Much to my surprise, a recent article that I wrote for one of my regular clients seems to have touched a very very raw nerve.
The article is a fairly simple one. After the fiscal cliff compromise to end the Bush-era tax cuts on those who singly make $400,000 or jointly make $450,000 per year, I was really curious as to who is in that particular income bracket. I don't know anyone making that kind of money, and I'm not even sure what professions offer those kinds of salaries. So, I decided to do a short article on who brings in $400,000 per year.
In fact, I found it fairly difficult to find good information on the subject. My usual go-to source for salary information--the Department of Labor Statistics--was not searchable for income, and even most top 10 articles about high-earning professions seem to top out at about $200,000. I'm now realizing that is because often people earning that kind of dough are probably self-employed/small business owners. It's harder to generalize their salary expectations.
In any case, my very simple piece that listed four professions (the President, CEOs, surgeons and specialists, and Wall Street bankers and lawyers) that can expect to see their taxes go up on every dollar they earn over $400,000 seems to have set off a firestorm. Commenters on both sides of the spectrum are calling each other lazy good-for-nothings. Atlas Shrugged (both positively and negatively) has been referenced multiple times. People have shown a basic lack of understanding of the progressive tax rate and have referred to government as thugs and those on welfare as leeches. In short, it's been pretty vitriolic.
If you're a long time reader of this blog, you probably can't help but notice that I have some liberal tendencies. But I try very hard to see things from multiple points of view. The conservative and/or wealthy commenters who are very resentful of having to pay more because of their success aren't wrong for feeling that way, and I certainly recognize that fact. I remember the first time I got a paycheck that I actually needed to use for rent. I was horrified at the amount that was taken out for taxes, and every time I collected my paycheck back then, I thought over and over again that I would be able to live much more comfortably if I saw every penny of my earnings.
As I've gotten older, my paychecks have gotten bigger, as has the chunk that Uncle Sam takes. There are times when it's annoying or a hardship.
But I ultimately don't mind that I pay taxes. Yes, the government mismanages money and uses my tax dollars for things that I hate. But our government also works remarkably well, when you compare it to the alternatives. I have decent roads to drive on and decent schools to send my kid to and decent programs to help him and other babies with delays and so on. I know that I can expect that the infrastructure of our society will generally work pretty well. It's not perfect, but looking for perfect in conjunction with anything created by humans is a fool's errand.
And now that I'm no longer working for $8.25 an hour at Barnes & Noble, like I was all those years ago, I don't really feel the bite of taxes like I did when I was struggling to make rent. I make only moderately decent money right now as a part-time at-home freelance blogger. The money I earn comes directly to me, which means I need to set tax money aside myself or else I'll be scrambling come tax time. Even though I manually transfer 35% of every paycheck over to a savings account, I still don't mind paying taxes. I see it as so much better than the alternative.
I know that it is difficult to see your hard-earned money go to something you despise. I know that it's really tough to live under a political system that you distrust and that seems pretty darn incompetent, for all intents and purposes. But I really do wish that everyone on both sides of the debate who is getting spittle-flecked with rage on my (and other) forums would take a moment to look at the alternatives out there. No, we may not be perfect, or anywhere in the same zip code as perfect. But we've got it pretty good compared to other places I could mention.
Ultimately, I'd love for the level of our debate to be toned down a notch or 17. Disagreement does not denote evil. I should not wince every time I get a new comment from either end of the spectrum. We're all people and we're all Americans. Surely we can find something in common to agree on.
Even if it's just that Atlas Shrugged is a really really long book.