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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Living In Hell In Beverly Hills

by digby

Another wealthy, whining conservative telling everyone how good he has it while complaining that he has to pay taxes. Here's Ben Stein:

I am a fairly upper income taxpayer. Not anything even remotely close to sports stars or movie stars or financial big boys. But I am above the level Mr. Obama says makes me rich. So, in the midst of a severe recession, I am to have my taxes raised dramatically.

I am not quite sure what my sin is.

I worked for almost every dollar I have, except for a small percentage my parents left me by virtue of hard work and Spartan living, and most of that was taken by the federal estate tax. I have a hell of a lot less than I did before the stock market and real estate market crashes. I didn't get a bailout or any part of a stimulus program, except for traffic jams as the roads in Beverly Hills got worked on for the 10th time in the last 10 years (or so it seems).

I pay my income taxes, and after them and the commissions I pay my agent, I am left with about 35 cents for every dollar I earn.

I own some real estate in California and Idaho and the District of Columbia. Naturally, I pay property tax, supposedly mostly to educate local children. Not far from me, the city of Los Angeles just spent about $600 million to build the most lavish school in America for about 4,000 children. That's my money. Naturally, I had no say in it. My wife and I have no children in public schools and only did for about eighteen months long ago. I still pay my school tax ever year.

As far as I'm concerned, his "sin" is being a spoiled, talentless, arrogant cartoon celebrity who adds no value to anything in this misbegotten society and yet thinks he's some kind of Galtian hero. If I have to listen to one more of these petulant scumbags argue about how they're being punished for their "hard work" I'm going to stab my ears with chopsticks. It's class warfare all right --- launched by crude, wealthy American slobs who have no class.

For a far more erudite and scholarly critique than this one, please read Brad DeLong's deft evisceration of that sniveling University of Chicago professor's self-pity party from yesterday about having to pay taxes on half a million dollars a year. Here's just a little taste:

Professor Henderson's problem is that he thinks that he ought to be able to pay off student loans, contribute to retirement savings vehicles, build equity, drive new cars, live in a big expensive house, send his children to private school, and still have plenty of cash at the end of the month for the $200 restaurant meals, the $1000 a night resort hotel rooms, and the $75,000 automobiles. And even half a million dollars a year cannot be you all of that.

But if he values the high-end consumption so much, why doesn't he rearrange his budget? Why not stop the retirement savings contributions, why not rent rather than buy, why not send the kids to public school? Then the disposable cash at the end of the month would flow like water. His problem is that some of these decisions would strike him as imprudent. And all of them would strike him as degradations--doctor-law professor couples ought to send their kids to private schools, and live in big houses, and contribute to their 401(k)s, and also still have lots of cash for splurges. That is the way things should be.

Read on to see why this fellow feels cheated because he can't live like Richard Branson when he clearly deserves to. Me, I'll be sharpening my pitchfork. After all, according to these people I've got nothing to lose.