Apr/May 2015  •   Salon

The Other April Fools' Day

by Tom Dooley

Photograph by Rus Bowden

Photograph by Rus Bowden

Our Spring issue is supposed to come out on April 1st, but I generally find a reason to push it to April 15th. Primarily because I need another couple weeks to get it together, but in the back of my mind, I suspect there's an unconscious resistance to revealing a labor of love on a day reserved for liars and dupes.

Ah, but then there's April 15th, a day also dedicated to confusion and misdirection, without any lighthearted prankishness for comic relief.

Yes, it's tax time again. Right on cue, conservative talk radio hosts are complaining about how the top 20 percent of income earners are paying 86 percent of the taxes in this country. Not sure where they're getting their numbers—such statistics are usually a few years old and subject to debate and interpretation. However, I would posit the top 20 percent is a misleading place to start, because the way income brackets shake out in America, the "top 20" is far too big a tent to allow for meaningful distinctions. It makes a little more sense to look at the top one percent.

The Blaze website (Glenn Beck's answer to The Huffington Post) laments the wealthiest Americans (a debatable description for the top one percent, because this includes households making a scant $1.4 million, which is the size of some CEO's holiday bonuses) are paying a whopping 30.2 percent of the taxes in this country. Beck's minions fail to mention the top one percent already possessed 35.4 percent of the wealth in America in 2010, a share that has certainly gotten larger in the last five years. If we restricted the aperture to the super, super rich, like the ever popular-to-hate-upon Koch brothers, we would see an even greater disparity between percent owned, earned, and taxes paid. In other words, the wealthy pay most of the taxes in this country, sure, but they actually own an even greater percentage of the stuff, a pile of wealth they are sitting on like Scrooge McDuck, and this pile is getting bigger every year because the super wealthy make a larger percentage of the income in America than the percentage of overall tax burden they pay.

So when a conservative radio personality like Phil Valentine says things like, "We need to stop raping the producers in this country," as he did on the afternoon of April 10th (and probably on many other occasions), he is not only completely wrong, he's actually adding insult to injury. Insulting particularly to the majority (but dwindling majority) of Americans in the so called middle class, whom I will define here as people who earn enough to pay taxes, but not enough to buy Congressmen.