Bill Maher's rant about rich people who feel vilified about their tax stance

Bill Maher's latest rant, about the tax bracket for the wealthy, is really funny.
And let's be clear: that's 3.6% only on income above 250 grand -- your first 250, that's still on the house. Now, this week we got some horrible news: that one in seven Americans are now living below the poverty line. But I want to point you to an American who is truly suffering: Ben Stein. You know Ben Stein, the guy who got rich because when he talks it sounds so boring it's actually funny. He had a game show on Comedy Central, does eye drop commercials, doesn't believe in evolution? Yeah, that asshole. I kid Ben -- so, the other day Ben wrote an article about his struggle. His struggle as a wealthy person facing the prospect of a slightly higher marginal tax rate. Specifically, Ben said that when he was finished paying taxes and his agents, he was left with only 35 cents for every dollar he earned. Which is shocking, Ben Stein has an agent? I didn't know Broadway Danny Rose was still working.

Ben whines in his article about how he's worked for every dollar he has -- if by work you mean saying the word "Bueller" in a movie 25 years ago. Which doesn't bother me in the slightest, it's just that at a time when people in America are desperate and you're raking in the bucks promoting some sleazy Free Credit Score dot-com... maybe you shouldn't be asking us for sympathy. Instead, you should be down on your knees thanking God and/or Ronald Reagan that you were lucky enough to be born in a country where a useless schmuck who contributes absolutely nothing to society can somehow manage to find himself in the top marginal tax bracket.

Bill Maher rant about rich people who feel vilified


  1. “…that you were lucky enough to be born in a country where a useless schmuck who contributes absolutely nothing to society can somehow manage to find himself in the top marginal tax bracket.”

    Funny, since Bill Maher and Ben Stein have pretty much the same job, and are certainly in the same tax bracket.

    1. The difference isn’t that Maher worked harder for his income, it’s that he isn’t horrified about the prospect of paying taxes on it. Maher has his hits and misses (his stance on vaccines really irks me) but he’s right on the money here.

    2. “Funny, since Bill Maher and Ben Stein have pretty much the same job, and are certainly in the same tax bracket.”

      Reading comprehension for the fail!

      You apparently only read: “Bill Maher’s rant about rich people”

      Your reaction: “Hypocrite! He’s rich too!”

      Important part you missed: “…who feel vilified about their tax stance”

      Bill Maher didn’t say he doesn’t do the same thing for a living. He’s just saying that rich people should be grateful for what they have, especially if they got rich off of some idiosyncrasy.

    3. No no, Bill Maher is most certainly someone who contributes to your society. With his shows he has proven to the rest of the planet than not all Americans are retarded, uneducated inbred morons with an IQ marginally larger than a dead rat. By his presence he probably caused the European Union to cancel their invasion plans of America.

  2. Christ, what an asshole!
    So you have an issue with how someone makes a living. Wait, he does the EXACT SAME THING you do for a living. It doesn’t matter how much he makes, if I was only able to keep 35 cents of every dollar I made I’d be pissed too.

    1. The difference – and I think it’s a BIG difference – is that Mahar at least has the decency not to complain because he didn’t get to keep quite as much of his free money as he might have liked.

      If you’re one of the lucky few who has stumbled into a racket where you are paid huge amounts of money for doing practically no work, shut up and enjoy it. Don’t bitch because your free lunch doesn’t come with a pickle. Or at least have the fucking decency not to bitch about it to hungry people.

    2. I’m pretty sure the issue lies with the people who can’t make a living. Furthermore, what is the point about the two doing the same thing? It’s not like he’s not aware that it would affect him as well. He could just as well had included a couple of “, like me” here and there in the rant, it wouldn’t have made it any less valid.

    3. but Maher isn’t complaining about how much he gets taxed at all – you know why? because he’s fucking rich. That’s the point!

      “if I was only able to keep 35 cents of every dollar I made I’d be pissed too.”

      What if that 35 cents a dollar out of 100 million dollars? I can’t speak for you, but honestly I wouldn’t give a fuck because a majority of my troubles would have melted away long ago. Get some perspective man.

  3. I was going to say “cue defenders of wealth and comfort in 3…2…1” but the first two comments mooted my point.

  4. This rant restores somewhat faith in America. It’s sad that the haters that inevitably will bash this rant make less than 20k a year yet somehow they will defend the rich.

  5. Well I wouldn’t really be pissed if I only kept 35 cents…that would mean I’m in that tax bracket too…

    Pot meet kettle, you are both black.

    At least Maher is pointing out that perhaps a little empathy for all the people you make money from (the commercials, viewers of the show, ect..) is warranted. Not whining about how you are getting reamed by the government. Join the crowd.

  6. Bill Maher is an ass. I agree with some of the points he makes, but he shouldn’t be throwing stones about who does what for a living when his main gig is sitting on his butt on cable TV acting like he has the perfect solution to every problem if we would all just listen to his sanctimonious whining.

    1. I think you’re missing the point here. He’s not complaining that Stein makes his money essentially doing nothing but that he is doing nothing, getting a lot of money for it and then complaining that he doesn’t get to keep all of it.

      Meanwhile, Maher seems to be aware that most of the people in the country aren’t as lucky, actually have to work and don’t get to complain on national news about their plight.

      Also: He doesn’t seem to mind to have to pay 3% more of his post 250K income, so maybe he’s playing to the crowd, but more likely he seems to think he’s well enough off that the 3% won’t hurt him.

  7. Yea! Don’t whine about getting reamed by the government, just sit back and enjoy it!

    Hmmmm… when did Clayton Williams come into this thread?

  8. You are all trolls and are completely wrong.

    Bill Maher is the worst person ever/the best person ever.

    His opinions are terrible and wrong/excellent and super accurate.

  9. I am in the top 1% of income earners in the US. And my wife and I work our asses off to be there.

    We should be paying more taxes. No, not happy about it. No, not pleased by the way the government is spending it. But we should be paying more than the large amount we already do.

  10. Ben Stein isn’t taxed at 65%. He is lumping in his agents’ cuts in his figure. It’s called overhead. They find him work. They deserved to be paid.

  11. Oh, if you don’t like taxes and want to live in a libertarian paradise, I have a suggestion — visit Mexico and see how it works in action. Few countries are more libertarian than Mexico.

    I’m not saying Mexico is terrible or anything, but it wouldn’t be my first choice of a country to call home, that’s for sure. Your mileage may vary.

    1. Libertain free market theory is this era’s Communism: Something that works wonderfully as long as human beings aren’t involved in the process.

      1. That’s pretty much the case with any kind of philosophy. They are “clean room engineered” and fail the moment they start getting in touch with the real world.

        There’s a reason why neither Communism nor Capitalism or any other philosophy (economic or sociological) has ever survived “first contact” intact.

    2. Oh, Somalia is even better!

      It’s a true Libertarian wonderland. No taxes, no public services, no clean water or air. Everything has to be paid for up front – including tribal justice and the right to continue existing.

      The rich can commit any atrocity they want against the poor and… oh, wait, that’s America I’m talking about now, never mind.

    3. I was going to say Somalia.

      I sincerely wish that all of the libertarians who live in the U.S. would start their libertarian paradise somewhere—anywhere—with the stipulation that they would be forcefully refused entry to any civilized nation should things not go as planned. I’d like to believe that we would put that whole political philosophy to rest, were it not that many libertarians have frustratingly short memories.

    4. Mexico, the Libertarian paradise? You mean that place with a strong and highly corrupt central government, that has it’s army soldiers go around killing people? Oh, OK.

      Taxes go to support organized criminals and war. It’s the least patriotic thing you can do.

  12. This may be the best thing Maher’s ever written. I generally agree with him maybe 70% of the time, and I abhor his taste in suits (of COURSE it matters!), but right now I wanna give him a big ol’ hug and an even louder microphone.

  13. Fellas, the 35% was left after he paid agents and taxes. The top marginal tax bracket is 36%, so the agents are taking 34%, or something like that. Plus what, the one guy is grousing about taxes, the other is not.

