon, not so fast. It is important to know HOW Bill Gates “got richer”. It could be that he got richer on paper — Microsoft’s stock price was higher at year-end than the previous year. Therefore, his net worth increases, but it does not mean he actually received cash and had to pay taxes.

    If we paid taxes on net worth rather than cash, can you imagine the nightmare?

    I’m sure Warren Buffett dropped $6 billion in net worth because he wrote checks to various treasuries “to pay his fair share” as he said he ought to, right?

    Or maybe some of his investments tanked. Afterall, it’s been a rough ride on Wall Street.

    • emom

      FireGuyFrank,, Never thought about that way,, I agree, his net worth is far higher than what he gets paid for in actual cash… Its like if we had a 401k , some annuities, cd’s, or other ivestments, we dont pay taxes on them,,, and when we go and use it there are some ways to avoid paying some of those taxes… Its the same as most of these rich people, But what they are living on is the intrest that they recieve on this invested money.. It does make sense,,, But I wonder now if they avoid most of what they can pay in taxes BY investing what they EARN… The use creative ways to get rich and stay rich.. I would love to have 1/16th of what they earn in a year… I would be so happy.

  • tsal

    The rich are sitting on millions. The corporations are sitting on trillions. Where’s the job growth? Clearly having the money is not creating jobs. On the other hand it’s killing them because neither will part with their money to hire.

    The wealthy are paying less taxes than they ever have. Go back to the 1960s tax rates – where they actually had to pay and didn’t have special perks to escape paying. That’s when there were jobs and the wealthy were taxed at a higher rate.

    86% of moderates approve of Obama’s plan to tax the wealthy more and to stop the perks available to them to avoid paying taxes.

    Ron T is correct – no one has ever said this is the only solution. There is not just one solution. But many solutions add up.

    I’d propose an addition to the title of this topic – The Rich Just Get Richer and the rest of us get poorer. We are quickly heading to a two class country where there are a few wealthy people and businesses at the top and the rest of us ………………… well, I don’t even want to think about what is happening to the rest of us.

  • petem

    What is wrong about asking someone making 1mil or 10 mil per year to pay at the same rate as you and I?
    There is nothing wrong with that notion. If the rich feel they are entitled to pay less as a percentage of income than we do, they should stop using all the publicly paid for infrastucture. After all that’s fair isn’t it?

  • foamy

    Warren Buffett was being disingenuous when he said he was being taxed at a lower rate than his secretary and everyone knows it. The majority of his income is from capital and other investment gains which are not taxed at the same level as income. If you are just talking about INCOME TAX, then he pays a much higher rate than his secretary, as do most of the wealthy. It’s another ploy of the left to play “Robin Hood” – even though that is directly contrary to what this country stands for. People that want hand-outs for doing nothing really ought to take a look in the mirror, and if they like what they see, move to Cuba or Venezuela. In this country, living the American dream is NOT a fundamental right, but a priviledge born of hard work and sacrifice.

    • petem

      So I can assume from your comment that you had no help on the way up? No public schools or public roads or public water/sewer that made your path smoother? If you think that the american deram is to only think of YOURSELF, only consider what is in YOUR best interest, never consider that we all get better when we help those that are struggling, then you are SELFISH and you should consider moving to Somalia, the libertarian paradise. No rules, no regulations and best yet, no Government. Make sure you pack your guns though…
      Whoever thaught you what it meant to be an American needs their head examined.

      • foamy

        petem….first, let me say that I was raised in a house where my father REFUSED government help when he was on strike from work. He didn’t believe in hand-outs, and neither do I. The Declaration of Independence says that we’re endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, none of which are to make a living off of the Government. I pay my taxes which affords me access to public schools, emergency services, and the like. You misread (or misunderstood) my comments obviously. I did not say that struggling people don’t deserve help. What I said was that the Government has no business taking more money than constitutionally mandated from anyone – rich or poor – and giving it to other people. Charity is something people do of their own free will. And the notion that “we all get better when we help those who are struggling” is nonsense. I live in a middle class neighborhood, yet I see more Escalades when I drive through Roxbury. I see people spending EBT card money in Hawaii, Vegas, Puerto Rico, and other places they shouldn’t be. I actually know a 16-year old girl who was convinced by a 21-year old guy to get pregnant so “the govenment can give her money and food stamps and a free place to live”. The liberal mantra is to create an entitilement society and from what I see they’re on their way to succeeding.

