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Tuesday Talk: What happened to tax fairness?

October 02, 2012 By Joe Sheeran, Communications Director

With a month to go before a major election, Minnesotans are distracted by two amendments that do nothing to move the state forward. The more we’re focused on stopping the proposed anti-marriage and voter ID amendments, the less we’re addressing why Minnesota’s wealthiest should pay their fare share in taxes to adequately fund schools and community services.

“Taxes as percent of income are 16% less for the top 10% compared to the rest of Minnesotans,” according to Minnesota’s revenue commissioner.

What happened to the tax fairness debate this election season? What other issues do you think are missing?

Thanks for participating! Commenting on this conversation is now closed.


  • Paul Setzepfandt says:

    October 2, 2012 at 6:34 am

    Has anyone thought about tax reform?  Also, remember that the only difference between the government and a drunk sailor is that when the drunk sailor runs out of money he quits spending.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    October 2, 2012 at 8:42 am

    I ran across a Guardian article that explains a lot about right-left politics in Minnesota, the US, England and the IMF. 

    In the article, “What Does Conservatism Stand For” (, writer Ed Rooksby tries to isolate the one thing all conservatives seem to have in common—whether they believe taxation is theft or are corporatists or gun enthusiasts or right-wing religious adherents or racists or just don’t like change. 

    What Rooksby describes as their “shared, deeply rooted rationale” is a common commitment to social inequality.  With Edmund Burke, when he was writing of the French Revolution, they fear putting power “into the hands of ‘the swinish multitude,’ thus perverting ‘the natural order of things.’ ” 

    The powerful, privileged monied class gains support from those less well off by, in part, making them feel part of the elite by convincing them that their status is threatened by such groups as immigrants, people on welfare and union members.

    To fix the financial problems (and such as voter suppression) this attitude has created, we need to remove from office all who write legislation that further increases the inequities we now see and elect those whose motivation is to serve the common good. This must begin with a graduated income tax, a commitment to ease the burdens of the poor, and to fully fund education, health care and infrastructure needs.

    A return to the Minnesota Miracle would do much to return our state to economic health. 

  • Mike Downing says:

    October 2, 2012 at 8:48 am

    Never have I ever paid taxes in percents. I have always paid taxes in dollars. In dollars, the rich pay the majority of dollars to support our federal government, our state and our local government.

    I am thankful to the rich for underwriting our bloated governments.

    BTW, rather than writing articles that fuel that terrible human emotion of jealousy, you might consider writing an article of gratitude. Humans feel better when they are grateful rather than feel like they are victims.

  • Joe says:

    October 2, 2012 at 8:53 am

    There’s another wrinkle to fiscal fairness, that’s wage equity. Corporate leaders would rather us bicker amongst ourselves about taxes because their lawyers and lobbyist work to minimize their tax burdens, and always will.
    While we’re arguing over taxes and public spending, they’re free to keep wages stagnant.
    Individually average Minnesotans don’t have lobbyists. But middle class workers have unions and progressive policymakers to advocate for us and rebalanced the fiscal and wage scale. Let’s stop going this alone and work together.

  • Mike Downing says:

    October 2, 2012 at 8:56 am

    Yes Comrade Joe, let’s all work together like Greece and Spain since that has worked so well for those countries!

  • KJC says:

    October 2, 2012 at 11:36 am

    The talks about tax fairness seemed to diminish after the initial success of OCCUPY.  With the CRS (Library of Congress) study I put the link to last week?  This discussion should be mostly over.  Looking at Top Tax Rates since 1945 and then looking for correlation, using mathematical regression analysis, what did they find? 
    No correlation with economic growth, savings or productivity.  None, zero, zip, nada.  Oh, there was a correlation to?  The rich (only) getting richer.  Those are the immutable facts, it’s not just opinion and cheap talk.
    The fundamental basis of the Republican economic argument: tax cuts to a wealthy, supposed “job creator” class is proven false… and our worst fears that it was just a ruse for them to put in less was proven. 
    I thought “supply side/trickle down” economics was risky… as George H.W. Bush said at the time “voodoo economics” but we tried it.  (They made him VP, and he went quiet.)  Now the results are in, and they are not ambiguous.  None of that worked.  As to why this study isn’t in every newspaper in the country, and talked about on news programs everywhere?  That’s a real good question.  It sure ends the “liberal media” complaint… if that were true, this would be everywhere.  But it isn’t.
    You’d have to go look it up, or click on the link I sent last week.
    Tax fairness, and adequate revenue to run a government?  Why talk about that, when Lindsay Lohan has probably done something?  I call that?  Fluff media, not liberal media..
    The public will have to insist… with their actions.. on better.  You “get what you are willing pay for…”

