I'm old enough to remember when many animation artists had sky-high salaries and people thought of them as lucky duckies who were super rich.
But not so much anymore. Now artists in the 'toon business make pretty regular money, sometime less than regular money, and have learned to adjust their living standards accordingly.
Yet they still pay taxes, and often more than they'd like. So here on April 15th, let us trip through a short history of the tax levies that everybody pays:
In 2011 the Bush tax cuts will expire, and President Obama plans to also close various loopholes. As Peter Orszag, Obama’s budget director, delicately says of the rich, “We are asking them to pitch in a bit more.” The current moment has the feel of an inflection point for the American wealthy, like the stock-market crash of 1929 or the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 ...
[T]ax rates on top incomes used to be far higher than they are today. The top marginal rate hovered around 90 percent in the 1940s, ’50s and early ’60s. Reagan ultimately reduced it to 28 percent, and it is now 35 percent. Obama would raise it to 39.6 percent, where it was under Bill Clinton ...
For a married couple in 1960, for example, the 38 percent tax bracket started at $20,000, which is about $145,000 in today’s terms. The top bracket of 91 percent began at $400,000, which is the equivalent of nearly $3 million now. Some of the old brackets are truly stunning: in 1935, Franklin D. Roosevelt raised the top rate to 79 percent, from 63 percent, and raised the income level that qualified for that rate to $5 million (about $75 million today) from $1 million. As the economist Bruce Bartlett has noted, that 79 percent rate apparently applied to only one person in the entire country, John D. Rockefeller ...
I'm a classical cynic regarding taxes. They go up, they go down, we live with them.
And I'm a cynic about government spending. In the time I've been alive, the federal budget has been balanced under Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, and Bill Clinton. In each of those cases, it was never balanced for long. Mostly it was way out of balance, and we ran a large tab. (Startling, yes?)
The thing I got clued to years ago was: Sooner or later, somebody has to pay for all the expenditures, it's just a matter of who and when. You can have 1) progressive taxes (where the rich pay more), 2) regressive taxes (where the middle class pays more), or 3) under taxes where everybody pays less than the government is spending.
Most times, we opt for 3), with a dash of 1) or 2) thrown in for spice. The 3) scenario is always enticing, because that shifts the costs to the future where inflation becomes the tax and chews away at everybody, but mainly the middle class and old people living on fixed incomes.
I used to get ticked off and whine about the "unfairness" of it all, but I don't anymore. It's like complaining about the weather, or our charming corporatist state, or global warming. You don't like those things, work to change them to something you like better. But constant complaining, that gets old, you know?
So. Go pay your taxes. Know that taxes will always be there, often in amounts that displease you, but you'll (probably) survive. And know that whatever the tax rates are now, they'll be changing.
They always do.