Cartoon: Debate THIS, Libtards! (Or, The Difference Between Effective and Marginal Tax Rates)


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So earlier this week, new Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was interviewed on 60 Minutes. In the course of the interview, Cortez laboriously and correctly described marginal tax rates:

Once you get to the tippie-tops, on your $10 millionth dollar, sometimes you see tax rates as high as 60% or 70%. That doesn’t mean all $10 million dollars are taxed at an extremely high rate. But it means that as you climb up this ladder, you should be contributing more.

Many Republicans seized on this as “the Democrats want to take away 70% of everything you earn!” This included comments from highly placed Republicans, like Steve Scalise, who tweeted:

Republicans: Let Americans keep more of their own hard-earned money
Democrats: Take away 70% of your income and give it to leftist fantasy programs

Congressman Scalise is the House Republican Whip – the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives.

Does Scalise really not know the difference between effective and marginal tax rates? Or is telling the truth just completely alien to his value system?

And why does being either dishonest, or an ignoramus, seem to be a formula for rising high in the modern GOP?

The “kicker” panel at the bottom more and more reflects how I’m feeling, alas.


Ocasio-Cortez’s suggested 70%, by the way, is both moderate and reasonable policy.

Usually I avoid doing cartoons based in the current news cycle; I prefer to do cartoons that will last. But this one is both; it’s got a story in the current news cycle, but the underlying issues will remain relevant for years to come.


I’m pleased with how this comic came out. It’s very basic, visually, but often the very basic comic strips are the ones that look best. Looking at it now, the only thing that makes me wince is that I drew the guy’s left arm in the same pose in panels 1 and 4; I usually try to avoid that, since having them move around from panel to panel makes them look more lively.

Although it’s not important to the strip, the woman in the strip is visually based on  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and that was fun; I don’t often do caricatures in my strips.


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has four panels, plus an extra fifth “kicker” panel, with much smaller artwork, below the bottom of the strip.

Panel 1

Two people, a man and a woman, are standing inside some sort of building, talking. He has neatly combed and blow-dried blonde hair, and is wearing a polo shirt. She has dark hair combed back into a bun, and is wearing a simple pale dress with a dark belt. He is grinning in a somewhat mocking way; she is responding seriously, arms spread a bit.

POLO: I hear liberals want to raise income taxes to 70 percent! How stupid can you guys be?

BUN: I know it sounds strange, but top tax rats of 70 percent or higher were normal until the 1980s.

Panel 2

A close-up of Bun, with a bit of the back of Polo’s head in the foreground. Bun is smiling and holding one palm up in an “explaining” gesture.

BUN: The 70 percent rate we’re talking about would only apply to the ultra-rich. And even the ultra-rich would pay much less than that on their first 10 million dollars of income!

Panel 3

Another closeup on Bun, who is still talking with her hands, and now has a serious expression.

BUN: When top tax rates were at 70 percent – or even 90 percent – the rich didn’t stop working or flee the country. Anyhow, shouldn’t billionaires start paying their fair share?

Panel 4

A shot of Polo and Bun. Polo is laughing. A third man, wearing a necktie, has come in and is talking to Polo while pointing at his watch. Bun is startled by what Necktie says.

POLO: Ordinary workers can’t live on 30 percent of their income! You’re stupid!

NECKTIE: Congressman, sorry to interrupt, but you’re due on Fox News in ten minutes.

Kicker panel below the bottom of the strip

Bun speaks to Polo.

BUN: I should go, too. I’m getting “do not engage” tattooed inside my eyelids.

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26 Responses to Cartoon: Debate THIS, Libtards! (Or, The Difference Between Effective and Marginal Tax Rates)

  1. 1
    Zag says:

    Oh … I get it.

    Republicans are uniformly stupid and don’t know the difference between marginal and effective tax rates. All CPAs and economists of any value are democrats, for instance (really bad and stupid ones may be republicans).

    Democrats (the good people!) know the difference, and only deep down want the best for people, although they don’t always signal these virtues. Motivations are uniformly good.

    Subtle, but I get it.

  2. 2
    Ampersand says:

    Zag: No, more like: Republicans habitually elect and/or appoint ignoramuses and conspiracy theorists to high office.

    Ignorant people (and knowledgeable people) can be found in both parties. But our ignoramuses aren’t the President of the US, or the House Whip.

  3. 3
    John W says:

    Man, that shooting must’ve rattled him more than we thought! Get well soon Steve!

  4. 4
    desipis says:

    Obama claimed that women earn 77 cents on dollar for the exact same work, which is just as false as the comments about 70% marginal tax rate. So was Obama being dishonest or is he an ignoramus?