  • TONY says:

    October 2, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    Wow, Mike’s calling names. Better than answering the points brought up. He has no answer for the fact that the lowest income percentile pays 25% of their income in state & local taxes & the top pay 8%. Our grandparents figured out that the sweat of their brow created the profits that management took home & so asked for a small percentage of it back in taxes & they created the middle class. Good roads & schools, you know…the American dream. Now Mike is asking for that back. An educated empowered middleclass is a threat to the plutocracy that he bows down to. What’s the saying? “let them eat cake”. Return to a progressive system & your children will have a piece of that dream. Keep what we have and see the end of the middleclass.

  • Mike Downing says:

    October 2, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    Tony, look at the facts. The U.S. tax system is more progressive than that of Europe. And Europe does not have 53% of it’s populations paying 100% of their income taxes.

  • tony says:

    October 2, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    Mike, I noticed you ignored my tax numbers that the lowest 25% of Minnesotans pay 3 times the percentage that the wealthiest pays. As to your Fox number about the 47%, remember that also includes 1000 millionairs who paid 0% taxes. Also remember that the bottom 60% of Americans only control 2.3% of the wealth in the US. Something about “blood from a turnip”. Oh and we are no where as progressive as Europe, I have family there.

  • Mike Downing says:

    October 2, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    Tony, ignorance is bliss isn’t it?!

    Go to:

    You’ll find that the top 1% pay 36.7%, the top 5% pay 58.6%, the top 10% pay 70.4%, the top 25% pay 87.3% and the top 50% pay 97.7% of all federal income taxes (we pay taxes in dollars Tony!).

    Now compare that to Europe and educate yourself on how progressive the US income tax system is compared to Europe!

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    October 3, 2012 at 8:59 am

    Mike:  I don’t believe the statistics you cite mean anything.  What does is the fact that the wealthy in America—with the help of the Bush tax cuts and laws that allowed banks to invest our deposits for their own profit—do not pay the same proportion of their income in taxes as do regular people.

    In effect, those who make hundreds of millions of dollars a year are being subsidized by you, me and all who do not earn enough to make a major part of our income by investing what is left over after paying our basic expenses.

  • KJC says:

    October 3, 2012 at 9:19 am

    Mike you are so full of it.  You put up as a link to a group who’s headline is “advocate for overburdened taxpayers.”  That “overburdened” word indicates brazen bias, on the face of it.  And, of course it only talks about income taxes.  Not sales taxes, property taxes, and social security taxes, etc.  Which is how the “44%” do end paying 25% of their income in taxes. 
    So you are NOT talking about the total tax burden.  You either don’t know the difference or are promoting deliberate misinformation.  Either way, shame on you.
    Again, I put up the link to the real information.  By the Library of Congress… paid for by the taxpayers, not some Group with an Agenda.  It answer the real questions.  What’s been the affect of that whole tax burden on our great country?  Did cutting taxes on the wealthy, counting on “trickle down” from the Reagan and Bush years work?  Did the economy grow as a result?  Did it fuel productivity?  And who got the results of our country’s production?  All the questions behind the ineffective squabbling that’s going on here.  I’ve put this up before… apparently some didn’t read it.  Skip to page 16 for the conclusions, if you’re low on time.  The math is in on all this, and it isn’t ambiguous.  None of the supply side/ trickle down economics worked for the whole economy and populace.. but it did for the rich, they (alone) got richer.  As of Septembe4 14, 2012 this is not mere opinion any it’s mathematical fact.  Please read it! 


