Picking rich people’s pockets is profitable


Massachusetts leads the way! They placed a wealth tax on rich people and gleaned over a billion dollars, which sounds like a good deal to me.

Massachusetts’ so-called “millionaires tax” appears primed to actually deliver billions.

State officials said Monday that the voter-approved surtax on high earners has generated more than $1.8 billion in revenue this fiscal year — with still three months left to go — meaning state officials could have hundreds of millions of surplus dollars to spend on transportation and education initiatives.

Education? That’s a great priority. Also transportation is a good idea, if it’s being invested in mass transit.

They had some reservations, though, that it might scare the rich people away.

The Department of Revenue won’t certify the official amount raised until later this year. But the estimates immediately buoyed supporters’ claims that the surtax would deliver much-needed revenue for the state despite fears it could drive out some of the state’s wealthiest residents.

I would like to help Massachusetts. If every state imposed a wealth tax, the looters would have nowhere to run to!

Comments

  1. says

    I think people would have a more relevant notion of money if a ‘billion’ dollars was always stated as, 1000 million dollars.

  2. Scott Simmons says

    Well, they could flee the country. Just imagine what a disaster it would be if, say, Elon Musk retreated back to South Africa!
    I mean, don’t you have any pity for the poor South Africans?

  3. raven says

    Voters approved the measure in 2022 to levy an additional 4 percent tax on annual earnings over $1 million. At the time, the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, a left-leaning think tank, projected it could generate at least $2 billion a year.

    It isn’t a wealth tax.

    It is an income tax.
    It is a 4% additional tax bracket on income over $1 million a year.
    There aren’t a lot of people that make over $1 million a year.

  4. StevoR says

    Which pick pocket targets the poor given they have less money and more likely to be accutely aware of it, hold tight to it and most likely to fight for it because they really need it whreas the rich can afford to part with it and still live well? (Of course now money is electronic too often rather than physical which makes things far different from the old Dickensian times which the Oligarchs see as the good ole days..Oliver Twist springs to mind here.)

  5. StevoR says

    The poor spend becuase they have to, the rich hoard and hide becuase they can.

  6. birgerjohansson says

    StevoR @ 7
    And that is why an economic stimulus aimed at low-income demographics will instantly stimulate the economy, while a tax break for the rich will not.

  7. garnetstar says

    Bronze Dog @3, yes! Massachusetts also was first with marriage equality and “Romneycare”, which became Obamacare. Now those two are both nation-wide laws, let’s hope that this one becomes that too! Because the MA example shows that these policies won’t stop the earth from spinning on its axis, it make the case that the nation can do it as well.

  8. Kipp Kipp says

    I’m always baffled at this ‘they’ll leave’ thing. Like that’s bad? Good, let them go and stop being a drain on resources and a weight on everyone, making things more expensive by the sheer mass of their wealth.

  9. birgerjohansson says

    It is important to show good examples of how people may spend their wealth.

    The grabbing grifters who deify Ayn Rand are NOT the automatic default.
    In the northwest indian cultures you got status by sharing and to a greater or lesser degree this has been important in a lot of cultures; we see echoes of this in the concept ‘noblesse oblige’.

    More current examples: Usain Bolt invested in the village his parents came from and provided infrastructure like a school and health care.
    Keanu Reeves is another example of someone who is very generous and has a strong social conscience.

    In the Scandinavian countries (who have a mixed economy and high taxes) most people accept the tax levels. And the societies are not experiencing turmoil, or display slum areas. No need for gated communities. Think of taxes as the insurance premium you pay to live in a good society.

  10. birgerjohansson says

    Garnetstar @ 9
    Let us not forget that the end of segregation would bring disaster. Then equality for gay people would bring disaster. And health insurance for all will absolutely make us go bankrupt.

  11. hillaryrettig1 says

    I was also confused on income vs. wealth tax. Glad it’s happened, but a wealth tax (on assets) would be even better.

  12. StevoR says

    @8. birgerjohansson :

    StevoR @ 7 – And that is why an economic stimulus aimed at low-income demographics will instantly stimulate the economy, while a tax break for the rich will not.

    Exactly/

    If every state imposed a wealth tax, the looters would have nowhere to run to!

    Imagine if every nation had such laws and there was a gloval ban – militarily enforced as need be – against offshore tax havens. Give the obscenely rich no place to run to or hide their ill-gotten gains..

