Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Toothless in Boulder

OK, ABC seems to have blinked and to have revised the original "stupidest story ever written" and replaced it with one that is marginally more longwinded and slightly less fully frontally moronic. And. Yet.
Not to gnaw on a dead dentist but in the original story, and its hundreds of defences (see tbogg and the comment threads over at ABC) our heroic dentists and lawyers were working so hard that they were sacrificing time for money. Their lives ruled by a combination of honest greed and ambitious individualist altruism, they were working day and night. Under Obama's rapacious tax scheme they have realized that they will never see their hard work rewarded and, instead, the money they make by working harder (longer hours, more clients) will go to the undeserving poor. Both women quoted in the article then explain angrily that they will be forced to let their clients go--the lawyer is particularly passive agressive about this move and plans to cut loose the oldest and weakest first. Its Obama's fault that some little old lady capitalist will go without proper representation! What next? First they came for my lawyer and I didn't object because I pay by the hour and the advice is awful, then they came for my dentist but I didn't object because I have a full set of dentures, next they came for my tax accountant...

The Dentist was particularly annoying. Her solution, as per the original article, was to find any way to lower her income so that she doesn't end up in the hated top bracket. Originally she proposed to do this by working fewer hours, turning away clients and for that reason being forced to cut the hours of her dental hygienist. This is the heroic fantasy of capitalism, by the way, that jobs are "created" out of thin air and ambitious, greed by the captains of industry and small business owners rather than created out of something we call "demand" and "disposable income" that arise from the needs and paychecks of ordinary working Americans. I knew this myth was pernicious but I was only glancingly familiar with it because up until the recent depression I didnt care what stories the wealthy were telling each other over the punchbowl.

The original article was gutted, spitted, and roasted all over these internets with the following points made: A) marginal tax rates apply to the dollars earned in each bracket until you fill the bracket. So you only pay the higher rate on the small portion of your income that pushes you ove the limit. B) Under the worst conditions you are only paying 3 percent more (roughly) on a portion of your income and you may be paying less on the bulk of your income in the lower bracket. C) So when you earn an extra 10,000 dollars all of that money isn't being "taken" by the tax man but only about 2,800 or so. ( As the current edition of the article drily states in the real world people don't turn down an additional X dollars just because its really a slightly smaller remainder than they originally planned on getting.

In addition we explained at length that there was more than one dentist or lawyer in the world and if one or the other or even all of them choose to go "john galt" on us and withdraw their precious services capitalism and need have a way of righting the sinking dental ship since some other, hungrier, dentist will simply fill the drill. And quite possibly for a lower rate of remuneration.

But, they cried, this will result in a lowered tax base since they imagine that everyone in the upper tax bracket will simply "reduce" their income until they fall under the 250,000 mark and thus that some imaginary "lump sum" won't be generated for Obama's evil socialist schemes. Of course lots of people paying a higher amount in a lower tax bracket is a good thing for Obama's tax policy and for the country as a whole. But this is higher math so lets not go there.

My personal favorites over at Tbogg were the various people who said they'd reduce their income and play golf (golf course fees are hugely inflated, as are memberships in country clubs so reducing your income might make that less feasible, or less fun, than it sounds today) and the guy whose wife said he'd drop out of the system and take medicare two years early.

But my favoritist favorite moment came last night when I saw the updated, in semaphore version of the ABC story where they painstakingly and painfully and, if I may say so, very awkwardly try to sandwich their original very stupid interview quotes with an actual explanation of how dumb these people are and how little they grasp the nature of capitalism or taxes or the free market. I particularly love this part:

Marginal or graduated tax systems like the one in the U.S. means only the money earned over a certain amount -- $250,000 in the case of Obama's proposal -- will be taxed at an increased percentage.

Which is meant to give the readers and the idiots who were interviewed a kind of "out" implying that, naturally, the average American was thinking about those other marginal or graduated tax systems used in the galaxy of oinga boinga and just needed a gentle reminder to grasp what was happening to them every April 15th. "Oh, American marginal tax rates?" One imagines Dentist Potocka saying, "I must have misheard you. I knew that."

But, despite coming along with the little broom behind their own interviewees ABC still lets them have the last stupid word and, indeed, they are revealed for the absurdist performance artists we knew them to be.

Dr. Sharon Poczatek, who runs her own dental practice in Boulder, Colo., said that she too is trying to figure out ways to get out of paying the taxes proposed in Obama's plan.

"I've put thought into how to get under $250,000," said Poczatek. "It would mean working fewer days which means having fewer employees, seeing fewer patients and taking time off."

"Generally it means being less productive," she said.

Supportive readers found that to be very frightening. She's been disincentivized! She "won't work as hard" and "fewer patients will be seen" and as a result she'll "have fewer employees!" Pretty soon we'll all be staggering, toothless, through the streets of Boulder while unemployed Dental Hygienists tug at our togas and offer us blow jobs. And all because her hard work was not rewarded.

But wait, as it turns out, it isn't her hard work at all. Her real plan is to have:

"her dental hygienist work fewer days, and byl (sic) seeing fewer patients."

All of a sudden miss hard work turns out to have simply been earning income on her dental hygienist's work. That's an old, old, capitalist story too. But when we own a racehorse we don't talk about how much money we earned because we were so fast.