    1. Ben Stein’s agent is not taking 34 percent. Agent commission is typically 10% maybe 15%. A manager will also want 10-15%. But those are not taxes and Ben know this. Ben chooses to work with an agent and a manager and an accountant-those are the fees he pays them to help him find work, manage his wealth. Ben can spend the 65% of every dollar he earns after taxes any way he wishes. Quit yer bitchin Ben-you play you pay.

  14. if I was only able to keep 35 cents of every dollar I made I’d be pissed too.

    I’d much rather have 35% of $300,000 than 85% of $30,000. I don’t know what your problem is.

    This reminds me of this delusional rant by a rich person, complaining that it’s impossible to get by on a half a million a year, thanks to these horrible tax hikes. Complaining you’ll need to fire your maid and groundskeeper, and you won’t be able to keep sending your kids to expensive private schools… Well boo fucking hoo. There are people dying of starvation in our country. The vast, vast majority of people cannot afford a house, maybe not even a car. Many struggle just to eat and clothe themselves. Get a fucking grip on reality. If you make more than $250,000 a year you’re filthy fucking stinking rich, and don’t have to worry about anything. Just because you end up spending an extra THREE FUCKING PERCENT on taxes isn’t going to bankrupt you.

    1. Most people can’t afford houses or cars? Seriously? Look at all of the houses and cars around you. Does that make any sense at all?

  15. Arch conservative George Harrison (of Beatles fame) wrote about his horrible tax woes in his book, “I, Me, Mine.” RE: the wealthy being taxed more than everyone else: “Why am I being penalized for doing well?”

    1. When Harrison et al were complaining about the UK’s tax regime, the so-called Super-Tax bracket was a whopping 98%, when all the surcharges were added together. This was the prime motivator to any “non-gentry” rich people leaving the UK for foreign climes.

  16. Yeah, his agent would take 10%, his manager gets 10%, and his business manager/accountant would normally take 5%, right? And yet if the top marginal tax bracket is 36%, where’s the rest of his money going? As a 2nd generation economist, you’d think the guy could perform simple arithmetic.

    He also bitched about his property taxes in the article, but the key quote is “I pay my income taxes, and after them and the commissions I pay my agent, I am left with about 35 cents for every dollar I earn.”

    Either he’s a liar or he has the most criminally overpaid representation in the whole of Tinseltown.

  17. Americans like the believe rags to riches story, winning the lottery, coming to America and making it. But thats a story made up by a small part of the population, the rich. Its a country run by rich people. (you need to have some money to be in politics)
    and even poor people want to keep that dream, that image alive, because it might happen for them one day. So they sympathize with the poor little rich people who need to pay a bit more taxes

  18. Great stuff. And yeah, as said above, read about how Bill isn’t complaining about taxes before typing dumb.

    And yes, what Ben Stein is doing to earn money with free credit report is significant because it’s promoting a service that confuses people into charging for something that is free.

  19. On the other hand, I can always say that I took $5000 of Ben Stein’s money on episode #4058 of his show a decade ago. Reading about his whining makes that win all the sweeter.

    And oh yeah, I’m also in a higher tax bracket than I was 3 years ago. Do I complain? No. Because the reason why I’m in a higher tax bracket in the first place is because I’m making a lot more money now than I was three years ago!

    In other words, boo hoo, Ben Stein is rich but not quite as rich as he’d be with a flat tax.

  20. Guilt-ridden liberals who think they’re not paying “enough” in taxes are entirely free to make additional voluntary contributions to the U.S. Treasury.

    But they don’t.

    1. Guilt-ridden liberals who think they’re not paying “enough” in taxes are entirely free to make additional voluntary contributions to the U.S. Treasury. But they don’t.

      Just as tax-burdened conservatives who think they’re paying “too much” can lobby to drastically reduce U.S. military spending, which is about as much as the rest of the world spends put together and by far the biggest chunk of the discretionary budget.

      But they don’t.

    2. Guilt-ridden liberals who think they’re not paying “enough” in taxes are entirely free to make additional voluntary contributions to the U.S. Treasury.

      But they don’t.

      Guess what? They do. Yeah, I know a bunch of people who do that, although they are not particularly guilt-ridden as far as I can see. Some of them are liberal, some quite decidedly not.

      I don’t do it because the government will just give away my money to fat rich bastards like Ben Stein. I give money to Habitat for Humanity, the Heifer Project, Planned Parenthood, and Afghan orphanages instead.

      You do know that multiple studies have shown the poorer you are, the more likely you are to use some of your money for the benefit of other humans, right?

      I’m guessing that’s why the super-rich are so unhappy. It’s because they have had to give up an essential part of their humanity, in order to retain their riches in the face of all the problems in the world that their money could correct. Could you respect yourself if you took TARP money? I couldn’t.

      Bill Gates looks much happier now that Melinda has got him doing good in the world.

      1. Three million?

        Thanks, that pretty well proves my point. Even ONE liberal multi-millionaire who wanted to put his money where all of your mouths are would exceed that.

        1. I doesn’t prove your point, it refutes it. The fact that you can’t tell the difference is in no way surprising.

    3. Liberalism in economic theory is exactly about NOT paying taxes. Free trade, Laissez-faire? No? Those are key concepts of liberalism, and involve minimum, if at all taxes. I can tell you that as an honest socialist. Before finger-pointing- AND I CAN UNDERSTAND LIBERAL ARGUMENTS. I just do not believe them. It doesn’t mean I should use the word “liberal” as an insult. Try to understand an argument before you rebut it.

      1. “Liberal” in America would be regarded as “left-wing” in most of the rest of the world. Followers of Laissez-faire, failed economic theories are known as neoliberals.

    4. So your asking “liberals” should financially carry the conservatives on their incomes while they enjoy this countries assets for free? I don’t think I like your financial planning.

  21. I don’t always agree with Maher, but he’s not a hypocrite here: He’s not calling on randomly hating ALL rich people or that nobody deserves to be wealthy, just that you shouldn’t complain with your mouth full.

    Amen to that. There is nothing more irksome than hearing all these trust-fund babies and wall street frauds play the violin the loudest while the working class crowd has been treading water with almost nothing to show for it for decades. They are vilified because they are psychopaths: Extreme lack of empathy and guilt, insensitivity, selfishness, manipulation… Sounds about right! Time to give something back.

  22. @tylerkaraszewski & Temptation:

    “Funny, since Bill Maher and Ben Stein have pretty much the same job, and are certainly in the same tax bracket.” Hmmmmm.

    “Christ, what an asshole!

    “Wait, he does the EXACT SAME THING you do for a living. It doesn’t matter how much he makes, if I was only able to keep 35 cents of every dollar I made I’d be pissed too.” Yeah-huh. OK.

    Boys, boys! I think the point of Maher’s rant was that Stein is the one, among many other very wealthy Republicrats and Wall Street banksters crying crocodile tears over an additional 3.6% for income OVER $250K. Considering the Bush II era tax cuts for the rich (and if you’re making over $250K per year, or particularly a f**king whole lot MORE, like MILLIONS per annum, as Stein (and Maher, assuredly) pull in, this is relative chump change and like getting a fingernail clipped in a ritzy nail salon. Oh, and btw, Maher does not do the “EXACT SAME THING” for a living, or don’t you watch TV anymore? Get a real clue.

    The main fact of the matter is, Maher is not the one complaining about this relatively minor, niggling amount being given to the govmint, but Stein is, and that makes him look like some kind of delusional, lying, greedy, neo-con craphatican senior baby in my book. I’d pay whatever taxes were legislated by rescinding the tax cuts for the rich that they have had for nearly a decade without weeping into my Chivas Regal at night in agony over how terrible a burden this small extra tax entails.

    Stein is selfishly pretending or ignoring the fact that the poverty rate is higher than in nearly two decades, the highest earners are getting richer at an accelerated rate, while the middle class and especially poor are losing their jobs, their benefits, health care, their homes, and soon, their unemployment bennies, if any. What happens then, when enough people end up having not much if anything left to lose? Chaos? Anarchy? A deeply divided and conflicted class society (oh, sorry, we already have that)?

