Stephen King calls on politicians to tax him and other rich people

"Tax Me, for F@%&’s Sake!," Stephen King's op-ed in The Daily Beast was published on April 30, but it's perfect for May Day:

The Koch brothers are right-wing creepazoids, but they’re giving right-wing creepazoids. Here’s an example: 68 million fine American dollars to Deerfield Academy. Which is great for Deerfield Academy. But it won’t do squat for cleaning up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, where food fish are now showing up with black lesions. It won’t pay for stronger regulations to keep BP (or some other bunch of dipshit oil drillers) from doing it again. It won’t repair the levees surrounding New Orleans. It won’t improve education in Mississippi or Alabama. But what the hell—them li’l crackers ain’t never going to go to Deerfield Academy anyway. Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke...

At the risk of repeating myself, here’s what rich folks do when they get richer: they invest. A lot of those investments are overseas, thanks to the anti-American business policies of the last four administrations. Don’t think so? Check the tag on that T-shirt or gimme cap you’re wearing. If it says MADE IN AMERICA, I’ll … well, I won’t say I’ll eat your shorts, because some of that stuff is made here, but not much of it. And what does get made here doesn’t get made by America’s small cadre of pluted bloatocrats; it’s made, for the most part, in barely-gittin’-by factories in the Deep South, where the only unions people believe in are those solemnized at the altar of the local church (as long as they’re from different sexes, that is)...

I guess some of this mad right-wing love comes from the idea that in America, anyone can become a Rich Guy if he just works hard and saves his pennies. Mitt Romney has said, in effect, “I’m rich and I don’t apologize for it.” Nobody wants you to, Mitt. What some of us want—those who aren’t blinded by a lot of bullshit persiflage thrown up to mask the idea that rich folks want to keep their damn money—is for you to acknowledge that you couldn’t have made it in America without America. That you were fortunate enough to be born in a country where upward mobility is possible (a subject upon which Barack Obama can speak with the authority of experience), but where the channels making such upward mobility possible are being increasingly clogged. That it’s not fair to ask the middle class to assume a disproportionate amount of the tax burden. Not fair? It’s un-fucking-American is what it is. I don’t want you to apologize for being rich; I want you to acknowledge that in America, we all should have to pay our fair share. That our civics classes never taught us that being American means that—sorry, kiddies—you’re on your own. That those who have received much must be obligated to pay—not to give, not to “cut a check and shut up,” in Governor Christie’s words, but to pay—in the same proportion. That’s called stepping up and not whining about it. That’s called patriotism, a word the Tea Partiers love to throw around as long as it doesn’t cost their beloved rich folks any money.

Stephen King: Tax Me, for F@%&’s Sake! (Thanks, Spider Robinson!)


  1. Thought-provoking piece by King, but, since it’s not going to happen any time soon:

    How do I make a contribution to the U.S. government?

    I think King and the other generous rich guys (Buffett, Gates Sr., etc.) should write some checks for a few million dollars, maybe take some pictures of those checks for the rest of us to see and be inspired by, and then mail those checks to the address linked above. By the time the tax rate is increased for the 1%, these guys will be way ahead of the curve, and be helping the rest of the country at the same time.

    1. GONNNG.

      Nice try. Which generates more income, four millionaires donating an extra 10% of their income to the federal government or all millionaires donating an extra .5%?

      Individual contributions are nothing compared to collective contributions.

      1. Wait, you don’t think it would be useful, while we’re waiting for the tax rate to be increased, for these guys to start contributing amounts that make up the gap between what they pay now and what they should be paying?

        In other words, it’s not an either/or — let’s work on raising their tax rates, and in the meantime, they can voluntarily contribute the amount they feel they should be taxed.

        1. King and other rich folks who want the tax code changed aren’t saying “I want more of my money taken away.” They’re saying “I want a fair taxation system even if that means I will personally pay more of my income in taxes.

        2. No, while we are waiting for the tax rate to be increased, it is more useful for individuals to donate to projects and causes they find most important and most effective. Collective action programmes only give good ‘bang-for-the-buck’ if they are mandatory rather than opt-in. This has already been pretty exhaustively studied by economists.

        3. @boingboing-ff567bd5da0dd6e60ae4dc51bd4e1606:disqus , it’s called a distraction from the issue.  Unlike health care, jobs, affordable education and remotely more equal income distribution in the USA…  there’s no shortage of distractions, thx.  Our distraction cup has runneth over.
          The rest of us (including Stephen King) would really, really, really like to focus on the systemic problems and leave the distractions to the right wingers.

        4. King can voluntarily contribute without calling attention to himself as can everyone who complains that they should be taxed more, yet these same people file all the exemptions and loopholes available to them to pay less.  Do as I say, not as I do.  Hypocrites to the nth degree.

