The Wall Street Journal recently wrote an article about the new American Taxpayer Relief Act would impact the average citizen. Unfortunately, since the overwhelming majority of the tax increases (read: expiration of the Bush tax cuts) affect those who make close to the mid- six figure range, author Laura Sanders was left doing a little gymnastics in order to whip up a some outrage. The result is about what you’d expect.
Normally I don’t comment on anything political unless it has something to do with religion (abortion rights, same sex marriage, creationism, etc.). In this case, I make the exception because of the infographic included in the editorial, and how it fits very well in The Illogical School. I’ve titled it:
“How You Can Simultaneously Be Technically Correct and Full of Shit”.
The artistry tells you exactly how you’re supposed to feel without even looking at the numbers. Look at them. By even thinking that these taxes make sense you are hurting them. Won’t you please think of the sadly drawn pictures of statistically improbable individuals.
They are hurting. And you are making them hurt.
For example, there’s the single mother on the top left, with her two children – one hanging on to her, to further emphasize their utter dependence upon her meager income. She and her daughter have the same world-weary expression that comes from having to scrimp and save every penny to make sure there’s enough food left to put on the table after paying the rent, putting gas in the car, and taking little Johnny to the doctor for a check up.
Yes … with a gross income of just over a quarter of a million dollars – with some of the coming from investment dividends – it must be very difficult for the Wall Street Journal’s interpretation of a single mom to get by in today’s economy. Poor old Mom must be working her fingers to the bone pulling double shifts as an investment banker, toiling endlessly until the late afternoon, until she picks up her kids from daycare in her leased BMW … only to face the most painful decision yet: “Do I want lobster tonight? Or steak? Oooh, how about both?”
Below Swiss Family Surf & Turf we have the average “single person”, with her arms folded, looking defiant in the face of the tax increases that people like you voted to inflict upon her. Like her more downtrodden counterpart, she too is likely facing the terrible prospect of having to send the IRS an additional $3,000 of her hard earned money. Well, some of it was hard-earned. The remainder is due to deductions and investment income.
An unlike the WSJ-style “single mother”, the single person doesn’t have any dependents, giving her a significantly larger pool of income at her disposal. Not that it makes a difference, since it looks like the two of them get their clothes at the same department store. Hey Mom, button up your blouse and run a comb through your hair … this young firebrand below you is making you look bad.
And then we have the family of four. Looks like Single Mom married into some money and had another two kids. I’m glad that after the two additional bundles of joy in her life, she can still fit into that same pinstripe suit … and she still doesn’t even bother buttoning it all the way up.
Now we have six pained faces looking at us longingly. Well, five. The kid in the front looks like he’s planning a hit as soon as he develops enough hand-eye coordination to operate a telephone. I think the rest of them are upset because of the tax bracket they’re stuck in, since what Mom and Dad make in dividends alone puts them above the top 10% or earners in the country. This oppressive tax increase on such an average, working class family will probably mean that they will have to take one fewer trip to Europe this year. Poor guys.
Last but not least is the retired couple. No longer required to wear pinstripes, they’re “dressing down” in what appears to be a couple of pastel-hued polo shirts, sweaters wrapped around the neck, and pants made out what appears to be colored rubber bands. As retirees, they’re making only a mere fraction of what they used to make when they were working full time. Barely scraping by at $180,000 per year, the United States Government has decided that they are making too little to be subject to any additional tax increase. While still making about three and a half times the national median, it’s good to know that a couple of retirees don’t have to worry about having to give more when it’s clear they’ve given so much already.
Long story short, this is one giant pinstriped appeal to emotion. You’re supposed to somehow feel something for all of these people when they in no way represent the demographic used to describe them. Yes, if a single mother pulled in a cool quarter million per year with the aforementioned dividends and deductions, I’m sure she’d face a higher tax this year. But who cares when it doesn’t happen often enough to be relevant to the average person?
Maybe if the financial information matched the demographics, this might be a little more informative and a lot less laughable. Again, all of this is technically correct, but practically useless unless you’re just out to create a talking point.