    This is the deepest recession and economic collapse since The Great One in the ’30’s. Stop your mutual bitching and whining, and look over the fence at the reality the vast majority are facing today, with real unemployment now rising to nearly 20%, if you include (as should be realistically done) those who given up looking after being “downsized” and laid off in their 40’s and 50’s, like me, or under-employed and part-time with short hours and no bennies.

    People are beginning to starve and turn to crime in my neck of the woods more and more often due to these events, largely caused by Wall Street financial mutants who have cost this country over $20 _TRILLION_ in lost incomes, property values, and pension benefits, etc. And they _still_ have not been held accountable.

    This is a goddamn disaster, and it’s getting worse, with this “jobless recovery” nonsense caused by “free trade” (not fair trade), multinational megacorp outsourcing, political gridlock (that Grand Old Party of No comes to mind), consumer materialist credit fetishism (we all need to look in _that_ mirror).

    F**k Stein–if this syndrome keeps up, and it will for years to come, eventually the old Yippie slogan, “Eat The Rich” may become truer than merely an amusing political slogan. Enjoy those peeled grapes from Beulah while you can in the interim, chumps. $700+ billion in lost revenue if the tax cuts are extended indefinitely, over 10 years, in the middle of this crisis.

    I have no sympathy for Stein or his cranky ilk–and if he’s only getting 35 cents on the gross dollar of income, he’s stupid, needs a new accountant, and should tell the truth rather than muddying the waters, as he certainly isn’t paying out 65% on income taxes, which is what his complaint and Maher’s comments were actually in regard to, remember? There’s 40 to 45 percent of his gross going somewhere else, most probably and primarily his own expenses to support his wealthy lifestyle, among other material things and “support people.”

    Eventually he may wake up to find, if he gets his way, that there are those, increasingly, that may become so desperate in the long run, that they may greet him upon waking some morning with the question of whether he enjoys a “nice Chianti, with fava beans?” He’s a neo-con, solipsistic jerknut, IMHO. Ciao!

    1. Awesome, awesome rant. I keep mentioning the Masque of the Red Death. If only George Romero had made a version! It’s never too late!

  23. Comments 1 and 2 are criticizing Maher because “you have the same job he does”. Right. The difference is that Maher doesn’t bitch about his taxes being a crime against humanity.

    (But while we’re comparing apples: Last I checked Bill still had a running TV show. I guess they’ve both had docutainment movies in the past five years, so they’re even there.)

  24. If Stein is paying as much to his agents as to the IRS, maybe he should be complaining to them? After all, they’re not providing him with roads, bridges, or military protection.

  25. This whole thing with that top 1% bitching about the tax rates and how Obamacare is going to kill us all… do they realize that we’ve had a top tax rate over 50% for the majority of our history?

    I think that the 60-70-80% max tax rates did a lot to discourage this whole ‘get rich quick’ mentality we have now…
    You got taxed at a lot lower rate if you made your wealth gradually.

    1. 1789 to 1913 (the year 16th amendment ratified): 124 years; income tax rate during that time: 0%. 1913 to 2010: 97 years; income tax rate during that time: variable. Please explain how having income taxes at all for only 44% of the history of the United States works out to “a top tax rate over 50% for the majority of our history”.

  26. I’m not a fan of Bill Maher; because, even when I agree with him, I still find him obnoxious. In this case, I agree with him (and still find him obnoxious).

    The real point he was making was not about taxation, but about attitude and gratitude: Someone who is richer than 95% of the population should not be whining about not being quite as rich as he’d like to be. Especially during an economic slump when there are people out there who (unlike him) are really hurting.

    If Ben Stein (or anyone else for that matter) wants to make an argument for why rich people are paying too much in taxes, that’s fine. But don’t play the martyr. If you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to pay the bills, whether you’re going to be able to afford to retire or to send your kids to college, or whether you might even lose your only home, don’t try to get sympathy from folks who do have to worry about these things.

  27. Keep in mind, when it comes to economics, finance, and money, Ben Stein is the guy who said “Mortgage crisis? You’re f’ing crazy, the banks are fine, there is no mortgage crisis!”

  28. Did anybody else read that as saying “Ben Stein is objecting to the fact that his agent wants to get paid, and blames the government for not providing him one for free”?

  29. A note of appreciation from the rich

    Let’s be honest: you’ll never win the lottery.

    On the other hand, the chances are pretty good that you’ll slave away at some miserable job the rest of your life. That’s because you were in all likelihood born into the wrong social class. Let’s face it — you’re a member of the working caste. Sorry!

    As a result, you don’t have the education, upbringing, connections, manners, appearance, and good taste to ever become one of us. In fact, you’d probably need a book the size of the yellow pages to list all the unfair advantages we have over you. That’s why we’re so relieved to know that you still continue to believe all those silly fairy tales about “justice” and “equal opportunity” in America.

    Of course, in a hierarchical social system like ours, there’s never been much room at the top to begin with. Besides, it’s already occupied by us — and we like it up here so much that we intend to keep it that way. But at least there’s usually someone lower in the social hierarchy you can feel superior to and kick in the teeth once in a while. Even a lowly dishwasher can easily find some poor slob further down in the pecking order to sneer and spit at. So be thankful for migrant workers, prostitutes, and homeless street people.

    Always remember that if everyone like you were economically secure and socially privileged like us, there would be no one left to fill all those boring, dangerous, low-paid jobs in our economy. And no one to fight our wars for us, or blindly follow orders in our totalitarian corporate institutions. And certainly no one to meekly go to their grave without having lived a full and creative life. So please, keep up the good work!

    You also probably don’t have the same greedy, compulsive drive to possess wealth, power, and prestige that we have. And even though you may sincerely want to change the way you live, you’re also afraid of the very change you desire, thus keeping you and others like you in a nervous state of limbo. So you go through life mechanically playing your assigned social role, terrified what others would think should you ever dare to “break out of the mold.”

    Naturally, we try to play you off against each other whenever it suits our purposes: high-waged workers against low-waged, unionized against non-unionized, Black against White, male against female, American workers against Japanese against Mexican against…. We continually push your wages down by invoking “foreign competition,” “the law of supply and demand,” “national security,” or “the bloated federal deficit.” We throw you on the unemployed scrap heap if you step out of line or jeopardize our profits. And to give you an occasional break from the monotony of our daily economic blackmail, we allow you to participate in our stage-managed electoral shell games, better known to you ordinary folks as “elections.” Happily, you haven’t a clue as to what’s really happening — instead, you blame “Aliens,” “Tree-hugging Environmentalists,” “*******,” “Jews,” Welfare Queens,” and countless others for your troubled situation.

    We’re also very pleased that many of you still embrace the “work ethic,” even though most jobs in our economy degrade the environment, undermine your physical and emotional health, and basically suck your one and only life right out of you. We obviously don’t know much about work, but we’re sure glad you do!

    Of course, life could be different. Society could be intelligently organized to meet the real needs of the general population. You and others like you could collectively fight to free yourselves from our domination. But you don’t know that. In fact, you can’t even imagine that another way of life is possible. And that’s probably the greatest, most significant achievement of our system — robbing you of your imagination, your creativity, your ability to think and act for yourself.

    So we’d truly like to thank you from the bottom of our heartless hearts. Your loyal sacrifice makes possible our corrupt luxury; your work makes our system work. Thanks so much for “knowing your place” — without even knowing it!

    [Garsh, it sounds like something Stein might say. Perhaps he’s channeling the selfish, solipsistic, neo-con sentiment so succinctly stated above, eh? 8^}]

    1. Wow. That was just awesome.

      Antinous, please make sure that Cory et al. see this essay-comment. It needs to be made into a poster, and re-posted by itself. Brilliant work, sir!

    2. When I read the second and third sentences of your post, I was fully expecting an MLM pitch, e.g. “You wanna keep commuting with them other losers or are you gonna man up and invest in yourself” etc.