    • tsal

      foamy I do not think the majority of Americans have asked for a handout. On the contrary, the wealthy and big business is asking for breaks. If Robin Hood means taking from the poor and giving to the rich then you are correct. Who can justify the top 10% receiving 10-14% annual income increases while the bottom receives 0.08% – for over a decade? If that’s the American way then someone, somewhere got his wires crossed.

  • tsal

    Jon – OT – is BZ having a problem with the Web site? I can get on using IE but not Firefox and I know another person having the same problem. Just a heads up.

    • Jon Keller

      tsal — from our web people: “Nothing that we have noticed yet on our end. Firefox is working ok here, but we will look into it.” Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

      • tsal

        Jon thank you for checking. It’s definitely intermittent which of course makes it difficult to pinpoint.

  • tsal

    foamy I see many of the same things you see – and it is wrong and needs correction. Welfare has needed overhaul as long as I can remember and I’m not young – except in my mind.

    I however do not for one minute believe that what you are describing applies to the majority. The majority can hold their heads as high as your dad.

    That being said, under Reagan in the 1980s landmark tax cuts were passed for the wealthy and since then with the exception of a couple of years that has continued . As an example the top federal income tax In 1980 when Reagan took office it was 70%. In 1988 it was 28%. So where does constitional mandate acome into it when the rates for the wealthy are being manipulated largely by the right.

  • foamy

    tsal – I sincerely admire your ability to see the good in people. You’re right – there are some disgusting abusers of the system, but I’ll submit to you that it’s far more rampant than you’re willing to believe. I don’t know if you remember on election night 2008, a woman in Florida – jubilant over the election of “Mr. Hope N Change” – was asked how she felt and she said (paraphrasing) “I don’t have to pay my rent anymore!”. As long as the government keeps taking money to hand out there will be a line longer than there is money.

    Regarding the 1980’s… it just a coincidence then that we saw the single largest peace-time economic expansion in US history during that time? The bottom line is this: Raising taxes removes revenue from the private sector, which suppresses economic growth and job creation. Cutting taxes increases revenue in the private sector, which promotes economic growth and job creation, which in turn pumps more revenue into the goverment coffers. Besides, there is nothing, not one word in the Constitution that authroizes the government to implement an income tax.

    • tsal

      :) To the dismay of some I do have a tendency to see the good in most everything – or at least try. Despite that and being aware that welfare is horribly in need of reform, I will never believe the majority of Americans are abusing or even using welfare.

      The “Reagan prosperity” is believed by some and not by others. I think Reagan’s theories ere the beginning of what we now have. Just as FDRs were the beginning of what created the 50s,60s,early 70s.

      We bought our home in the early 80s with double digit mortgage interest. Within a few years identical homes on our street were selling for three times what we paid. Great for us but not so good for first time home buyers who couldn’t get into the market due to price and also even higher interest rates. The average American was by then trying to figure out what happened to the years where a couple bought a home, one parent stayed home to care for the kids, two incomes were not mandatory. Maybe that is prosperity to some but it sure isn’t to me.

      It’s also hard to forget about black Monday in 1987 and the recession in the early 90s.

      In the 1950s and 60s and early 70s average Americans were receiving the lions share of annual income increases. They had jobs and money to spend. One parent was able to stay home if she/he chose. This was in large part how the left thought it should be. The right had a bit of trouble gaining a foothold until Reagan came up with his trickle down theory. Give the wealthy more money and they’ll create jobs. Keep in mind that the wealthy do not drive the economy – the average American does and 70% of the economy is driven by consumers.

      You can literally trace the income gains as they shifted from average Americans to the wealthy. There are actually people who still think the trickle down theory works. I’m not sure how they explain the fact that employment continues to decline with the corporations and mega rich sitting on tremendous wealth, but they do. I’d call it trickle up but then that’s just me.

  • Ajay

    foamy, I agree that its far more rampant than some on the extreme left want to believe. tsal refuses to believe that the majority are getting any sort of hand out and can hold their heads high. We’re talking about federal income taxes here. In 2010, 51% of the ‘taxpayers” either received more than they put in or paid nothing at all. Yet they all got the same educational opportunities, emergency services and the like. Aren’t those services a sort of hand out that the rest have had to shoulder?
    Maybe we should define what we’re going to call a ‘fair’ share?

    • tsal

      ajay I am giving an opinion – a view – my opinion and my view. That’s exactly what I believe we are supposed to do here. I am not asking or insisting that you believe what I say nor have I ever. When you say I refuse to believe your point of view, in effect you are saying yours is right and mine is not and I have to accept what you say. And please read what I said. Two times I have said that there is tremendous abuse of the welfare system.

      I believe what I believe because to me it seems right and because I enjoy discussions and debates. Period. I am not labeling you and ask you not assign labels to me.

