Thursday, July 23, 2009


If we rescinded tax cuts on the rich, how much would the state bring in?

by Larry Geller

What a silly question, but one that I don’t believe our dailies have asked, unless I’ve missed something. Imagine, raising taxes on higher incomes even partially back to what they used to be.

When Governor Lingle talks about the need to lay off state workers, how much could she get instead from the yacht and country club set simply by taking back some of the tax cuts they’ve enjoyed these past few years?

It’s not as though they didn’t get their bailout money, they’ve enjoyed their country club memberships all these years, paid for with the enormous incomes they have enjoyed.

Executives and other highly compensated employees now receive more than one-third of all pay in the U.S., according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Social Security Administration data -- without counting billions of dollars more in pay that remains off federal radar screens that measure wages and salaries. [Wall Street Journal, Pay of Top Earners Erodes Social Security , 7/21/2009]

Yes, and as the link title suggests, because the bulk of their incomes don’t pay into Social Security (or Medicare), they are eroding these programs for the rest of us.

We deserve to see alternatives to laying off state workers. This will involve higher math, something the Governor may not Excel at. But I jest. Since she’s a Republican’s Republican, tax increases for the rich are not something she will consider even if she could do the math.

(Maybe the Legislature could put taxes on country club memberships or yacht paint, wine over $100 a bottle, private jet landing fees, or some other non-regressive method of taking back what our rich cousins have been getting away with for so long.)

If not the Governor, then someone ought to work it out and let us know. Is there an economist in Hawaii who is not also a Republican, or is that an oxymoron? Can one of our newspapers fund a short study on this? The story linked above reports on an analysis conducted by the newspaper itself.

Otherwise the stories we read are all about cuts, layoffs, furloughs, with no equal time for alternatives. Like taxing the rich, a little or a lot.


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