    3. Thank you for that!! I could not have said it better. That is exactly the issue we have and its exactly what the rich think- Revolucion!

  30. $.35 on the dollar still adds up to a lot more money when you make a hell of a lot more dollars than most people. I bet that would still add up to more than what I make in a year.

  31. Let’s see…

    Ben Stein – Son of a Presidential Economics Advisor. Degree in economics from Columbia University. Speech Writer for Presidents Nixon and Ford. First Connecticut Poverty Lawyer. Trial Lawyer for the FTC. Adjunct Professor at American University, Washington DC. Law Professor Pepperdine University. Writer. Commentator.

    Bill Maher – Well… he likes to hang out at the Playboy Mansion…

    “Instead, you should be down on your knees thanking God and/or Ronald Reagan that you were lucky enough to be born in a country where a useless schmuck who contributes absolutely nothing to society can somehow manage to find himself in the top marginal tax bracket.”

    Sorry Bill. I don’t think “Luck” had much to do with it. Go back to being a whiney, unfunny douche nozzle.

    Strike that. Douche Nozzles serve a purpose.

    1. Chupacabara, I’m confused as to the point you’re trying to make.

      “Son of a Presidential Economics Advisor” stands out as particularly divergent from the other attributes listed for Ben Stein.

      1. If you are raised around surfers… do you think you might know more about waves and surfing than, say, someone from the midwest who has never seen the ocean?

        1. If I were raised by an economist, wouldn’t I expect to know exactly how to calculate my income tax burden? I was raised by a machinist with a G.E.D., and yet I know that Stein’s income tax plus what he pays his agent can not equal 65% of his income.

          He’s in the highest tax bracket, right? 35% to Uncle Sam. He’s probably incorporated, right? So his CA tax burden is… what, a shade under 9%, right?

          So his agent gets 31%?

          I don’t care what else is laudable or despicable about Ben Stein. When he said, quote, “I pay my income taxes, and after them and the commissions I pay my agent, I am left with about 35 cents for every dollar I earn,” he exaggerated.

          Or, to put it uncharitably, lied.

          Unless I’m missing something, which is entirely possible, since I was brought up in a trailer park.

          1. Well… the part you are missing is that you are quoting what Bill Maher said about Ben Stein saying… Not what Ben Stein said directly.

            Once you figure in Fedral Taxes, State Taxes, Sales Taxes, Gas Taxes, property taxes, and overhead… how far off is he really? Do you know? I read the article about what Bill Maher said. Not the article about what Ben Stein said.

            Do you think it possible that Bill may have puched things a bit for comedic effect? I mean… he is a comedian.

          2. Not what Ben Stein said directly.

            Naw, I pulled my quote straight from Stein’s article. I get where you’re coming from. Certainly Maher has been known to run an idea too far out where the buses don’t run (he certainly leaped hard on the cellphone-use-is-killing-off-the-honeybees idea), but in this case Maher’s on better footing than usual.

          3. He’s in the highest tax bracket, right? 35% to Uncle Sam. He’s probably incorporated, right? So his CA tax burden is… what, a shade under 9%, right?

            So his agent gets 31%?

            See, told you I was a rube from an aluminum house with wheels. 35 + 9 = 44.

            So his agent gets 21%.

            Which is still more than he/she deserves.

            Dammit, it’s Friday evening and now I gotta start my weekend having just farted out a flawed argument. I’ll leave it to Maher to deflate Stein, I got no business being here.

          4. Okay I am not in the US but I am pretty sure the US has a progressive tax rate as well.

            As such the highest rate (Currently 36%) only applies to the the sum above 250K.

            Or as it would work (roughly) in Canada:

            First 15K or so: No tax
            Between 15K – 36K x%
            Between 36K – 72K y%
            Between 72K – 120K z%

            I think that’s currently though there may be a higher tax bracket still.

            But anyway, the way this works is that you pay the % of the tax rate on the amount in the braket. So say, X = 10% and you make a total of 35K/year you would not pay any tax on the first 15K but would pay 10% on the remaining 20K for a grand total of 2000/year in taxes.

            Same goes for the other brackets as well.

            So when they say they pay 36% in taxes it’s actually not 36%, the real number is lower based on how the brackets are set, but realistically I would guess for someone making 250K it’ll be around 30% or so, after that it would go up slowly but to hit the whole 36% on tax levels would require a substantial income.

          5. How ’bout that! I never knew that’s how a progressive system worked (I ain’t lyin’ about that trailer park background).

            So a few minutes of Wiki-calculating using this chart tells me that our man Stein paid effectively 27% tax on the first $372,950 he made in 2009, and then 35% on every nickel thereafter… right?

            His disingenuity grows more insidious the more I learn…

          6. Keep also in mind that not all income is taxed, in Canada for example I don’t have to pay any tax if I win the lottery (if I do invest it though and get profit from it (even interest) that is taxable).

            Likewise, you can get deductions. Here we have something called an RRSP (Retirement Savings Plan). Money I put in there gets deducted from my income and I don’t have to pay income tax on it (there is a certain allowance every year, the neat thing is that the allowance carries over, so if you have a crappy year and you don’t put anything in you can put it in the next year), you do pay income tax though if you withdraw money from the account.

            Then they have another neat little thing for the last two years: Tax Free Savings account, it allows you to put up to 5K a year of pre-tax income into it. BUT you don’t have to pay any taxes on any revenue that is generated in the account nor do you have to pay any taxes for withdrawls. The neat thing with this account is that you can use it for investment purposes, and say, hold 5K worth of Stock in it, then sell the stock (within the account) and get a tax free profit from that (or so I understand, I am currently digging into this a bit more, but I am also trying to set up my own company and corporate taxes are a bit of a higher priority right now).

            Either way, those are Canadian taxes, but I am pretty sure similar vehicles exist in the US.

      1. I also didn’t add that Bill Maher is a religion-hater or that he is on the board of PETA…


        Doesn’t negate my point either way.

    2. Law professor at Pepperdine U? The one that hired Ken “pro-Prop 8” Starr as Dean of Law mainly on the basis of his resume bashing Clinton for pecker tracks? The one that says it’s dedicated to Christian values? I wouldn’t boast about that one too loudly.

    3. In spite of all his credentials, Ben Stein is a creationist. This automatically makes him one of the stupidest people on Earth, ranking somewhere between Mayonnaise and Slime Mold.

    4. Son of a Presidential Economics Advisor

      What a surprise, another selfish, petulant wealthy ass who was born on third base but thinks he hit a triple to get there.

  32. @davidasposted: “I sincerely wish that all of the libertarians who live in the U.S. would start their libertarian paradise somewhere—anywhere—with the stipulation that they would be forcefully refused entry to any civilized nation should things not go as planned.”

    It is not impossible to build Rapture on the bottom of the ocean. It is impossible to build it –anywhere else!–

  33. The bottom line is this: you made the money, and as long as it’s legally obtained, you should be able to keep the money.

    Graduated taxes are a joke.

  34. Eh! So _now_ my comment (# 47) shows up! Sorry about the crack about Boing founders relative income levels and tax rates, guys (and gals)– it was based on #47 being submitted about 15 to 20 minutes ago, and when it didn’t show, perhaps due to what I thought might be its overly rantish tone (and the standard “your comment will be published in a _few_ minutes” block appearing afterward), and when it wasn’t, I submitted my “a note of appreciation for the rich” quote, which I thought was in the spirit of reaction to Stein’s weepy dilemma here.

    Oddly, that “note of appreciation” showed up here (as comment #44) before the initial one submitted about 20 minutes beforehand. Servers must be too busy on this post, as, man, the flood of commentary (I wrote my cranky liddle rant after the first two commenters held forth, which also got my gall~goat), and after I did see my “note” quote appear within a minute or two, I was wondering…so I resubmitted my initial no-show comment, and lo and behold, now there it is, within a “few minutes.” Hmmm….

