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America: Who Really Pays the Taxes? Paperback – March 23, 1994

4.2 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For readers who have ever had the sneaking suspicion that they're being shafted, the latest book from this Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative team ( America: What Went Wrong? ) provides the facts, figures, names and anecdotes to prove it. Their goal is to show how all those abstract terms bandied about on the Sunday morning talk shows affect the average taxpayer, particularly anyone whose family income is between, say, $25,000 and $150,000. Wealthy individuals squirrel away money through tax-free bonds, charitable-donations deductions and racehorses, among other write-offs; and the wealthiest corporations benefit from foreign tax credits, deductions for estimated worth of brand names and even the writing-off of interest on loans taken out to pay their stockholders (Weren't stockholders supposed to share both profits and losses?). All of which, the authors note with jackhammer regularity, leaves Joe and Jane Shmoe holding the tab. The authors are bipartisan in their apportionment of blame, rounding up not only the usual Republican presidential suspects but also Democrats like LBJ (whose "unified budget" amounted to a grand-scale doctoring of the books), Dan Rostenkowski (superannuated Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee) and even independent Ross Perot (whose tax-free income in 1991 was somewhere between $18 and $87 million). Their "modest proposal" on reforming the tax system is indeed that: one based largely on eliminating deductions and making all income--no matter how earned--equally taxable. Barlett and Steele's greatest achievement, though, is to have painstakingly translated mountains of often deliberately obscure material, thereby making their book a dream for those who've never quite grasped what government, corporations and the wealthiest few are doing--and a nightmare for those who have and want to keep that knowledge to themselves.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

"Us middle-class schlemiels, that's who!" But that answer to the title's question is not all that informative, so Barlett and Steele, tax reporters for 25 years and authors of the 1992 bestseller, America: What Went Wrong?, tell us who doesn't pay and how they don't. Two systems of taxation have developed in the U.S. since the 1950s, they say, one for wealthy individuals and corporations, the other for everybody else. In the six subsequent chapters, they prove two-tiered taxation's a fact by discussing one rich stiff's tax dodge after another, from preferential capital gains rates to multinational corporate transfer-pricing to the tax court system, and they demonstrate that to those responsible for tax law (guys named Rostenkowski, Dole, Gephardt, etc.) money doesn't talk, it orders. After all the dismaying federal news, Barlett and Steele tell us about "The Unfairest Taxes of All": local and state government levies (on real estate, sales, income, etc.), which, driven by federal mandates upon states and municipalities, have risen faster and more inequitably than federal taxes. Barlett and Steele maintain fair taxation is a real possibility, and they make a serious "Modest Proposal" for reform that eventually, but hardly exclusively, does indeed depend upon real modesty, i.e., spending cuts. But popular political shoving will be necessary to achieve tax fairness. Superb investigative journalism. Ray Olson

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (March 23, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671871579
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671871574
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.3 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,664,546 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Douglas Doepke on September 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a compelling book that minces few words. The authors supply diverse statistics showing that the wealthy really do escape a fair share of taxes and Congress happily colludes in the scheme. The swindle's scope is seen as a back-handed tribute to the skill of those hired professionals - politicians and talking heads - who redirect taxpayer anger onto nickel and dime welfare cheats instead of the real recipients of government largesse. As the book shows, the tax-paying desires of the wealthy do get served.
The big picture lies in the sharp turnaround since 1950 in who pays the taxes. In that year the tax system was gearedf toward broadening membership in the middle-class, America's cushioning class. Since then, the shift towards taxing this sector out of existence has been little less than startling. Among the categories reflecting this turnaround: tax-exemption rates, Social Security levies, total tax-dollar comparisons, and state and local shifts in levies. A thumbnail sketch of taxation's history in the US helps the reader understand the class battle going on beneath the numbers.
The final chapter closes with recommendations for reforms. Most are quite sensible given the gross inequities that currently exist. For example: terminate capital gains preferences and tax this category as income, stop discriminating certain preferential categories of income from others, terminate tax-exempt securities, et. al. That corporate income tax should be increased is usually rebutted by claims that the increase will be passed along to the consumer. If so, then why - the authors point out - do corporations so stoutly resist this legislation, preferring instead an excise tax that would most surely be passed along. Good point.
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Format: Paperback
This book is an excellent study of the history of taxation in America, and particularly the use of tax law to encourage or discourage social, "fairness", and other political agendas. Great insight into how a tax bill is actually formulated, the bill's administrative process and its limitations, and the role of the political leaders in establishing the direction of new legislation.
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Format: Paperback
America, Who Stole the Dream, was a WONDERFUL READ. I find myself leaning more to the right, from a political perspective, but the authors arguments are EXCELLENT at times and they definitely bring up some great points.
This book is the most well argued book I have read about the current demise of the middle class in the U.S. After reading it I would definitely have to say that I have more concern about political decisions being made in Washington as the authors illustrate that consistently the politicians don't do the right thing for the country.
The authors bring up several concerns
1. Middle class demise via outsourcing of manufacturing to lower cost areas
2. Growing disparity of wealth (the rich own more in % terms)
3. The outsourcing of the `HIGH TECH JOBS' that are to be the savior of the country.
4. Commentary about various social programs set up and how ineffective they are.
In conclusion I would say this book was extremely well researched and I therefore give KUDOS to the authors. While I don't agree with everything they wrote I believe they have put forth an excellent piece of work.
My main contention with the book is that it focuses on the demise of manufacturing and low-end jobs, along with some high tech. The U.S. is expensive from a labor perspective. As we have outsourced much of our manufacturing we have been able to purchase products at cheaper prices in the U.S.. Imagine what some products would cost if we were paying for labor that was, in some cases, 10x higher than current wages in developing countries? NOWHERE in the book do the authors mention the BENEFIT to our standard of living because we can buy more with our dollars than we would be able to do so otherwise. In general, this book is WAY to the left so reader beware.
My background is a B.S. in Acct., an MBA in finance and current interests in economic and social policy development so I found this to be quite an interesting read.
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Format: Paperback
If you are like me you might have wondered why the "tax relief" of the last twenty years never seemed to really show up in your paycheck. You might have wondered why it felt like more and more of your income seemed to go to pay sales taxes and property taxes and income taxes and fees. If you wondered about that then you are likely somewhere in the middle class or even poor. If you wondered why it seemed that way, it's because it really is that way. See, as the top marginal rates for the well to do and the rates of tax on corporations has been reduced over and over, the Federal distributions to the states and municipal governments have been cut over and over. Unfortunantly for the great unwashed masses of the middle class, the state and local governments can't just close shop and stop providing essential services so they did what they had to do. They raised state and local sales, income and property taxes in a regressive manner to make up the shortfall. But wait! There's more!
In the 80's, as the budget deficits soared beyond anyone's worst nightmare, something had to be done to mask the true size of the monster. The result? A spike in the "payroll taxes" used to pay for Social Security and Medicare! While technically "off budget" and held in trust, the shell game used these receipts to disguise the growing deficits by lumping them in with other tax revenue. Oh yeah...the wealthy don't pay this tax on the vast majority of their income.
Barlett and Steele do a very passable job of explaining the shell game that has been used to lead Americans down the primrose path while transferring an ever greater share of our nations wealth to the very few at the expense of the rest of us.
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