  13. John Morales says

    StevoR:

    Give the obscenely rich no place to run to or hide their ill-gotten gains..

    I hear Taylor Swift is worth over a billion dollars.

    I wonder where she runs to or hide her ill-gotten gains.

    What do you reckon, StevoR?

    (Or is that not sufficiently rich to be obscene? Care to be more specific on the threshold?)

  14. John Morales says

    gijoel, exactly. He can afford to live wherever and however he wants.

  15. Silentbob says

    @ 16

    I think the “ill” refers to method of acquisition Morales, not dollar amount.

    But if you’re attempted gotcha is that people on this blog will be fine with the pop star’s personal wealth I think you’re going to be disappointed.

  16. John Morales says

    Silentbob:

    I think the “ill” refers to method of acquisition Morales, not dollar amount.

    Well, yes, probably. Intendedly. But it’s applied generally, to the ‘obscenely rich’.
    Which was my very point.

    (cf. #1 on this very thread)

    So, where would you put your threshold for obscenity regarding wealth?
    After all, StevoR hasn’t yet responded, but you have.

    Would one thousand and one hundred millions of dollars count as obscene, in his estimation?

    (We don’t know — yet)

  17. John Morales says

    Hey, bob the unsilent, remember those other threads where the status of being a billionaire was equated with being evil?

    (I do)

  18. John Morales says

    But if you’re [sic] attempted gotcha is that people on this blog will be fine with the pop star’s personal wealth I think you’re going to be disappointed.

    Heh heh heh.

    No. There is no gotcha, whether attempted or otherwise.

    Just trying to point out that this stupid reflexive jingoistic thinking by slogan is not the way to clarity of apprehension.

    So. No disappointment.

    And hey, I’m personally as fine with her well-earned wealth as with Musk’s ill-gotten wealth.

    (I am a person on this blog)

  19. John Morales says

    @ 17 Morales

    Not Mars. X-D

    Well, not the planet Mars. But the big dumb ship might be called ‘Mars’, no? ;)

    Point taken.

    If it can be bought by an individual, it can be bought by Musk.

    (Pretty sweet, that)

  20. John Morales says

    Good grief.

    This is the very specimen who volubly and regularly and O so many times has accused me of hyper-literalism.
    The hypocrisy is notable.

    Again:
    (1) What can be bought for a few hundred billions of dollars, Musk can buy; and
    (2) If he names a dwelling ‘Mars’, he will actually live in Mars.

    Heh.

    Now, did you notice this reflexive thing about rich people being billionaires (once were millionaires)?
    About billionaires being evil, else they would not be billionaires?
    Obviously, the wealth held by evil people must be ill-gotten!

    Etc.

    That’s what I address. Not whether Elon can afford to live on the planet Mars.

    (It’s so tritely dreary!)

  21. John Morales says

    More to the point, StevoR was speaking about running away and hiding gains.

    Again: flaunting it is a weird way to hide it, no?

    Heh.

  22. John Morales says

    I mean, come on!

    Obs, Taylor made her billion plus by her singing and dancing.

    Are those ill-gotten gains? Is that an obscene amount of wealth?

    See, I was retorting to StevoR, bobiferant, and you intruded.

    Fine, now I retort to you.

    (“as you wish” :) )

  23. John Morales says

    Wow, you’re sure no good at paring links down, bobiferant.

    https://www.google.com/search?hl=en-AU&q=elon+musk+net+worth&kgs=7f9a51215f55f323&shndl=31&shmd=H4sIAAAAAAAA_5NiEpAGADRnw90EAAAA&shem=ssim&source=sh/x/ka/m5/2

    That’s your link. Well, without the obfuscation.

    Here’s mine:
    https://www.google.com/search?q=taylor+swift+net+worth

    No tracking, no tags, no obfuscation. Smaller, simpler, curated.

    (Rather informative, our respective approaches, no?)

  24. Silentbob says

    Wait… is it possible when Captain Hyperliteral said Musk can live “wherever and however” he wants he never expected that to be taken literally? Like… musk can live at the core of the sun at absolute zero? Gosh!

    It’s almost like taking comments hyperliterally, when any rational person could see what was meant, is annoying, stupid and trollish.