    Anyway…Thanks, BB–was I temporarily held up by moderation review, or was it a technical too busy server glitch?). Hey, at least I didn’t make any grammar cop comments about spelling, syntax, dropped words, etc., as I had to do over at–maybe that’s because they make just so many more errors of that kind that I felt I had to complain over there. Strange, ain’t it? Oh, and mea culpa to BB, tenk you veddy much. 8^}

  35. “$.35 on the dollar still adds up” Indeed, if Mr. Stein grosses a million dollars a year from his various schemes and investments, he nets $350,000 a year. I know it would be difficult to live on such a meager amount, but I would be willing to try. Also, too, he is complaining about a tax increase of $5,400, if he “earns” a million bucks a year.

    @Chupacabra: “Son of a Presidential Economics Advisor” and “I don’t think luck had much to do with it.” In what all the other fetuses considered a savvy economic move, Unborn Ben Stein reached down from Heaven to tap the uterus of a lady in Silver Spring, Maryland. Luck? As if.

    1. Sure. Because being in the lucky sperm club ensured he could achieve all that he has with little or no effort on his part, right?


      BTW. Diggin the “Coelacanth” reference. +1

      1. Did Stein work hard for what he has? I’m guessing he did. Was he also a winner in the lucky sperm club who grew up with money and connections which the majority of his countrymen would never experience? I’m certain he was.

        I appreciate that you don’t like Bill Maher, but don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining. Stein was lucky. He is now a man of privilege who is complaining about paying a fraction more money to the country that made his family’s wealth possible.

        Glad you like teh Coelacanth :P

  36. Xenu, William George, Anon, davidaposted, etc.:

    Please have the sense not to describe Mexico, Somalia, and other such places as libertarian paradises. You may completely disagree with libertarian philosophy, but pointing to societies with weak or non-existent property rights as somehow being libertarian is intellectually dishonest.

    This is the same as when right-wingers describe progressives as socialists or communists. You are creating and beating down a strawman. This is not honest discussion.

    1. You may completely disagree with libertarian philosophy, but pointing to societies with weak or non-existent property rights as somehow being libertarian is intellectually dishonest.

      Isn’t possession 99% of ownership? As such, shouldn’t a truly libertarian society just work?

      If anything, the state Mexico seems to get to and Somalia is already in just shows that the ideal of a Liberitarian society can only work on paper, not in reality.

      1. davidaposted,

        I think the Wikipedia entry for classical liberalism is helpful to understand what many Americans really mean when they use the term libertarian. Libertarianism, as a term, encompasses quite a bit. My point was that it’s a mistake to assume anyone who describes him/herself as libertarian as anarchocapitalistic (although I don’t think many on the left really understand this concept either).

    2. Oh come on. That’s like those people who say “Well Russia wasn’t REALLY communist” or some claptrap like that.

      What they really mean is that “Well Russian doesn’t count as a failed state because they didn’t obey these certain rules.”

      Which is an invalid argument to begin with. What you’re effectively saying is that you know best, and somehow if you ran the world according to your version of some philosophy, it would work perfectly.

      Of course, your theory has never been tested — so you could be completely wrong about everything. But it’s easier to ignore that part by pretending that the failure of instances of a philosophy you adhere to are all broken BECAUSE they didn’t adhere to one little detail here or there of the philosophy.

      1. Most everyone here seems to think that libertarians are fine when they’re talking about civil liberties, gay marriage, religion, or war, but drooling idiots when they talk about government finance and regulation.

        Well, I feel -exactly- the same way about progressives. So I guess we can all find some common ground.

        1. I’m not sure that libertarian social policy is as accepted here as you might like to believe. For instance I don’t think most here will agree that social services cause poverty. I imagine that support climate change denial is pretty thin as well. The idea that government regulation is the cause of the ill it attempts to control is antithetical to the progressive view and requires an extreme form of historical denial to support.

          I would guess that Libertarians get play here for the same reason the bearded lady does.

    3. Actually no it’s not.

      The whole point is that your property rights are facilitated in the first place by the very social structures said (very) theoretical paradise so loathes.

      Thinking that you can artificially impose top-down property rights (ie – the law, and ownership being 9/10’s of it) onto a system that is otherwise fundamentally chaotic is where the intellectual dishonesty enters the picture. If anything all you’re talking about is a “government” which is little more then a private enforcement warrior class in the employ of the super-rich. The return of the Aristocracy…. hardly even an original way of running things let alone revolutionary.

    4. Thank you! I was about to say the same thing. A libertarian paradise would probably look more like a mixture of Hong Kong (economics) and Amsterdam (personal freedom) than like Mexico.

  37. What happened to the people arguing for a flat tax? I don’t mean that as an antagonistic question, but an honest one. It seemed for a while everyone was talking about what a great idea it was, but maybe the enthusiasm for that idea was just overrepresented in the news media/the water-cooler-conversations. I wasn’t very engaged in politics at the time.

  38. Our current tax structure is regressive and wrong.
    My wife and I make a lot of money, not top 2 percent, more than most people, but I don’t bitch about having to pay taxes. I have issues with how things work at times, but the real enemies of America and democracy are the plutocrats in charge.
    Working people that stand up and defend tax cuts for multi-millionaires and billionaires are morons.

  39. “Doesn’t negate my point either way.”

    But it does illustrate that Stein denies reality if it does not accord to his politics, so he’s objectively amoral.

    1. Denies whos reality?

      He believes science is evil. I believe more people have died in the name of some “god” or another than anything science has caused.

      It is his opinion that science is evil. I disagree.

      Bill believes religion is evil. I tend to agree.

      I admire someone who can have faith in something bigger than themselves. I can’t. I even have trouble with the spiritualistic side of my native american heritage… and sometimes this leaves me feeling like I am missing something. Other times I am glad I believe in science and am not afraid of the dark.

      It doesn’t mean I need to look down my nose at others that believe in Old woman and old Man and our other cultural beliefs, or the beliefs of christians or jews, or whatever… That belief is THEIR reality.

      I have a different one.

  40. There sure is a lot of judgment and prejudice in this thread about how people get their money, a lot of assumptions that some people’s efforts aren’t worth the money those efforts bring in.

  41. Chupacabra: you erroneously and consistently mistake wealth for talent or effort; in some cases it may be that wealth is a result of effort or talent, in most cases, it is not. When those who get, either by talent, effort or genes, wealthy, and do not realize this mistake, there is a word for it:lack of empathy. (Sociopaths are defined by a lack of empathy and often rise ‘to the top’ because of it, ironically).Or perhaps its called a “lack of wisdom”. In either case it shows that their effort or good luck, or genes, from a societal standpoint, have ultimately, gone to waste. Some might also call these people insensitive and spoiled, despite their effort, genes, etc. Or just plain out and out assholes.

  42. During a time when so many are unemployed and are struggling to keep their homes and feed their families, it isn’t a good idea to shout “Let them eat cake!”, you are liable to lose your head.

    Hearing the rich in the US complain about the 3.5 percent tax increase on income over 250k is sort of like hearing someone complain to a homeless person that their new stretch hummer doesn’t have heated seats. Not likely to get sympathy and in fact pretty rude and out of touch with the struggles of their fellow man. Must be hard being in the tax bracket that has the most tax loop holes.

    Do these rich not realize that they are still paying much lower taxes then they would in many countries in the world.

  43. Divide and Conquer is the game and Bill and Ben both play their parts well.

    Now they can sick the Poor and against the Middle Class instead of really pointing out the $250,000 is not what it used to be and to in the Upper Class you are over the Millions mark a few times over.

    After all these are 2010 Federal Reserve Notes we are talking about and because of inflation its lost over 93% of its value which is now accelerated with the new stimulus actions.

    Its time to “Pony Up” your share because Prisons and Bombs are expensive.

  44. The thing that amazes me about these discussions is how many people rally to the side of the obscenely rich and absurdly powerful.

    Almost as though they consider themselves to be in that strata.

    Or, like, if they stand up for them, they’ll be mystically whisked away to planet of the billionaires.