  5. 5
    Zag says:

    500 million Americans will lose their jobs every month, according to Pelosi, if her package isn’t passed.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UR5M5teyQ0

    Lots and lots and lots of stupid statements can be found from democrats in Congress (as well as from republicans). Another good one is Hank Johnson wondering whether Guam will tip over.

    The claim that only republicans say stupid stuff is just false and cherry-picking.

  6. 6
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    Ampersand,

    Have you considered the possibility that at least part of the reason why you see Democratic politicians as less ignorant and into conspiracies is because you tend to believe the same ignorant things and believe in the same conspiracies, while Republican voters and politicians tend to have different ones?

  7. 7
    Zag says:

    Have you considered the possibility that at least part of the reason why you see Democratic politicians as less ignorant and into conspiracies is because you tend to believe the same ignorant things and believe in the same conspiracies, while Republican voters and politicians tend to have different ones?

    I think that is a good point, but it’s also that everyone has the tendency to just overlook things on “their” tribal side, especially in this very tense political age. If you want the ultimate goals that Maxine Waters is pushing for, as an example, you are simply going to overlook the stupid stuff she says. You are not even going to remember she said it, even if it’s something you don’t really believe. It’s just human nature, and it happens on both sides.

  8. 8
    LimitsOfLanguage says:

    Zag,

    Yes, that was my point.

  9. 9
    David Simon says:

    Zag, that Nancy Pelosi statement from 2009 was pretty clearly just a slip of the tongue. She meant to say 500k (still questionable, but not egregious), and she’s made that mistake and corrected herself before: https://nypost.com/2009/02/04/pelosis-500-million-person-slip

    And the Guam thing was pretty ridiculous, no disputing that. Johnson claimed later to have been joking, but it seems more likely that he was just trying to cover his butt with that explanation.

    But: I seriously doubt that we will see Steve Scalise correcting *his* math error, or even admitting that it isn’t to be taken seriously by claiming it was a joke or something. The GOP strategy lately seems to be focused on doubling down on even the most ridiculous statement. Hopefully he proves me wrong on this.

  10. 10
    Ampersand says:

    As David said, there’s a difference between committing to a completely false analysis – such as conflating effective and marginal tax rates (a “mistake” that GOP speakers have been making for years), such as denying climate control, such as claiming that there’s an enormous problem of non-citizens voting with fake IDs – versus an isolated mistake or slip of the tongue that is admitted to, and does not become the party’s policy.

    Everyone in every party who talks in front of microphones over and over is going to make mistakes; no one bats 1000. But that’s not the same as virtually the entire party committing to a deceptive take like “we can’t reasonably say if human-caused global warming is real.” And it’s not the same as a President, or the head of the relevant congressional committee, having that deceptive (or ignoramus) take.

  11. 11
    Ampersand says:

    Me: “Ignorant people (and knowledgeable people) can be found in both parties.”

    Zag’s response:

    The claim that only republicans say stupid stuff is just false and cherry-picking.

    Zag, please read my words before you respond to them next time.

    I am not saying that “only republicans say stupid stuff.” Literally no one on this thread has said that; no one of any significance has ever said that, as far as I know. It’s a complete straw man on your part, and you should drop it.

  12. 12
    Kate says:

    The point is that most voters, even most working class Republicans, support what Democrats are actually proposing, taxing only people who make hundreds of millions at very high rates, like 70% only on income over a very high threshold.
    Republicans know that if they attack such plans on the merits, they will lose. So, on this particular issue they lie, knowingly, repeatedly and systemically, as a party to scare voters into voting against Democrats.
    “both sides do it!!!!!!!!!!!!!” “you’re just as biased at the rest of them!!!!!!!” would not be valid arguments against that point, even if there were actually comparable lies told by Democrats. But, all the opponents can cite are a few isolated misstatements. They can’t come up with a parallel, knowing, repeated, systemic lies told by elected Democrats as a matter of party policy, because there aren’t any.
    Meanwhile, Amp immediately can point to climate change, and I can now chime in with the so-called “crisis” at the southern border and the lie that Republicans want to protect health insurance coverage for people with preexisting conditions. These are points that we have argued and linked to repeatedly in the past.
    The Democratic party is a coalition of minorities with competing interests who will call each other out on their bullshit.
    The Republican party is a coalition of people with various degrees of unearned privilege (often quite scanty) who will cover for each other to maintain the the (sometimes pathetic) privileges they have.

  13. 13
    RonF says:

    I can buy into creating a marginal tax bracket that will tax incomes over $10 million at 70%. It’s doesn’t break my heart. What I’m waiting to see is how much money Rep. Ocasio-Cortez thinks that will raise in tax revenue and how she intends to fund the “Green New Deal” that she proposes.