  • Mike Downing says:

    October 3, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Bernice, while we disagree on most topics. I believe we will have real federal tax reform over the next two years that will address both your and my issues with the current inexplicable tax code. This tax reform will eliminate most of the current tax deductions that both liberal and conservative lobbyists have placed in our tax code in order to reduce tax rates. It will dramatically reduce deductions for the rich. I do hope it also broadens the base for more people to pay federal income taxes since it is unsustainable for only 53% of Americans to pay 100% of federal income taxes or the top 50% paying 97.75% of all federal income taxes.

  • Mike Downing says:

    October 3, 2012 at 11:22 am

    KJC, can you not comprehend that we pay income taxes in dollars? Can you not comprehend the Nat’l Taxpayers Union obtains its data directly from the IRS that is expressed in dollars paid by income classification? Please read the footnote on the tables “Source: Internal Revenue Service” rather than attacking real facts & data with feelings & emotions.

  • KJC says:

    October 3, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    I didn’t say the facts were inaccurate.  Just that their use is distorted by having such a narrow agenda going in.  The “overburdened” word is a self-admission that they aren’t looking at the whole picture objectively.  And that is exactly what’s needed.  You complain about all the tinkering that’s been done, and then you give?  “Tinkered” facts.  We must look at the whole system, the results that it has produced, and check the assumptions behind it all.  Anything less is already doomed to fail… isn’t that lesson also already clear?

  • Sue B says:

    October 3, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    To Joe Sheeran,

    I submitted a comment on this issue yesterday evening (Tuesday, October 2).  I just checked back this afternoon to see if there had been any response, and my comment isn’t there.  Why?  I don’t believe there was anything offensive in the comment, so I don’t understand why it wasn’t included.

  • Rachel says:

    October 3, 2012 at 3:45 pm


    I’m terribly sorry, but we never got your comment! I have thus far opened everything submitted to this thread.

    We would love to have you resubmit.

    MN2020 Communications

  • Dan says:

    October 3, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    From your numbers, it appears that 47% pay nothing.  Keep in mind that 47% was my son while he spent 28 months in Iraq along with hundreds of thousands of other service members deployed during our wars.  While deployed they are exempt from taxation on their income.  What would your %‘s show if they were excluded in your computations?

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    October 4, 2012 at 8:40 am

    The 47% also includes the millions of people who are stuck in low-wage jobs and make so little that there is no federal income tax due.  They still pay state and local income, sales, property, gas, auto license and other taxes.  Others are low-income seniors, young people and the disabled.

    Mitt Romney’s remarks about the 47% who pay “no taxes” reveal his contempt for those who need governmental help.  He actually used the word “takers,” a term favored by Grover Norquist (father of the no-new-taxes doctrine) when describing his other organization, The Leave Us Alone Coalition.

    He founded this one to combat the Takings coalition which, among others, includes “those who make $80,000 a year managing the dependency of others and making sure they don’t get jobs and become Republicans.”

  • Mike Downing says:

    October 4, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Bernice, do you know of ANY other country where 47% are not paying federal income taxes? How is this sustainable? Is this not divisive?

  • KJC says:

    October 4, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    We are sounding more like Germany in the 30’s all the time.  I am not interested in replaying that, are you?  Yes, that was when groups of people were demonized for political power purposes.  It went unchecked… and we all know how that turned out, don’t we?  Years of ignoring the ramp-up of ever more severe actions didn’t work, and then we had five years of global war to finally deal with it.  How much blood and treasure was spent because good people…everywhere… wouldn’t speak up for others earlier?
    As for those in the 53% making the 47% out to be getting some kind of moochers that are getting a good deal in all this?  If they’ve got it so easy, please let me know when you want to trade places with one them?  Oh, you don’t want to do that?  I thought so.  Maybe think about that before you make ugly and self-righteous comments ...sometime dressed-up in phony intellectualism… deriding them?  Since you won’t trade places, consider shooting your mouth off in negativity towards them makes your hypocrisy obvious to the whole world.