    Who would’ve thunk? (Apart from anyone who’s ever had the misfortune to encounter Morales aka. the notorious Captain Hyperliteral.)

    I take it you’ll be desisting from such behaviour in future Captain?

  25. John Morales says

    Ah, the bobiferator tries to troll me.

    Heh.

    No worries.

    Wait… is it possible when Captain Hyperliteral said Musk can live “wherever and however” he wants he never expected that to be taken literally?

    You are the one who imagines I am “Captain Hyperliteral”.

    The world (including I) knows otherwise.

    So: No. It is not possible.

    You: Like… musk can live at the core of the sun at absolute zero? Gosh!
    This after I wrote: “If it can be bought by an individual, it can be bought by Musk.”

    (You’re not very good at this, are ya?)

    It’s almost like taking comments hyperliterally, when any rational person could see what was meant, is annoying, stupid and trollish.

    Is it?

    Heh.

    Should I take that literally, metaphorically, elliptically, hyperbolically, obliquely, or what? ;)

    Who would’ve thunk? (Apart from anyone who’s ever had the misfortune to encounter Morales aka. the notorious Captain Hyperliteral.)

    Aaw, Obsessibob. There, there.

    I take it you’ll be desisting from such behaviour in future Captain?

    Obviously not; one must have actually been engaged in some particular behaviour in order to be able to desist from such engagement.

    (Logic was never your strong suit, either)

  26. John Morales says

    Have you even noticed, Bobificator, how I directly respond to your questions, whereas mine fade into historicity as you loudly ignore them and their thrust?

    Maybe some people have.

    (“Are those ill-gotten gains? Is that an obscene amount of wealth?”)

  27. Silentbob says

    For those who don’t get it or think I’m being mean or whatever…

    This is a clown who if you said it was raining and you had to bring an umbrella… would upbraid you that you always had the choice to leave the umbrella and therefore you are lying and you could have chosen the option to get drenched and then would try to inveigle you into a 50 comment thread about free will and umbrellas.

    He lives to argue about stupid shit.

    Zero interest in any kind of mutually rewarding interaction and never has had in over a decade of trolling Pharyngula. I’m not picking on some random clown – to regulars he’s notorious.

    Just sayin’. I’ll leave it there.

  28. John Morales says

    You’re not being mean, bogiferish — you’re just being obsessive.

    No worries.
    Of course, no fucking way you’ll “leave it there”.

    Soon enough, on this blog or another, you will butt in and try to be disparaging towards me.

    (And, as always, I shall have my retort)

    Also, for the umpteenth time, have you noticed how you shift to the third person and ostensibly address the “audience” whenever I impose my personality upon you?

    (I have)

  29. StevoR says

    @16. John Morales :

    StevoR: “Give the obscenely rich no place to run to or hide their ill-gotten gains.”.

    I hear Taylor Swift is worth over a billion dollars. I wonder where she runs to or hide her ill-gotten gains. What do you reckon, StevoR? (Or is that not sufficiently rich to be obscene? Care to be more specific on the threshold?)

    Yes, Swift has a billion dollars :

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taylor_Swift#Wealth

    She’s not exactly the sort of billionaire I had in mind although it does seem a staggering amount for an entertainer, singer dancer. I don’t think I’d say her wealth is “ïll-gotten” exactly tho’it seems excessive..

  30. John Morales says

    No worries, StevoR.

    (Nice to engage with an honest interlocutor)

    Point being, you don’t personally think that Taylor Swift’s gains are ill-gotten, right?

    Singing and dancing, and I suppose marketing merch.

    That sort of thing. Certainly nothing illegal, and I can’t see how she’s oppressing anyone.

    Point being, possessing wealth is not necessarily hoarding ill-gotten gains.
    Yes, it is a feature of our economic and legal system, but does not entail evil.
    Excessive as it may seem.

  31. StevoR says

    @ 19. Silentbob : @ 16. I think the “ill” refers to method of acquisition Morales, not dollar amount.

    Well, to be honest kinda both but much more the means of aquistion than the actual amount. Also the idea that there are tax havens where rich people can hoard vast amount of treasure avoiding paying their fair share in taxes.

    @ John Morales :

    (Or is that not sufficiently rich to be obscene? Care to be more specific on the threshold?)