    And, aside from the money, how she intends to replace 88% of current energy production with renewable sources in 10 years without completely disrupting American society and what financial impact she thinks that will have on Americans. But that’s a different topic.

  14. 14
    RonF says:

    The Democratic party is a coalition of minorities with competing interests who will call each other out on their bullshit.

    Oh, I don’t know about that. They all seem to be agreed that universal background checks will actually have an effect on mass shootings and the gang warfare in places like Chicago, that building a wall in certain locations of the U.S./Mexico border won’t have an effect on illegal border crossings, that President Trump and Russian government interests colluded to help him win the 2016 Presidential election, that they know that illegal aliens commit crimes at a lower rate than American citizens and other such things.

  15. 15
    Ampersand says:

    Ron, I don’t think any of those things fall into the same category as “AOC is proposing that ordinary workers should pay 70% of their income” or “there’s significant doubt about if human-caused climate change is occurring.” There is no legitimate disagreement about if effective and marginal tax rates are different things; they are different things, full stop. There is no legitimate disagreement about if human-caused climate change exists, any more than there’s legitimate disagreement about if the atmosphere exists.

    I don’t think the same applies to most of the things you list. For instance, what exact effect a wall would have on undocumented immigration rates is something reasonable people can disagree about. (The only opinions about the wall I find unreasonable are those who think it would have no effect at all, and those who think it would stop all undocumented immigration. But I people can reasonably disagree about if the wall’s effect would be significant vs too small to matter).

    How sure are you that background checks would have ZERO effect on mass shootings and gang warfare? Obviously it wouldn’t eliminate those things, but are you positive that background checks couldn’t even have a small effect? Like, you don’t think there’s a single mass shooter, ever, who could have been deterred or made to buy less effective weapons? Honestly, if that’s your opinion, it seems as dubious to me as someone saying that there wouldn’t be a single immigrant, ever, deterred by a wall.

  16. 16
    RonF says:

    Speaking of the border wall – I haven’t figured out how to post links to tweets. But have you all seen the tweet where Jim Acosta went to McAllen, TX, stood in front of a steel barrier there, and made commentary about how he didn’t see illegal migrants causing problems there? Apparently he thinks this supports the concept that a barrier isn’t needed, as opposed to the concept that a barrier prevents problems. I couldn’t even name the guy until he got his White House press pass pulled and it made the news. But if this is the quality of commentary and journalism he’s known for I’d say pull it permanently and give it to someone else.

  17. 17
    RonF says:

    I’m not contesting that people who don’t understand what a marginal tax rate is aren’t spouting BS.

    The only opinions about the wall I find unreasonable are those who think it would have no effect at all, and those who think it would stop all undocumented immigration.

    Yeah, but there’s been a whole lot of the former, hasn’t there? How many times have you heard a commentator, public official, political cartoonists, etc. who seem to have the idea that all a 20 foot wall will do is ramp up sales of 21 foot ladders. And I haven’t see too many Democrats call them out on it, which is the point here.

    How sure are you that background checks would have ZERO effect on mass shootings and gang warfare? Obviously it wouldn’t eliminate those things, but are you positive that background checks couldn’t even have a small effect? Like, you don’t think there’s a single mass shooter, ever, who could have been deterred or made to buy less effective weapons?

    Actually I’ve made it a practice ever since the first mass shooting that got highly publicized years ago to the point that they publish everything they can about where and how the shooter got his guns to check that particular issue out. I’ve only ever seen one that would have failed a background check. Yes, he shot 4 people. So that one MIGHT have been stopped – or not; as you well know there’s plenty of illegal means to acquire firearms. Heck, plenty of these shootings use firearms that were owned by the parents of the shooters, who bought and owned them entirely legally. The bottom line to me is that the law being proposed will cost lots of money and have basically no effect on the problem it’s supposed to solve – which makes me suspect the motives of the people who want it passed.

    As far as gang shootings go, here in Chicago they comprise the vast majority of firearm-related homicides and I really don’t see how people who break all the other laws that get you to the point of shooting someone are going to be stopped by a universal background check that’s imposed only on legal gun buyers. Note that here in Illinois the State of Illinois already subjects all legal gun and ammunition buyers to background checks and it doesn’t seem to slow down shootings in Chicago much. Sure, some guns come from Indiana, where the State does not require that. But by definition those purchases are either a) from a commercial dealer that has to have a Federal Firearms License and they DO have to run a background check, or b) a private seller. Pass a law that criminalizes the private seller for not running a background check on a buyer and what’s going to happen is that a buyer with a criminal record will just go elsewhere, either through a straw buyer (which is illegal now) or to an illegal source.

