Friday, October 21, 2011

Herman Cain thinks he's helping poor people

Today's Herman Cain news is that he says "if you are at or below the poverty level, your plan isn't 9-9-9. It's 9-0-9." Then, being the fucking asshole that he is, he follows that up with "Say Amen, y'all", as if to put an exclamation point on the tremendous gift he's given the poor among us. The middle number is the income tax, so people in poverty are excused from that portion.

So, let's fire up the arithmetic machine and see what effect 9-9-9 would have on the average family of 4 living at the poverty line. For a family of four, the poverty line is at $22,050, so let's look at a family making $22,000 a year. Sneak preview, they will be $6,878* worse off should 9-9-9 (which is 9-0-9 for them) come to pass:

-McDonald's has to pay 7.65% in payroll taxes, so they have to spend $23,683 to hire a worker with a $22,000 salary, with the extra $1,683 going to Uncle Sam
-The family also must pay 7.65% in payroll taxes, so there goes another $1,683
-The standard deduction for a married couple is $11,400, dropping their taxable income to $10,600
-The personal exemption ($3,650 per family member) drops their taxable income to $0
-As you might expect, this drops their owed income tax to $0
-Not only do they not owe any income taxes, they get additional, refundable credits, including:

-Earned Income Tax Credit (.pdf, Page 46): For a family of 4 making $22,000, they would get a tax credit of $4,917. This credit is refundable (i.e., they get a check from the government for $4,917 every year
-Child Tax Credit: Under current law, after the stimulus peters out, our family would get a $1,417 refundable tax credit (it'd be $2,000 today)

So the family's total tax bill would be $1,683 in payroll taxes, plus $1,683 that their employer pays. They get a credit of $6,334. So their personal tax bill is currently a net credit of $4,651, or $2,968 when you include the employer's portion, which you should.

Now President Cain institutes 9-9-9 (or 9-0-9 for the poor). In the process, he completely eliminates the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. Here's the math:

-McDonald's is still willing to spend $23,683 to employ the family's breadwinner ($22,000 + employer's contribution toward Social Security and Medicare)
-Under Cain's plan, McDonald's has to pay a 9% tax on that money, reducing the gross pay of the family to $21,551, since 9% is more than 7.65%, with the other $2,132 going to Uncle Sam.
-The family will, according to the Consumer Expenditure Survey, be expected to spend even more than their income (i.e., go into debt) every year. Let's assume they just spend their income.
-If you were to spend $21,551 including a 9% sales tax, you'd spend $19,772 on stuff and $1,779 in taxes.

So our family pays $1,779 in direct taxes, or $3,910 if you include the employer's portion, which you should.

Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan, even with the 9-0-9 change, changes the tax bill for a family in povery from a $2,968 credit to a $3,910 liability. This is $6,878 less that a family already IN POVERTY would have every year if Cain's plan becomes the law of the land.

Say Amen to that, you fucking asshole

(*an earlier version of these calculations used a wrong poverty threshold, which was taken from Herman Cain's website (.pdf, table 6). Serves me right for taking numbers from a source I spend the entire post attempting to rip to shreds.)


NWest said...

Everyone, even the poor, should have some skin in the game - otherwise you end up with an entitled class who gets things without paying for them.

Don't dissemble - call the "earned income credit" what it is - a check written by the taxpayers (the top 50% of income earners) to the so-called "poor".

If we want to pay people money for being poor, let this be handled by the states and local governments. We can't continue to borrow money to pay people to be poor.

PoliticalDoctor said...

They do have skin in the game , in the form of payroll taxes, sales taxes, property taxes (via rent) and such.

To say that the problem with society is that the working poor (or teachers, or cops, or medicare beneficiaries) are where the problem is strikes me as kind of misguided, particularly given the yawning chasm between the living situation of the 1% vs the rest of us.