    Just to be clear: Act as arrogant as you want; still doesn’t make you one of the “cool” kids.

    And buying into the Fox News’ propaganda won’t take up your income one cent. You are still “them,” and will never be “us” to the Forbes 400.

    I know this is utterly, completely, and profoundly obvious. But wow. Many, many, many people sure don’t seem to understand it.

    1. Anon @ 79:

      Here’s the secret: We don’t tax the “obscenely rich” very much at all. Once you reach the point of being able to spend a few million a year on tax accountants and lawyers, you are pretty much guaranteed to pay a lot less percentagewise than someone at the currently controversial $250K level.

      Because we don’t tax -wealth-, we tax certain categories of -income-. That’s why you see Buffett, Gates, Soros etc. shilling for tax increases, because they know they personally will be minimally affected.

      What we do in this country, and what the current administration wants to keep doing, is tax the ever-loving shit out of the upper middle class, the people who earn $100K to maybe $500K a year. (Full disclosure – I am in the very bottom end of that range).

      Now if that is what you are OK with, by all means say so. But don’t pretend that failure to renew the Bush tax cuts will somehow tak a big bite out of the Forbes 400. Because it won’t.

      1. A build on this argument as well. The super-rich don’t actually own anything, as individuals. Everything is locked up in corporations, where the people who front the media’s of being super-rich are actually just duly appointed officers of the asset-owning corporations, and so get to use the assets of those corporations as if they were personal property. And as an officer of the corporation, they make the rules about how the corporate assets can be used.

        It’s like Mark Twain wrote about in his story “The Million Pound Note”—once you’ve got the semblance of wealth, you never have to spend it. People just offer you for free what others have to buy. And really, what is a corporation anyway, but a flim-flam, a gigantic long con, with a cast of thousands all conspiring to fool us, the marks.

  45. @ Antinous and/or Mark F.:

    Interesting editing on my comments, guys. Plus the rearrangement of my comment placement/prior number. So, my prior #47 is now #30?
    WTF? Or FTW? Eh, heh. Whatevs…maybe 2 + 2 does now equal 5?

    At least the main part of my rant and follow-up “note” quote (which I found on, btw) finally showed up, and is now in the order it was originally submitted. There’s something to be said about that, and the edits. Well, I guess it’s your blog…but those were my comments, and it is odd to find them modified without comment. And so it goes…hi ho.

    1. Your first comment was there when I looked, so I nuked the second one. Numbers change as anonymous comments are approved.

  46. what would a “healthy” real-world minarchy look like? What would it look like in a country where 90% of the population couldn’t afford the very best government that the market could provide?

  47. Complaining that you only keep $.35 on the dollar after you pay your taxes and your AGENTS is more than a bit disingenuous, even for someone like Stein. It’s like me complaining that after I pay my taxes, mortgage, utilities, car loan, and grocery bill, I only keep about $.20 on the dollar.

  48. Ben Stein of 2010, I’d like you to meet Ben Stein of 2006:

    When I mentioned on these panels that we should consider all options for closing this gap — including raising taxes, particularly for the wealthiest people — I was met with several arguments by people who call themselves conservatives and free marketers. […] People ask how I can be a conservative and still want higher taxes. It makes my head spin, and I guess it shows how old I am. But I thought that conservatives were supposed to like balanced budgets.

  49. For any rich people who may be reading this comment thread, I’d like to describe my hard work, vs your hard work, and maybe we can compare how much we deserve our respective piles of money.

    For a period of 5 years, I worked no less than 3 jobs. This involves waking up at 5AM, walking half a mile to the bus stop, waiting 10 minutes for the bus, taking the bus out of town for a half hour, toiling away in a field harvesting flowers for 6 hours a day, bent over the entire time, picking flowers. May not sound like back breaking manual labor, but my doctor does say my back is broken, so yeah. After 6hr of this, I’ve made about $40. Take the bus back to the exchange, wait ten minutes, take the bus downtown, walk ten minutes, arrive at restaurant, toil away for 4 hours doing dishes under a time constraint while being yelled at by your superiors for not working hard enough. Take the bus back out of town to the grocery store, stock shelves for 4 hours. It may not seem like hard work, lifting boxes, but it adds up, especially when it’s 7PM and you’ve been working since 5AM. Leave work at 11PM, get home at midnight, wake up at 6AM, repeat. I spent my entire life working. No rest for personal projects, no time to spend with my kids, no time to do anything I want to do at all, just work, eat, work, sleep, work. For this, I was paid less than $30,000 a year.


    1. From the type of work you’re doing it sounds like you need to get yourself an education. There’s lots of free education money and students loans. I recommend you go back to school.

      1. There’s no such thing as free money. And student loans are a gateway to indentured servitude.

        Oh, wait, I get it… you were being clever. Good work.

        As for “libertarianism” and the “left” — a lot of folks on the left understand that the word libertarianism is not necessarily linked to anarch-capitalism. Many on the left, in fact, understand “anarcho-capitalism” to be a contradiction: The replacement of one hierarchy for another, as real property is possible only through the enforcement of property laws by a centralized authority. Without a centralized authority, a society based on “property” as a right would devolve into chaos and, despite the nifty jokes people make about herding cats and anarchists, anarchism does not at all value chaos. Thus, many leftists consider themselves libertarians, despite the connotation stirred up by the ill-named LIbertarian Party. Chomsky, for example, has given a little explanation of his libertarian-socialism about a thousand times. Scratch a lefty law professor in this country and you’ll find a libertarian-socialist.

        The sad thing is that almost all forms of anarchism (including classical libertarianism) are a threat to all forms of authority enacted by compulsion. For this reason, anarchist thought has never had a fruitful home in academia or industry (obviously), and has not been well thoroughly developed or explained as its retarded cousin, Communism.

      2. Did that not register as slightly insulting to the majority of people in the world before you hit the submit button?

          1. Well read it again. Give it a good old college try. Also, continue to thank god that you’re not some stupid commoner too dumb to attend university.

    1. I think that’s the most relevant part of Bill’s rant. Even if I, as a middle class American, felt that I was being taxed unfairly I sure as hell wouldn’t complain about it to people in the third world who keep more of their paychecks but only make a few hundred bucks a year.

  50. Ultimately, if you’ve ever made a financial transaction above $1000, you have the government to thank for upholding the law. Black markets around the world show that this is about the limit for a small group, and it’s why drug gangs can be so violent, they need fear to provide a rule of law substitute.

    You would never be that rich if the government wasn’t there. You earned it? No, the government earned most of it. They just let you keep the lions share to encourage you to make more and power economic cycles.

  51. from Brad Delong:

    “Cast yourself back to 1980. In 1980 a household at the bottom of the 1% rich households in America had an income equivalent in today’s dollars $190,000 a year. They know of 1000 people–900 of them poorer than they are in income brackets 90-99% and 100 people richer than they are in the top 1% income bracket. The 900 people poorer than them back in 1980 had incomes from $85,000-$190,000 a year. Those are, if you are sitting at the bottom of the top 1%, the middle class who are not as successful as you. You don’t look downward much. Instead, you look upward. Of the 100 above you, 90 in 1980 had incomes less than three times their incomes. And they would have known of 1 person of that 100 who was seven times as rich as they were.

    Thus Professor Xxxx Xxxxxxxxx in 1980 would have known who the really rich were, and they would on average have had about four times his income–more, considerably more, but not a huge gulf. He would have known people who were truly rich, and he would have seen himself as one of them–or as almost one of them.

    Now fast forward to today. Today a household at the bottom of the 1% rich households in America has an income of nearly $400,000 a year–the income of that slot in the labor market has more than doubled, while the incomes of those at the slot at the bottom of the 10% wealthy has grown by only 20% in two decades. The 900 people he knows in the 90%-99% slots have incomes that start at $110,000 a year. Compared to Xxxx Xxxxxxxxx’s $455,000, they are barely middle class–“How can they afford cell phones?” Xxxxxxxxx sometimes wonders.