    Seriously – I doubt it will make any difference, except to stifle entirely legal private gun sales (which I suspect is the real motive for the law) and criminalize people for no reason.

  18. 18
    KellyK says:

    Oh, I don’t know about that. They all seem to be agreed that universal background checks will actually have an effect on mass shootings and the gang warfare in places like Chicago, that building a wall in certain locations of the U.S./Mexico border won’t have an effect on illegal border crossings, that President Trump and Russian government interests colluded to help him win the 2016 Presidential election, that they know that illegal aliens commit crimes at a lower rate than American citizens and other such things.

    It’s not so much that we think nobody’s going to be stopped by a wall, but that it’s a really terrible idea to spend billions of dollars on a giant monument to xenophobia in the desert when 1) our infrastructure needs massive repairs, we have people going hungry and homeless, and the small matter of catastrophic climate change to spend that money on, 2) a wall would do severe ecological damage, and 3) undocumented immigration is not the giant bogeyman that the right likes to present it as.

    As far as universal background checks, it’s really weird how Republicans are big on law and order until that inconveniences them. If someone’s got to call 5 state and county offices and spend hundreds of dollars to vote, that’s okay, but if it makes it slightly less convenient for them to buy a gun, then that’s a problem. We’ve already agreed that people who’ve committed certain crimes should not have access to guns, but we don’t actually enforce that.

    Personally, I don’t think universal background checks are sufficient, but I think they’re a start. Ideally, people convicted of domestic violence would be banned from buying or owning firearms (temporarily would be reasonable for a first or more minor offense), and people who provide access to a gun to someone who uses it in a mass shooting should be charged as accessories in some cases.

    Seriously – I doubt it will make any difference, except to stifle entirely legal private gun sales (which I suspect is the real motive for the law) and criminalize people for no reason.

    Somehow, I’m pretty sure that’s not the motivation of the Parkland kids. Maybe, just maybe, people supporting stricter background checks are really tired of classrooms full of dead children.

    I mean, you’re older than I am, and I was a high school senior when Columbine happened. You remember when this didn’t happen. This is not some freak natural disaster that we just have to shrug and accept. We’re the only country in which it happens with anything remotely resembling the frequency it does here, it hasn’t always been this way, and it doesn’t always have to be this way.

  19. 19
    Kate says:

    How many times have you heard a commentator, public official, political cartoonists, etc. who seem to have the idea that all a 20 foot wall will do is ramp up sales of 21 foot ladders. And I haven’t see too many Democrats call them out on it, which is the point here.

    No, actually, that isn’t “the point here”. Amp posted about a top member of Republican leadership actively promoting what he knows to be lies for political gain, not failing to call out a bunch of random supporters on their stupid opinions. Top Republicans also claim that they are for protecting coverage for preexisting conditions, even as they are working on lawsuits to end that coverage. Oil companies and the politicians who support them know that global warming is real, just as sure as tobacco companies and the politicians who supported them knew that smoking causes lung cancer in the mid 20th century. Top Republicans are knowingly promoting lies for political gain, to make themselves and their supporters more wealthy. I don’t see Democrats supporting clear lies in a similar fashion, except on the right of the Democratic party, where some are beholden to the same industries as Republicans are. I also don’t see a motive for lying on the left as compelling as the motive of financial gain on the right.
    Both Democrats and Republicans know that the vast majority of people who are in the U.S. illegally have been here for years and/or entered legally and overstayed their visas. No wall is going to fix that. The parts of the border where walls and fences would be most effective already have walls and fences. Putting a wall across a desert where hundreds, if not thousands already die annually trying to cross will almost certainly lead to more deaths. I think it is unlikely to reduce attemts enough to be worth the expense. In any case, I think the burden of proof should be on the ones who want to spend billions on the fucking wall.

    I really don’t see how people who break all the other laws that get you to the point of shooting someone are going to be stopped by a universal background check that’s imposed only on legal gun buyers.

    I think it will slow the flow of guns from legal to illegal markets, and make that transition more risky for middlemen. Both would result in higher prices in the illegal market. Some people would would no longer be able to afford an illegal gun. Also, whether you see why or not, most states with stricter gun laws have lower rates of gun violence. Because of Chicago, Illinois is an outlier. But, in that case, as you note, guns are still easily obtainable in nearby Indiana. In New York City, my understanding is most illegal guns come all the way from North Carolina. That’s got to add something to the price.

    Seriously – I doubt it will make any difference, except to stifle entirely legal private gun sales (which I suspect is the real motive for the law) and criminalize people for no reason.