    Thinking about it maybe a billion dollars? US money? Australian dollars? But then there is hyper-inflation, devalued currencies and things are relative in the way all currency is arbitrary and relative really. Money too is a social contract as is paying tax and the value of various forms of labour eg musical as opposed to finacial markets, etc..

    Guess there’s (almost) always some exceptions to the general rule. People that risk their lives in sport (eg F1, MotoGP, mountaineering) or use their artistic talents to earn their money are in a different category to those who inherit their money like say Gina Rinehart or Elon Musk. Those who gain their fortunes from crime – and ethically dubious activities are ina different category fromthose who win a sufficiently large lottery or are gifted the money. So, yeah, as with all things it depends on specifics and exact circumstances and context.

    But in general, I don’t think billionaires should exist and I think that’s an obscene amount of money for someone to hold under usual economic circumstances. That said, I don’t think Taylor Swift and other extremely talented artists or sportspeople got their money through “ill” ethically dubious means and though I’d like them to donate much more of their money and not get quite so much I don’t really blame them for not doing so.

    In Taylor Swift’s atypical specific case (at least I’m fairly certain its atypical given most of the billionaires and top 1% of wealth holders hoarders aren’t performing artists or sportspeople though some are ) my respective answers would be :

    Are those ill-gotten gains? No.
    Is that an obscene amount of wealth?” Yes.

    In most tho’ not all other individual billionaire cases the answers are :

    Are those ill-gotten gains? Yes.
    Is that an obscene amount of wealth? Yes,

    I guess we can ask that of any and all billionaires and then tally up the percentages that fall into each category & I’d expect, rough guess that such a breakdown would be something like :

    Obscene amount of money 100%,
    ill gotten = 80%,
    not ill gotten = 20%

    Perhaps? I haven’t actually done such study or know of it being done by anyone else – tho’ haven’t looked to see yet. It is obvs a bit of a subjective value judgement and people’s mileages will vary.

    In cases, where the economic circumstances is so vastly different that most people have a billion dollars or far more then the answers can vary to :

    Are those ill-gotten gains? No / yes / maybe
    &
    Is that an obscene amount of wealth? No.

    So ..depends?

    Then we get the further issue of what do the billionaires do with their obscene fortunes. They can potentially if breifly use their obscene amounts of goo for good – helping others, developing technology and sharing it in an altruistic way (Eg. Tesla – not a billionaire but his approach) which of course also probly means they soon stop being billionaires and no longer have obscene amounts of wealth. Or they can use their obscene fortunes in a neutral way, simply spending indulgently on themselves but setting out to neither help nor harm the rest of us. Or worst of all do the Murdoch / Musk thing and make the world actively worse in how they use their obscene wealth to hurt others, gain undue political power and influence, ad nauseam.. So ill-used as well as ill gotten.

  32. John Morales says

    I’m glad you’ve given these matters some consideration and shared the process, StevoR.

    (Can’t ask for more, really)

  33. flex says

    hillaryrettig1, way back @13, asked,

    I was also confused on income vs. wealth tax. Glad it’s happened, but a wealth tax (on assets) would be even better.

    The real difficulty with implementing a wealth tax as opposed to an income tax is that wealth is a lot harder to measure and a lot more dependent on arbitrary valuations.

    Income is easy. How much money a person acquires over a period of time is a measurable amount.

    But wealth is a lot harder to quantify. Are we talking about a pile of money? That would be easy to measure, but aside from some of the less intelligent senators (I’m looking at you Menendez), most rich people do not have stashes of cash laying around. They put their money into stocks, real-estate, directly into businesses, etc. They may even collect artwork with the expectation that it will gain value at a higher rate than other investments. But what is the value of all these things? The value of a stock is what someone else is willing to pay. The value of a real-estate is what someone else is willing to pay. The value of artwork is what someone else is willing to pay. That willingness to pay fluctuates.

    So there are two ways to try to calculate real wealth. 1) What the value of the property was when it was purchased. E.g., Gates buys a Rembrandt for $15M. Or 2) the market value at the time of assessment, e.g. that same Rembrandt would now well for $20M. Both ways have problems.

