Conservatism isn't necessarily about abortion policy, marriage equality, banning books or preventing vaccine mandates... although these are all conservative-adjacent policies. Classically what conservatism is about is preserving the social and economic status quo-- very different from progressivism and also generally different from the kind of fascism that is sweeping the Republican Party.
My old friend Sandy Pearlman didn't invent the word heavy metal. It existed in chemistry as a way of classifying high density, non-degradable metallic elements like mercury, lead, zinc, cadmium, chromium, copper, antimony thallium... But Sandy-- not Lester Bangs (also an old friend but who came years later)-- was the first person to apply the term "heavy metal" to rock music. Similarly, the word "conservatism" existed before François-René, vicomte de Chateaubriand applied it to politics, naming a political weekly journal, be founded in 1818 Le Conservateur. He used the word as part of his defense of religion and monarchy in the immediate aftermath of the French Revolution, when he served in the royalist army assembled by Louis Joseph de Bourbon, Prince de Condé.
A couple of days ago, writing for Business Insider, Juliana Kaplan and Madison Hoff helped explain-- without meaning to-- why billionaires and multimillionaires are spending immense sums on preventing tax reforming candidates from winning congressional seats. "26 billionaires, including Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos," wrote Kaplan and Hoff, "paid just a fraction of the taxes the average American owes." Their average tax rate was 4.8%. Isn't that what guillotines were invented to take care of?
The effective tax rates on wealth growth varied for these billionaires. For instance, the effective tax rate on wealth growth for Jeff Bezos was 1.1%. For Bill Gates, it was 10.7%. The following table shows what the effective tax rates were for 14 billionaires on reported income compared to how much their wealth actually grew.
...The numbers show that billionaires' taxes came out to just a small percent of their increases in wealth. Many of the richest Americans derive most of their wealth from their assets-- things like stocks and bonds. Those are only taxed when they're sold off as capital gains.
Even then, they're taxed at the lower capital gains rate.
For instance, that meant that from 2013 to 2018, Elon Musk reported about $1.5 billion in income, according to Americans for Tax Fairness' analysis. He paid $411 million in taxes on that income-- a 27% effective tax rate. But according to ATF's analysis of Forbes billionaire data, his wealth actually grew by around $20 billion over a similar period. That means the effective tax rate on his wealth growth was actually 2.1%.
Those low tax rates that ATF and ProPublica have uncovered are perfectly legal, and, as the data indicates, have persisted for years. For instance, inequality researchers Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman found that the average tax rate in 2018 for the 400 wealthiest households came in at 23%, while the average American paid 28%.
The White House has also done its own calculations: When accounting for unrealized capital gains-- those assets that are getting more valuable, but aren't sold off-- the 400 wealthiest families in America paid an average 8.2% tax rate from 2010 to 2018.
The Biden administration has repeatedly tried to reform the tax code and cut down on some of the provisions that lead to those low tax rates. In the now-stalled Build Back Better plan, President Joe Biden originally proposed raising the top individual tax rate from 37% to 39.6% for taxpayers who make over $400,000. He also wanted to raise the
capital gains tax rate for Americans who are earning $1 million or more.
However, tax hikes faced stiff resistance from [corrupt, far right, bribe-taking] Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a key vote in Democrats' razor-thin majority. Another pivotal [corrupt, far right, bribe-taking] Sen. Joe Manchin, later pronounced Build Back Better "dead."
In March, Biden released another plan to tax billionaires' wealth. He called it a "Billionaire Minimum Income Tax," where households would pay a 20% minimum tax rate on income that includes their unrealized capital gains. Manchin almost immediately poured cold water on the proposal.
What can I say? What can I say? WHAT? Stop voting for conservatives-- that would be all Republicans and a growing number of Democrats-- the Blue Dogs, the New Dems... the whole Republican wing of the Democratic Party. And if you're in a contributing mood, you can start here with progressives running against Blue Dogs.