    Why? To what end? Just to be kill-joys?

  20. 21
    Kate says:

    LoL

    Me @19

    I don’t see Democrats supporting clear lies in a similar fashion, except on the right of the Democratic party, where some are beholden to the same industries as Republicans are.

    The banking industry is one of those industries, and Clinton is one of those Democrats.

  21. 22
    Ampersand says:

    Actually I’ve made it a practice ever since the first mass shooting that got highly publicized years ago to the point that they publish everything they can about where and how the shooter got his guns to check that particular issue out. I’ve only ever seen one that would have failed a background check.

    Of course, it depends on part on how strict the background check is. For instance, should someone who has, less than a year ago, turned in his gun to police because he was worried he’d commit an act of terrorism, be permitted to possess firearms? Current law says “no problem,” but maybe that’s not someone who should be able to hold onto guns. (I’m talking about Esteban Santiago, who shot 11 people, five fatally, in Florida a year ago).

    Or how about someone out on bail for a murder charge? Maybe not having guns should have been a condition of bail for Briddell Barber, who shot four people.

    And there’s Kevin Neal, although there the problem was that the police were insufficient at supporting the laws, by not following up vigorously on his neighbor’s reports that he was using guns. (If they had gotten a search warrant, they might have taken his guns away, since he couldn’t legally have guns).

    Devin Patrick Kelley is another person who shouldn’t have legally been able to buy guns. But the Air Force failed to enter his name into the NICS system after his court martial.

    David Wayne Campbell.

    David Conley.

    Dylann Roof, who probably wouldn’t have been able to buy the Glock he used if the FBI had more than three days to investigate his past arrests.

    Robert Lee Adams.

    Joseph Jesse Aldridge.

    Cedric Prather.

    Jody Lee Hunt.

    James Sparks-Henderson.

    Jaylen Fryberg. He used his father’s gun; safe storage laws might have saved four lives (five, including Jaylen’s).

    Don Charles Spirit.

    Ronald Lee Haskell.

    I could go on and on and on – I’m less than halfway through this list I’m drawing these names from, and the list itself only goes back to 2009 – but I think that’s enough to make my point.

    As you say, not all of these (and many more) shooters would have been deterred by better laws and/or better enforcement of the laws. But I don’t see how you can claim as fact that NONE of them could have been deterred.

    Regarding gang murders, and murders by repeat offenders (gang or not) in general – it seems counter-intuitive to suggest either that it’s not possible for laws to make illegal guns more expensive (through supply and demand), or that more expensive illegal guns wouldn’t mean lower sales of illegal guns. And, as Kate said, there’s research supporting a connection between tougher gun laws and lower murder rates (and even stronger evidence for lower gun death rates). Maybe you don’t agree with that research, but a reasonable person could disagree with you on that, which puts it into a different category from conflating effective and marginal tax rates, or from denying global warming.

  22. 23
    Michael says:

    @Ampersand#22-“Of course, it depends on part on how strict the background check is. For instance, should someone who has, less than a year ago, turned in his gun to police because he was worried he’d commit an act of terrorism, be permitted to possess firearms? Current law says “no problem,” but maybe that’s not someone who should be able to hold onto guns. (I’m talking about Esteban Santiago, who shot 11 people, five fatally, in Florida a year ago).”

    I agree that there should be stricter gun control laws but there’s a reason why
    many psychiatrists are opposed to laws taking away guns from anyone who thinks that they might commit an act of violence. Someone like Esteban Santiago, who hears voices telling him to shoot people, should be kept away from guns. But if an OCD patient is having fears that he might shoot someone, and you take away his gun, then the next week he’ll have fears that he might kill someone with his car, and if you take away his car, the next week he’ll have fears that he might stab someone. Psychiatrists can tell the difference between people that are actually psychotic or violent and people that are merely afraid of hurting others but it’s difficult to write that difference into law.

  23. 24
    Michael says:

    The current federal law is that only people who have been INVOLUNTARILY committed to a mental institution lose their guns. Some states have stricter laws:
    https://www.cnn.com/2017/01/09/us/fort-lauderdale-shooting-suspect-gun/index.html
    There’s a good case to be made for the “involuntary commitment” standard. Involuntary commitment means that a psychiatrist judged the patient was a danger, not a layman. The real question is why wasn’t Santiago committed.

  24. 25
    Chris says:

    Oh, I don’t know about that. They all seem to be agreed that…President Trump and Russian government interests colluded to help him win the 2016 Presidential election

    LOL.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/11/us/politics/fbi-trump-russia-inquiry.html

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