  • tony says:

    October 4, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Mikey, the 47% includes millionaires as well as some guy making $15000/year w/a wife & 2 kids. Now I know you think it’s cool for the millionaires but the guy is already paying 25% of his income in state & local taxes & yes is paying federal payroll taxes also. How much food do you have to take from his kids so you can fund the Romney tax cuts for your wealthy patrons? As for other countries, most of the world is third world where people make less than $1000 per year. In Europe the tax rates are about the same but that includes their healthcare(which has better outcomes than ours), better transit, better retirement and on & on. Under Bush the market tanked at 6000 & is now over 13000. 97.3% of that increase went to the top 1%. Where do you think addl. taxes should come from?

  • Mike Downing says:

    October 4, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    KJC, 50+ years ago we were all at the same place. Some of us made good life choices and some made poor life choices. Some of us chose to take full advantage of our educational opportunities and some did not.

    Mitt Romney and we conservatives do & will gladly pay for those with physical & mental disabilities that need our help; that safety net has been and will be there. However, we do not owe others a dime if they made poor life choices and did not take advantage of their educational opportunities. It really is that simple.

  • KJC says:

    October 4, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    Mike, thank you so much… for proving my point.  Your constant desire for proving your superior “separateness,” and running down of others less fortunate, is exactly the kind of push-for-dominance-that-brings-big-trouble talk from Germany in the 30’s.  Consider keeping up in posting this, if you want to prove to everybody that it isn’t a temporary condition.

  • Dan says:

    October 5, 2012 at 12:29 am

    Mike, you said, “However, we do not owe others a dime…“I deeply disagree with your view.  How dare you claim that those hundreds of thousands of men and women that voluntarily put on a uniform and went to war in foreign lands to protect our country, and you, made a poor decision.  There are hundreds of thousands of them and they do not pay taxes while deployed.  They are part of the 47% that you look down upon as something less that yourself.  What have you done for our country? I would guess nothing close to what they have given.  You and I owe them an great deal more than a dime.

  • KJC says:

    October 5, 2012 at 8:18 am

    You have it so right Dan.  Back in ‘04 I got a specific request from a serviceman who was in Iraq.  After talks with the Pentagon, well, it was clear about what was needed, and what would be good for them.  I prevailed upon my friends and business people that I knew to start a non-profit to serve them immediately upon their return to The States.  Then we raised nearly a $1M in initial resources to get started. Subsequently I spent many days on military bases with our valiant and deserving troops, personally delivering for them.  To me, everyday was a miracle. So?  Even though as a board member I am an unpaid volunteer, I get so much more than mere money.  We enrich the lives of the men and women, and their families, who have risked everything for all of us and for our cherished freedoms… just possibly saving some of our young heroes lives, too.  After the first tour? The base requests just kept coming in… so we’ve stayed at it.  When I look in retrospect, what do I feel?  Having spent time with them, I am humbled, for anything that I have done over those years is nothing more than the tiniest down payment on what each and every one of our deserving service men and women have done in serving our great country.  Dan you have it so right, we really do owe all of them… 

  • tony says:

    October 5, 2012 at 8:47 am

    Mike, you act as if you are not part of the “47” but in fact we all are. Everytime you drive on a road, if your kids go to school(private are subsidized too), go to the library, your years in college,you go to the zoo, your roads are plowed, a cop or fireman shows up at your house, your business empire gets a tax break, grandpa’s medical bills are paid by Medicare or he gets his social security check, you quote CBO or IRS statistics, somebody’s kid get hurt in Afghanistan or you watch tv. All of these have government involvement & are paid by state & federal taxes. Paid by all income earning people. We all suck off the government teat. George Bush increased the earned income tax credit which lessened the number of people paying income taxes but they still pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than you. Our grandparents realized that they could tax the wealthy a little more and raise all boats & they created the middleclass. Why, because there are more of us than you, it’s called Democracy. I notice you dont answer my notes, maybe my “educational opportunities” were better than yours…

  • Mike Downing says:

    October 8, 2012 at 9:00 am

    The following accurately states the obvious on all the “free stuff” gov’t is using to buy votes:

    The folks who are getting the free stuff don’t like the folks who are paying for the free stuff, because the folks who are paying for the free stuff can no longer afford to pay for both the free stuff and their own stuff.

    And, the folks who are paying for the free stuff want the free stuff to stop.