    But he wonders rarely. He doesn’t say: “Wow! My real income is more than twice the income of somebody in this slot a generation ago! Wow! A generation ago the income of my slot was only twice that of somebody at the bottom of the 10% wealthy, and now it is 3 1/2 times as much!” For he doesn’t look down at the 99% of American households who have less income than he does. And he looks up. And when he looks up today he sees as wide a gap yawning above him as the gap between Dives and Lazarus. Mr. Xxxxxxxxx doesn’t look down.

    Instead, Mr. Xxxx Xxxxxxxxx looks up. Of the 100 people richer than he is, fully ten have more than four times his income. And he knows of one person with 20 times his income. He knows who the really rich are, and they have ten times his income: They have not $450,000 a year. They have $4.5 million a year. And, to him, they are in a different world.

    And so he is sad. He and his wife deserve to be successful. And he knows people who are successful. But he is not one of them–widening income inequality over the past generation has excluded him from the rich who truly have money.

    And this makes him sad. And angry. ”

    Thats pretty much it. whining about an extra 3% of a million taxes or your kids 20,000 school tuition or whatever it is these lower 1%ers are whining about makes it pretty clear that these people do not measure money the way my parents did and I do. Its game money, and even by winning, they feel like losers.

  52. That was one of Maher’s better rants.

    I, like everybody else, like to keep what I earn and hate taxes. But I sure as hell don’t understand why people who make, say, $50,000 a year will join the so-called Tea Party and scream and yell about the plan to raise taxes on people making over $250K. (And call Obama a socialist for passing health care reform.) Can someone explain that to me?

    I think #45 comes close.

    1. Many of them—but not all, of course—are driven by an ideology because it’s THEIR ideology, even if if runs contrary to their own interests. Their leaders flatter them with nativist rhetoric about how they’re the only ‘real Americans’ and engender an us-v.s.-them mindset that supersedes rationality, good policy, etc. They prefer a good story in which they get to play the righteous heroes.

  53. I’m with Maher.

    Last weekend Stein appeared on CBS’s “Sunday Morning” show, and did an embarrassing whine about being “punished.” Ohhh, why meeeee! Why am I being punished? Excruciating. I am very glad someone called him out on it.

    William Gates . . . Bill’s father . . . pays a hell of a lot more in taxes than Ben Stein and thinks he and his cohort should pay more.

  54. Unless you’re one of the handful of very richest people in the world, you can always look at somebody making twice as much, or five times as much, or ten times as much as you and think, “Golly, if only I made THAT kind of money then all my problems would be solved and I’d really be rich!” But of course, THAT guy making a multiple of what you’re making can himself look at somebody making a multiple of what he’s making and say the same thing.

    At some point you have to stop comparing yourself to the guy who lives in the somewhat nicer neighborhood one ZIP Code over and just learn to appreciate what you have. Or at least have a realistic perspective on things — if the average household in your city makes $50,000, and you’re making five times that much, don’t complain about how tough it is to get by without considering that to get down to the income most other people near you have, you’d have to take an 80% pay cut.

  55. I am in the top 1% of earners in this country, and I’m glad to be here. For about ten years, I lived on around $18,000 a year. I am now making a great deal of money and, yes, I do, in fact, WORK for it. With that bit of context out of the way — if Ben Stein (or anyone in a like position) ever said anything like this to me, or near me, in a bar, I would beat the man into the street. That’s what it will have to come to, you all know that, right?

  56. @110, right. Its like someone playing a game where they need a to accumulate 5 types of items, and they focus on the first kind. They may have more than 98 other people, but someone else has more than THEM.


  57. You may completely disagree with libertarian philosophy, but pointing to societies with weak or non-existent property rights as somehow being libertarian is intellectually dishonest.

    Fair enough!

    Would it be okay to use the metaphor of a child screaming at his mother because she asked him to take out the trash? I think it might be more fitting.

  58. Clarification about George Harrison’s issues with taxes –
    Yes the tax rate was very high on their income. But the problem had several prongs. One of them is that their finances were managed incredibly poorly.
    Regardless of that, and their tax rate, they still made enough money to not have to think about money at all.

  59. No, the rest of the money after taxes is not “on the house.”

    It’s not like you got that money for nothing.

    You had to work for it or sell something. It’s simply not free money.

  60. Your ancestors from a five or six thousand years ago were just as smart as you and worked at least as hard, but they barely managed to produce enough food to eat and to own a few pieces of clothing, a simple home, and a handful of bone, stone, and wooden tools. If you were transported back to the dawn of the age of agriculture, you’d be just as poor. The vast majority of your wealth comes not from the fact that you personally work hard, but because of two things: first, you inherited access to the knowledge, technology, wealth, and public works and institutions built up over thousands of years by billions of people. Second, you live in a society where people work towards a common cause according to a common set of rules and are able to leverage the success of one another to multiply their own. Even though we all have an equal moral claim to the fruits of humanity’s past and present, the fact is that we do not all have equal access to them. Some of us, through accident of birth, got better access to these things than others, and this usually translates into greater earnings. Others are far less lucky, but they are still expected to play by the rules that disproportionately benefit those born to privilege.

    When you get paid for doing a job, you are really just the capstone sitting atop a huge pyramid. If you did a full accounting of where the value came from, the share of your paycheck that can be attributed directly to your talent (which is also in part an unearned gift you were born with) and effort is probably at best a few pennies on the dollar. That’s not to say that the income tax rate should be close to 100%: there is a sensible argument to make that allowing people to keep a larger share of the wealth they produce provides an important incentive for people to work, but the notion that you personally earned anywhere near 100% of every dollar you make is sheer fantasy.

  61. “I sincerely wish that all of the libertarians who live in the U.S. would start their libertarian paradise somewhere—anywhere”

    Take a hike, Jefferson!

    “Our wish… is that… equality of rights [be] maintained, and that state of property, equal or unequal, which results to every man from his own industry or that of his fathers.” –Thomas Jefferson: 2nd Inaugural Address, 1805. ME 3:382

    “To take from one because it is thought that his own industry and that of his father’s has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association–‘the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.'” –Thomas Jefferson: Note in Destutt de Tracy’s “Political Economy,” 1816. ME 14:466


    I sincerely wish all the people who insist on introducing “libertarian” or “socialist” straw men into discussions at the drop of a hat would cease doing so.

    1. “To take from one because it is thought that his own industry and that of his father’s has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association–‘the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.'”

      Illustrates very well how moronic it is to live literally by irrelevant quotes from men who lived when the U.S. was essentially a plantation. TJ was no dummy tho’, I’m sure if he could see a modern America where oligarchs game the system, rely on corporate welfare and enjoy the use of tax funded infrastructure that he would rethink that.

  62. “For any rich people who may be reading this comment thread”

    Doesn’t appear to be many. But no shortage of those who know how people who make serious money ought to feel about it.

  63. I think the observations that “oh, Maher’s in the same position” are telling, but not in the way that people who are making them think. I’m in the top 10% of earners in the US. I’m extremely thankful to be here and understand that things could have turned out differently and I’d be working three shitty jobs instead of one and a half interesting ones so I don’t see how my being well off somehow invalidates me from ranting like Maher did.

    So with that said, Ben Stein == monotonic bitch

  64. I am one of those people making over $250K per year, and let me tell you that I’m tired of the common people complaining about how hard they supposedly have it. In this devastating recession, I have had to cut back, the same as you! I’ve bought virtually no bottles for my wine cellar and I couldn’t afford a new Benz this year! Instead, I was forced to lease! If my taxes go up any higher, I might be forced to not buy a new Italian wardrobe every season. Do you know how many Americans will lose their jobs over that? Ones!
    I worked for what I have. When I was a lad, I had a paper route. I got up at the crack of nine to ensure that my chaufeur had, in fact, delivered the papers. Later, I worked hard at the same private school that Father had gone to, following his lead to the University he attended. He was so well known there that they had named a wing after him shortly before I arrived! My grades reflected my work ethic and, after I graduated, another building appeared there with his name on it! Then I went to Wall Street, starting from the bottom (Assistant Executive) in Father’s investment house, working eighty hour weeks! I can’t describe how terribly hard those three hour lunches were, knowing that every second I spent snorting cocaine off a prostitute’s belly was a second I wasn’t earning (yes, earning) my hefty commission selling mortgage-backed securities to marks all over the world.
    Look, I’m just like you. My butlers put my pants on one leg at a time. We both go to the same golf club (some of you might have risen high enough at the club to act as my caddy!). We both deserve to keep what we earn.
    I simply deserve it more.

