In a June 27 editorial, The Post discussed the inadvisability of the tax cut proposed by two senators. The editorial's point was that the bulk of this proposed tax cut would go to high-income earners, helping the rich more than the poor and, therefore, that particular tax cut ought to be discarded. When taxes are increased, however, discussions to the effect that the tax increases will be collected principally from the rich are rare.
In 1995 (the year for which the most recent data are publicly available), 89.2 million tax returns were filed; individual income tax gathered totaled $588.4 billion. There were 5.3 million returns showing Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) (line 31) of more than $100,000. These taxpayers, 6 percent of the tax-paying population, paid $279.8 billion in taxes, or 47.5 percent of the total. There were 86,914 returns showing Adjusted Gross Income of more than $1 million. These taxpayers, 0.097 percent of the tax-paying population, paid $71.5 billion in taxes, or 12 percent of the total.
The editorial, in order to be complete, should say that even though 6 percent of taxpayers pay 47.5 percent of taxes, and fewer than one in 1,000 (0.09 percent) pays 12.1 percent of all taxes, that any reduction of this burden, which then asks more from lower-earning Americans, is unfair.
The editorial also takes up the federal estate tax. At the moment it gathers about 1.3 percent of all revenue income -- about $17 billion. Any tax ought to do more good than harm. So in any discussion of the merits of keeping the estate tax, The Post should make the case that the country is better off with an estate tax than without one -- meaning convince readers that the government can do more with the $17 billion than the heirs might, that the disruptions in settling estates are worth the trouble and that the existence of a class of estate planners and lawyers who do not contribute a great deal to the country's welfare is valid.
The editorial's overall point, that we should pay down the debt, is valid. Missing were the reasons why the money to reduce the debt should come from this and that segment of society, and in which amounts. For what it's worth, my AGI runs about $40,000 and my estate is under $650,000, so I have no vested interest in the arguments save what might be best for the country.
FREDERIC D. WEEKES