    And the folks who are getting the free stuff want even more free stuff on top of the free stuff they are already getting!

    Now… the people who are forcing the people who pay for the free stuff have told the people who are RECEIVING the free stuff that the people who are PAYING for the free stuff are being mean, prejudiced, and racist.

    So… the people who are GETTING the free stuff have been convinced they need to hate the people who are paying for the free stuff by the people who are forcing some people to pay for their free stuff and giving them the free stuff in the first place.

    We have let the free stuff giving go on for so long that there are now more people getting free stuff than paying for the free stuff.

    Now understand this. All great democracies have committed financial suicide somewhere between 200 and 250 years after being founded. The reason?

    The voters figured out they could vote themselves money from the treasury by electing people who promised to give them money from the treasury in exchange for electing them.

    The United States officially became a Republic in 1776, 236 years ago. The number of people now getting free stuff outnumbers the people paying for the free stuff. We have one chance to change that in 2012. Failure to change that spells the end of the United States as we know it.

  • tony says:

    October 8, 2012 at 9:17 am

    Mikey, name one great democracy that failed after 200+ years due to your reasoning….

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    October 8, 2012 at 9:21 am

    Hi Mike:

    1)  Successful democracies use capitalism to create wealth, BUT since capitalism tends to concentrate that wealth at the top—leaving those at the bottom to starve or die from lack of health care—they use the power of government to redistribute some of that wealth.  The big earners, after all, are supported by all those who contribute to the cost of infrastructure, education, public amenities and services—which is everyone, rich and poor.

    2)  Rome, England and Germany lost their claim to empire or global hegemony by greatly overextending themselves militarily to the detriment of the common good in their own countries, which then decayed.  It would seem we are on the same path.

  • Mike Downing says:

    October 8, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    Yes Bernice, we are on the same path as Greece I, Rome, Greece II, Spain, Portugal and Italy. It happens every time when the takers exceed the number of makers.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    October 9, 2012 at 8:49 am

    Good morning, Mike. The Walton family has become so rich from Walmart it could almost buy Greece by now. To make profits like theirs, though,they had to hurt those you call the “takers.”

    A few years ago (and it probably hasn’t changed), Walmart paid its employees well below a living wage and then taught them how to apply for food stamps and other public help to be paid for with our tax dollars.

    So are these workers the “takers” or are the “takers” actually the Walton family?

  • tony says:

    October 9, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    Hey Guys, Mike is one of those people that feels that we should belong to a feudal society with a “Lord” & we are all his minions. Because of that, he is willing to give all his authority, both legal & financial, to the Koch Bros. or whoever will run the country if Romney gets in. Now he thinks that because he makes more than you or I that he is one of the priviledged few, but he will eventually learn that that is a select club that he will never belong to & they think of him, what he thinks of us. Maybe then he will learn that an energized electorate can return power to the people & we can once again have the government laws & services that empowered the middleclass. Yes, the wealthy pay more of the taxes but they pay a much smaller percentage than you or I. A progressive tax system empowers the middleclass & we are losing that. Romney paid 13.9% & I paid 35%. Warren Buffett offered 1 million dollars to any CEO that paid a higher percentage than his secretary & got no takers. Mikey, did you know that 70% of the Fortune 500 CEO’s pay no income taxes.  Whose the wealfare queen now.

  • Mike Downing says:

    October 9, 2012 at 2:10 pm


    I don’t shop at Wally World but for a different reason than you. Wally World treats their suppliers terribly and forced their suppliers to go to China to reduce costs. The job transfer to China started with Wally World.

    Wally World do not treat their customers much better. Wally World treats their employees terribly as well. I will pay a higher price to shop elsewhere.

    The makers are the ones who take advantage of their educational opportunities, are life long learners, change & adapt, have ideas, sell their ideas, take risks, produce products or services the world needs.

    Their are some takers who have physical or psychological handicaps who sincerely need our help and that safety net is indeed necessary and appropriate. This maybe 5% or up to 10% of our population. However, it certainly is not the 45-50% of Americans who no longer pay federal income tax.

    Most of the takers had & still have the opportunity to improve their skills to work at companies other than Wally World.