  65. It is sad that people’s very consciousness is so colonized that they defend a status quo which is increasingly opposed to their own self interest. Much of it is ignorance. In a “Blind taste test” showing the distribution of wealth in several countries but without identifying the countries involved, the vast majority of Americans surveyed chose the Swedish model of wealth distribution as opposed to the actual American model. People recognize injustice when it hasn’t been labeled. I am sure that many of those people would choose differently if the countries had been named. Those would be the colonized folk who must believe that America is the biggest, boldest, bravest and best regardless of the actual reality. Reality however is knocking at the door and it will stick its ugly foot in and then all the propaganda in the world will not be able to clothe the stark naked emperor.

  66. I watched Maher by accident, and saw that segment. I thought the right was supposed to be full of hate, not the left. Unbelievable hatred, spite, and malice. And people find this funny? Truly the decline of society.

    Regarding taxes, I wonder, what is the fair amount? Should there be a cap on income? on wealth? And where in the world has that worked out?

    1. Regarding taxes, I wonder, what is the fair amount? Should there be a cap on income? on wealth? And where in the world has that worked out?

      Classic false choice. That said, how about we return to the amounts the wealthy were paying under far left extremist Dwight D. Eisenhower?

  67. I love the smell of class warfare in the morning.

    What amazes me the most is that we’re living in an era when not only is the prevailing theory is all about “What’s MINE is MINE is MINE and MINE”, but that it has also successfully dogmatized the majority of the public into actually believing that it’s *opponents* are the selfish ones.

    Ben Stein is an asshole. Ethics of the social safety net aside, I fail to see how what he chooses to pay his cronies has anything to do with measuring his tax burden. That’s like me complaining that the electric company is ripping me off because of how high my car payments are.

    1. All through the night…i me mine i me mine i me mine….and all through the day, for tax men and cheats everywhere, the Beatles last song plays just for you:

      I meme mine.

  68. “During a time when so many are unemployed and are struggling to keep their homes and feed their families, it isn’t a good idea to shout “Let them eat cake!”, you are liable to lose your head.”

    Not going to happen. People have mentioned Somalia and Mexico. The truth is that America is closer to Pakistan – feudal.

  69. The industrious ought not to be forced to support the idle, and it matters not if such be the idle poor, or the idle rich.
    The sick and weak, though, are not idle by choice.

    Thank you for your attention.

    Now get back to work!

    1. In order to support the Randroid’s paranoid egomania, it is necessary for them to maintain two key myths; 1) that their contribution is special and valuable and 2) that society would suffer is they withdrew. Maybe the third is that anyone gives good goddamn what they have to say.

    2. “The industrious ought not to be forced to support the idle, and it matters not if such be the idle poor, or the idle rich.
      The sick and weak, though, are not idle by choice.”

      xlnt general rule of thumb. I hope it’s yours and not a quote by Stalin or someone who will shame my imprimatur.

      1. It’s a biblical passage Teller

        2 Thelosians 3:10 – For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, If any will not work, neither let him eat.

        But some expected to be maintained in idleness, and indulged a curious and conceited temper. They meddled with the concerns of others, and did much harm. It is a great error and abuse of religion, to make it a cloak for idleness or any other sin. – Matthew Henry’s commentary

  70. zyodei, #139 “You’re a fool.”
    I am. Thanks for noticing.

    “Have you ever actually met and talked with a single wealthy person in your life?”
    I got run over by a guy in one of them classy Korean cars, once. Is that close enough?

  71. The passage in Thessalonians is not what I said. Indeed, I was unaware of that passage, and my comment is meant to be more about the propriety of forcing the industrious, rather than any kind of statement as to the desirability of starving the idle!

    It just seems clear to me that forcing the industrious to support the voluntarily idle, either by the direct means of tax and tribute, or by the more indirect means of the establishment and/or preservation of a monopoly or other collusive cartelization of the forms of industry, will inevitably result in a society poorer than it would otherwise be. Other things being equal, that’s worse for everybody.

    As to Stalin, I was unaware that he had very much of interest to say:

    …although I’ve always found a study of how people come into, wield, and maintain power over others is always of some interest. Nevertheless, looking over the Wikiquote page I’ve linked to, there’s little in Stalin’s speeches or writings to make me re-think my prior opinion of the man’s words, which seem to me to be neither honest nor otherwise worthwhile.

    OTOH Stalin’s reported comments to others, as reported by those others, seem to show (on occasion) a brutal kind of wit, combined with a ready grasp of rough actualities, which could apparently come through in his more private (yet still somewhat dishonest and secretly motivated) conversations.
    But nothing at all in what Stalin has to say which I’d like to make my own.

    1. You don’t get off that easily, Canuck. Pointing out the value of your proposition to one side in order to avoid the barbarity of it to the other is cowardice and intellectually dishonest.

      Also, it’s amazing how little many Libertarians know about the origins of their philosophy. Forced virtue through selective altruism is the Libertarian endgame implicit in the threat to ‘Go Galt’. Childish as an individual philosophy, murderous as a political feature of a state.

    2. Oh and exactly who are the voluntarily idle? Do you imagine that the bulk of your taxes are going to support Steinbeck’s hobos? Less then one percent of the Federal budget goes to social welfare programs and around 30% total for all human services. 54% goes to military spending which does not include unfunded war spending. Do the math and you will see that your concerns are radically misplaced.

      1. The “weak” covers a pretty big group – and who is voluntarily weak? Nobody.
        And if the better-off won’t give it up voluntarily, then force it must be…but many in fact do pay voluntarily and without complaint, as they do see the good in it – and I personally like and support a vigourously progressive income tax system, especially if the system has broad public support.
        As to “work”. Breathing is work, in my book, and everybody likes and needs to work, anyhow: it is human nature.
        IMHO, Govs should tax so as the weak can have jobs (and the income to spend to get others working) too: but morally, it’s always better that the wealthy see their own interest, and pay up, unforced, on their own initiative.
        But there are good reasons that people ought to go to prison for evading taxes. Some just don’t, or won’t, see the good in others…even in those who are sick, or especially in the simply weak.
        IMHO people can easily afford the higher tax rates: especially if the proceeds are spent on the right items.

  72. At 35 cents on the dollar, you have to ask yourself, “who do I work for.”

    Increasingly I find myself saying, “the government.” Coincidentally I also find myself saying, “working for the government more than for myself is bullshit.”

        1. Antinous / Moderator “We don’t need no stinking roads.”
          I drove on a public road once. It felt like SOCIALISM!!!*

          * As per Writing for Rightwing Reactionaries, “socialism” written in all-caps with the standard minimum of three exclamation points.

  73. Fun fact: Before Ben Stein met Ferris Bueller, he was a lawyer and a speech writer for Richard Nixon. Also, he was a professor of law at Pepperdine, among others. In short, he probably made the bulk of his money long before the movie and the Visine commercials. I wouldn’t be surprised if he only got into acting because he didn’t have to work anymore and needed a project.
    So: Ben Stein= whinging wanker; Bill Maher= snarking wanker who just happens to be correct in this instance.

  74. If the rich don’t start paying taxes for their free ride, there won’t be much more profit coming for them. They are able to get rich doing nothing because of this country. They should be trying to preserve the system cause it’s going down. When the state starts losing money, it turns to raising fees on the rest of us instead. That isn’t going to change people.

  75. Bill is right. Guess what? He isn’t the one crying over the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.

    The difference is that Bill Maher is willing to pay taxes to the government that allowed him to amass his wealth in the first place.

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