    2. King does write checks that total up to a few million dollars. 

      “My wife and I give away roughly $4 million a year to libraries, local fire departments that need updated lifesaving equipment (Jaws of Life tools are always a popular request), schools, and a scattering of organizations that underwrite the arts.”

      If he truly thought that the federal government would make better use of that $4 million, that’s where the check would go, I would think.  Apparently he thinks that his money will be more effectively spent elsewhere.  He’s right.

        1. I live in King’s state and grew up in the town where he lives.  I don’t think that those institutions in Bangor, Maine are woefully underfunded.  The public schools in particular served me (and his children, with whom I was a contemporary) quite well.  The library is one of the best you’ll see in a town its size.  His donation to that particular library was in the form of funding the construction of a new wing, so it wasn’t of the can’t-afford-books-or-staff variety.  The fire department does a great job too.

        2.  They aren’t.  He gives them $4m a year…

          Oh, you mean *by the government*?  Maybe because the government is incompetent.  Which won’t be fixed by giving them the $4m.

          1. “the problem with incompetent, inefficient and corrupt government is incompetence, inefficiency and corruption, not government”. if you’re cynical enough to doubt that any human organization of any size can ever escape these issues, i suggest that you remove yourself from the vicinity of those trying to help make it happen.

      1.  Someone very cynical told me that your tax dollars go to two places.
        The DOD and to  SSI.

      2. Good point —  he seems to criticize the Koch brothers for giving charitably to organizations of their choosing rather than paying a larger share of taxes, but I guess King does the same thing.

        1. A given B, B given A… nothing wrong with donating to an organization of your choosing. There is something wrong with arguing for a massive reduction in the total amount of money the nation directs to those who need it, even if you’re doing the former too.

        2. He doesn’t spend fortunes on undermining government though.  Seriously man, enough with the fallacies m’kay?

    3.  I think you should pay the fare for the civilization you live in, and be grateful.

    4. The vast majority of that windfall check would go to the military, because the people who vote on changes in the tax code are the same ones who vote on how tax money should be spent.  The point is to change that directive, not supply more resources to it.

      1. Nah, 2/3 of it would go toward payments to individuals (mostly SSI, Medicare, and Medicaid).  About 20% would go toward defense, which does  not constitute a “vast majority.”

    5.  Similarly Bush and his chickenhawk brigade should have fought the Iraq war with their own lives, or at the very least their own treasure.  

    6. Cut a check and shut up, they said.
      If you want to pay more, pay more, they said.
      Tired of hearing about it, they said.

      And you said it again.  Not too bright.

    7. That’s the kind of logic that has my roommate arguing that if I want a clean kitchen and room to cook dinner in it, well, nothing’s stopping me. They might all be her dirty dishes, but technically speaking, since I’m the one that wants a clean kitchen, I should do the cleaning.

  2. I do believe there’s a section in the US tax forms where you can offer to donate money to the US government.  Perhaps, King’s accountant has neglected to tell him about it.

    1. Doesn’t make much of a difference — he’s one guy. He can and does do some good with donations, but it’s a drop in the bucket.

    2. RTFA
       …those who have received much must be obligated to pay—not to give, not to “cut a check and shut up,” in Governor Christie’s words, but to pay…

    3. there actually is.  there’s also a section where you can declare any income made from illegal activities (ie selling drugs). 

  3. Did someone spray Ayn Rand urine in here or something? We seem to be experiencing an influx of Libertarian bucks looking to rub the velvet off their antlers.

      1.  Actually, this site is pretty friendly to most points of view. Me? Not so much.

        All of the cutesy, disingenuous buzzwords posted by government-haters amount to the same thing: Screw you buddy, I’ve got mine.

        Can the tax code be tweaked? Hell yeah. Does the government waste money? See: IRAQ, also: AFGANISTAN. However, this is a constitutional republic. YOU are the government. So is every other American citizen. If the government is incompetent and corrupt, that’s on me and you and every other citizen. Rather than becoming a nihilist about it and saying that government is incapable of properly managing money or resources, perhaps we should focus on improving government by electing non-morons.

        Note, BurntHombre, I’m not necessarily talking about you, but rather the entire Libertarian philosophy.

        1. The government is structurally incapable of efficiently managing money or resources.  That’s not a value judgement, it’s simply a recognition of the underlying complexity and cultural realities. Government agencies are not rewarded for efficiency, and there is no incentive to be efficient or  service oriented.  Management is rewarded for growing their organization and spending their budget, the workforce is paid on a fixed scale that doesn’t allow for merit raises or bonus payments. To the contrary, merit payment is seen as “favoritism” and bypassing the ranked seniority. Any budget remaining at year end is spent to avoid budget cuts in the following year.  There is effectively zero transparency.  If I donate to a charity, I can look them up and see what percentage of my donation is being deployed for the stated mission. No such mechanism exists for the agencies.

