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Regressive Income Taxes

A news article that the EU finance ministers are going to meet to discuss how US financial problems will impact the EU raised a question in my mind about how the US would fit into the EU.

Previously the Wall Street Journal printed an op-ed suggesting that the US join some larger currency scheme that would take the pressure off the dollar as an international exchange currency. The problem with that is that when you join such an international scheme, you have to conform to certain standards.

The above article on the EU says that EU countries must keep their budget deficit below 3% of GDP to meet Euro guidelines. That made me wonder if the US would qualify to join the Euro regime. It took me a while to find what appeared to be a reliable table giving budget deficit estimates as a percentage of GDP. Finally, I found this one by the Congressional Budget Office done in 2004, with projections for future years.

What surprised me was that we would meet the 3% guidelines overall, by taking into account the Social Security “off-budget” SURPLUS. The projected overall budget deficit for 2007 is only 2% of GDP. But the “on-budget” deficit is 3.6%. The 3.6% is the budget actually approved by the President and Congress. BUT, there is a 1.6% Social Security SURPLUS. So, the working people who fund Social Security through payroll taxes are in surplus, while the rich people, who got the huge Bush tax cuts and who pay no payroll tax on the millions they earn above the approximately $90,000 ceiling on income subject to the payroll tax, are causing a budget deficit in excess of the EU guidelines for good government.

This is truly a government of Robin Hood’s Sheriff of Nottingham that takes from the poor and gives to the rich. A fat cat who paid social security payroll taxes on maybe 5 or 10 percent of his income during his earning years (as opposed to most salaried workers who pay the tax on 100% of their earnings), and who then retires and lives off of his investments, can collect 100% of his social security, while workers who still earn a salary after age 62 have their social security payments reduced by a formula linked to how much they continue to earn.

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