    The problem with the first way is that generally, over time, objects which have value often increase their exchange value. I.e. if my great-granduncle (who had money) had purchased that same Rembrandt for $50,000 in 1920, and I inherited it, the asset would only be taxed at $50,000 today because that was the last purchase price was. Stocks purchased at $20/share, but which have split numerous times and are selling for $50/share would have the value of the last sales transaction, which might be far lower than current market value. Calculating wealth in this manner benefits old money immensely. Inherited wealth is protected because the majority of those assets (companies, land, art, etc.) were acquired at a price far below present value.

    So we tax at present value….

    Which brings in the following problem. Present value is what people are willing to pay. An assessment of what people are willing to pay is different than an actual record of a sale. Meaning no disrespect to professional assessors, they have a very difficult job, but making an assessment of value for tax purposes is arbitrary and can be challenged. Especially for high-value items. Stock value is a pretty easy assessment, the value can be based on the current market value. But the first reaction to a wealth tax will be a large drop in stock values. Why? Because stocks are unrealized wealth, they have to be sold to generate real wealth, and if unrealized wealth is taxed, those who own stocks will have to sell some to pay the taxes on the rest. Selling stock lowers the value. This isn’t a completely vicious cycle because lowering the value of the remaining stock will mean less wealth taxes to pay, but it also means less taxes collected by the state. A large number of billionaires will cease to be billionaires not because they spent money, or lost it through taxation, but because taxing unrealized wealth means realizing some of those gains in order to pay the taxes.

    So restrict the wealth tax to realized wealth, actual tangible assets like land or art. In both cases the assessment of these forms of wealth is difficult. What is the value of a Rembrandt if you are going to be paying 0.1% of it’s value every year in taxes? It would no longer be $20M, not when the owner has to pay $20,000/yr on a wealth tax. The current value would drop until the next purchaser was comfortable with the tax level. And until you had a transaction, there is no real way to know what that would be. Would the value drop to $1M, with a $1000/yr tax burden? Stabilize at $10M, with a $10K/yr burden? No one really knows. This would happen with all real property. Which leads the to the next issue: lawsuits.

    If a wealth tax is imposed, even a fairly small one, the rich, the people who have lawyers working for them, would challenge the assessments of their wealth by the state. Using the arguments outlined above, they would take the state to court and argue that they only owe a fraction of the taxes they were assessed because the value of those assets has fallen due to the tax. That would take decades to resolve. During that time it is pretty much assured that the courts would put a stay on the state collecting those taxes. The result would be that the state spends a lot of public funds defending against lawsuits in an attempt to protect future tax income, which is likely to be much smaller than originally anticipated.

    A tax on income is a lot easier to implement, uses a directly quantifiable measure, and is generally perceived as fairer. Over time, a properly structured tax on income will shrink the numbers of people who control an huge amount of wealth. In case anyone is curious, I submit that the USA does not currently have a properly structured income tax.

  34. flex says

    Second comment, which is related to the discussion about “ill-gotten” or “ethically-acquired” wealth.

    I think most people look at wealth acquisition in the wrong manner. Wealth accumulates in certain places because of the structures of society. We have built structures in our society which funnel money in certain ways. The people at the neck of these funnels are given the ability to direct the path of that money, including into their own pockets. That is true of a corporate board as much as it’s true of Taylor Swift.

    You can say that the entire reason for corporations to exist is to concentrate money. This concentration of money can be used to help communities, to research new ideas/products, to provide jobs, it could even be used to strengthen social services, provide education, or provide equal justice. But what it has often been used for was to increase the wealth of select individuals, who can then use that wealth for personal projects, erect monuments to themselves, or as the most destructive action, hire people who will grow that wealth further.

    How those funnels to concentrate money are created is important. They can be generated in an ethical manner, collecting that income because of the desire of people to give it to them, usually as payment for service like entertainment. The funnels can be generated in an unethical manner, like owning blocks of decaying tenements and renting them to people who can’t afford to take the company to court. We should, as a society, try to prevent the unethical money funnels from forming.

    But that shouldn’t blind us from seeing that those funnels exist, and because these funnels exist it provides those people who are at the neck of those funnels inordinate power over society. And these concentrations of cash flow do not just exist in private industries, they exist in governments, they exist in academia, they exist in charitable organizations. These funnels are, in fact, necessary for large scale projects to occur. But they must be watched, and managed, so that they are not used to generate misery.

  35. seachange says

    @ stevor #6

    The people who need and like to pickpocket tend to be among the poor so that’s who is around to have the pockets to pick.

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