      If you can understand that everyone has different views – none of which are all right or all wrong – then I’d love to continue the discussion with you CONSTRUCTIVELY. Your call

    • Ajay

      Everyone has an opinion. Like everyone else on this board, you offer your opinion as if its fact.Nothing wrong with that, we all do it.
      When I pointed out that you refused to believe something, I was referring to your use of the word ‘majority’ while we were discussing taxes and hand outs. When I went to school, 51% was called a simple majority. If 51% is still a majority and that majority does not pay any federal taxes…. then your statement about majority not receiving hand outs is incorrect.
      We’re all aware of the abuses in the welfare system, just as we are about abuses in any of the government systems. But we’ weren’t talking about the smaller group of abusers. The discussion was about the majority and hand outs.

      • tsal

        Ajay – we will have to agree to disagree. I do not see a deduction available to ALL Americans as a handout. When it is available to a few, then I would consider it a handout.

      • Ajay

        Its not limited to deductions. The federal income taxes are desighed to pay for federal services and expenses. Amoung these are federal roads, national defense, the FDA, FCC, EPA, etc. I would find it hard to believe that anyone can exist in this country without using most of these services.

        Everyone with an income should be subject to some ‘fair share’ of taxes. If 51% are using the federal services and not paying for them…I consider this a form of a hand out. Its something for nothing.

  • tsal

    On the topic of 51% not paying taxes. I think in part that is due to the fact that if you don’t have a job, it’s hard to pay taxes on nothing and true unemployment is closer to 15 or 16% than 9. In part it’s due to the fact that many who have gone back to work have done so at decreased salaries. Some are simply very low income folks who are having trouble in this economy surviving on what they make. It’s difficult at the lower levels to claim any sort of deduction other than the straight forward ones that every other person in this country is claming. But all of these people are working and trying and fighting to stay afloat. I don’t believe not making enough to pay taxes equates to being on welfare. If so we’d have to take a very hard look at some of our mega wealthy and our corporations. What other reasons do you see that I do not? I am sure there are many. These are tough times and some is uncharted territory – although a good deal is not.

    • Ajay

      I agree that the number of non-taxpayers has increased because of the unemployment situation. However, the 51% rate did not happen overnight. Its been creeping up for years. Our lawmakers have been using our tax system as a form of social engineering for decades.
      I would like to see an overhaul of the tax codes to eleimate many, many provisions that shouldn’t (in my opinion) be in the tax code. The purpose of a tax code is to collect taxes, not provide additional income for any number of reasons.

      Although you and I can’t seem to come to terms about the dreaded loopholes, I believe that they should be abolished along with anything not related to tax collection. Anything added to the code as an insentive or credit just clouds the regulations and allows those loopholes. In order to do this, we still need to decide what a fair share of the tax burden should be.

      • Ajay

        Wouldn’t a flat tax have to be the same for everyone?

      • tsal

        Ajay – did you just feel the ground shift a bit ?? :)

        I agree with your above comment. We need tax reform on both ends. At the moment it’s the middle of the road that is being squeezed and unfortunately it’s driving a lot of those in the middle to the bottom.

        So what is fair?

      • Ajay

        I hope it wasn’t an earthquake! If it was, Obama will be blaming it on the Tea Party and the GOP will somehow manage to blame it on Obama.

        ‘Fair” is the question… should we think about a flat tax with no deductions?

      • tsal

        In the end they’d all blame it on the weathermen!! However, it would take several years to get to that.

        A flat tax with the same percentage for everyone or percentage according to income?

      • tsal

        If you make the rate small enough not to cripple small businesses which I know for a fact a flat tax without any use of deductions would do, then the wealthy pay such a small portion of their income they won’t even blink yet the poor pay too much to survive.

        If a person makes $20,000 a year he can’t survive as it is. Health insurance inour present economy costs that much for a family – and that heath insurance comes with high deductibles. So take 15% of that and you have people on welfare right off the start.

        Taking $2000 from someone who makes $20,000 and $25,000 from someone who makes $250,000 makes no sense to me.

        We’d have to get into overinflated salaries :)

  • foamy

    This has been a fun debate Ajay and tsal. Maybe the bozos in Congress could learn a thing or two by reading it :)

  • tsal

    I’ve really enjoyed it foamy. I firmly believe (and yes this is my Pollyanna side) that differences can be worked through because fundamentally we all want the best for this country. Clearly ajay and I have talked on this blog before but I’m trying to remember if you and I have. I have enjoyed seeing your point of view. It’s a great blog. I feel Jon does a great job presenting the facts and the color behind them.

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