Thursday, August 26, 2010

Taxes, the rich, and the Democrats

Recently, in a discussion of Social Security and the deficit, I suggested:

There are rich people in this country. ... If they are worried about a future shortfall in Social Security, let them pay for it by raising the cap on the tax so they pay a fairer share.

This seems like a no-brainer to me: if the government needs money to meet its obligations, go to the people who have the money and make them pay up.

Dylan Matthews has provided a visual answer to where those rich people who could pay more taxes are located. Here's the map. The yellow and lighter greens have more rich people than the median; the blues less.
He spells it out:

About 3.96 percent of American households make over $200,000 a year. Thirty-eight states have lower percentages than that, and twelve and the District of Columbia have higher ones. Seven states have a percentage of less than 2 percent (West Virginia is lowest with 1.36 percent), 21 have a percentage between 2 and 3 percent, 11 have one between 3 and 4 percent, and four have one between 4 and 5 percent. New York and Virginia are both at about 5.6 percent, and California and Massachusetts are around 6.2 percent. Maryland is at 6.8 percent, New Jersey at 7.46 percent, Connecticut at 7.95 percent, and D.C. tops the list with 8.37 percent.

Watching television and listening to politicians who want to cut taxes, you'd think an awful lot more of us than those small percentages belonged to upper income brackets. But apparently not, according to census data.

Matthews pointed out another notable fact about where the rich are located:

[In the Senate] ... only two Republicans -- Judd Gregg [NH] and Scott Brown [MA]-- were elected from the 12 states above the national average, which would benefit the most from GOP-backed efforts to extend the Bush tax cuts in their entirety.

Apparently cutting taxes for the rich is not a winning stance for politicians from the places where higher percentages of the rich reside.

Andrew Gelman has done the job of showing that rich people are more reliably Republican voters in poorer states than in richer states. That might help explain this apparent discrepancy, that anti-tax Senators come overwhelmingly from states where their rich people would benefit less from continued low taxes.

The contemporary Democratic coalition is often charged with being based in elites. Gelman has pointed out that it is the heavy preference among college educated voters with incomes up to around $75000 that lets those who wish to do so make that claim. It's true; doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, and office workers do tend to be Democrats in all states. Their earnings do exceed the national median income. But they aren't the rich. They are the successful middle class whose allegiance makes democratic government work. Democrats are the party of the educated, not the rich.

1 comment:

Darlene said...

I love it that the Democrats are the party of the educated. Since the tea partiers and mostly Republican it's logical.

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