          Some things we delegate to them because there is no other way to administer services and policies that affect the entire nation or large parts thereof.  But to have the government infrastructure and bureaucracy involved in issues which are primarily local concerns is crazy. 

          Steven King and the Koch Brothers recognized a need in their local communities and donated.  To dream that an agency based in Washington or in the state capital would have as easily recognized and addressed the same issue?  Either silly or disingenous.

          1. The government is structurally incapable of efficiently managing money or resources.

            Oh really? Which is cheaper: sending a letter through the post office or by FexEx? When was the last time you had to worry about getting a horrible disease from your tap water? How many forms of currency and/or precious metals do you have to carry with you on a cross-country drive? Do you have to hire a private security force to keep roving bands of barbarians from taking all your possessions?


          2. I can’t reply to directly to Brainspore below, so I’ll do it here.  Sending a letter through FedEx or UPS is only more expensive than the Postal Service because federal law requires it.  Private companies are actually prohibited from delivering standard mail by sections of the criminal code.  They are also mandated by federal law to charge a minimum of 6x the first class postage rate.

            So… Maybe not a great example.

            The other things you mentioned (other than currency) are local issues properly handled by local officials spending local funds and answering to local voters.

            I’ll never understand why people are so excited about handing responsibility off to faceless, unresponsive, and distant bureaucrats instead of letting it remain in the hands of people they might see at the grocery store or their kid’s soccer practice.

          3. @google-3d2b288473bf2e055bbc80ac08052e45:disqus : Or maybe federal, state and local governments happen to be more efficient at some things than private industry is, just as private industry happens to be more efficient at some things than government is.

            Blanket statements like “government can’t efficiently manage resources” are just shorthand for “I’d rather not spend more than five seconds thinking about how society does or should function.”

          4. Brainspore:  Agreed in full.  There are things that appropriately belong in each of the domains you mentioned.  What I see a lot of these days is people defaulting to a mentality of federal solutions as a first or only resort.  (Juxtaposed with the opposite and equally non-constructive “federal, bad!” mentality.)

          5. Koch’s work to undermine government/democracy and give more decision making to oligarchs like themselves.  The problem isn’t “government” it’s a democracy that’s been undermined by oligarchs.  Democracy and good government are counter to their personal interests.

          6. @Brainspore… “Which is cheaper: sending a letter through the post office or by FexEx? When was the last time you had to worry about getting a horrible disease from your tap water?”

            Seriously? Your measure of efficiency is how “cheap” the direct user fee is?  First – the Post Office, though it’s not directly funded by the government, has the advantage of using the government’s “full faith and credit”.  Their funding is dirt cheap, and they have the advantage of purchasing through government contract.  Secondly, and most significantly, they have a government-mandated and enforced MONOPOLY on first-class mail.  Finally, even with all those competitive advantages, they are deeply in the red (closing in on $10 billion) and are having to cut service on Saturdays. A real  effin’ paragon of efficiency.

            The tap water comment is a total non sequitur. I never said that there is no role for government, to the contrary, I said there are some things that the government has to do.  But I still stand my my assertion that the government is structurally incapable of efficiently managing money and reasources. It doesn’t mean that there is no role for them, or that they are not effective – it means that they are inefficient by design.  Efficacy does not equal efficiency. 

            Also, government services are not cheap, they are subsidized. Just because the user fee is cheap doesn’t mean that we are not paying a higher price through other taxes, fees or levies.  But yeah, I’m the idiot, right?

        2.  Christopher Lee,

          When citing examples of the government wasting money, please include all domestic monetary waste as well. Thanks.

        3.  @facebook-100001074475538:disqus   “perhaps we should focus on improving government by electing non-morons”
          In local elections, that might work. On the national stage, electing a non-moron isn’t even an option.
          We have a system where the person with the most money wins. They get thier money from corperatons and rich donors and they OWN the election cycle. We are presented with two idiots working for the oligarchy. If a third party presents itself, it is marginalized and flat out misrepresented by a media sector owned by the same oligarchy.
          There is no possibility of reform with the current system where we treat money as speech and businesses as people.

    1.  I’m pretty sure it’s not the exclusive purview of libertarians to claim that the government are poorly organised or have the wrong priorities. 

      If you are a millionaire, I guess you can do something about that by giving away money to those projects you think the government aren’t funding properly.  The rest of us probably don’t have enough money to influence the world in that way.

  4. Rich or poor, paying all applicable taxes without trying to slime out of them is totally boss. 

    If yo poor, you get most or all of it back, and since you probably weren’t going to save or invest it, you have technically saved it while receiving a dividend of sustainable govt infrastructure. 

    If yo rich, you can lord it over all the biatches that have to fake civic-minded bullshit and take Ambien to sleep next to your spouse, the one that doesn’t think about the parts of you that fake that shit.

    1.  If you’re poor you get to spend that money. 
      If you’re rich you get to keep your money. 

      Very much different. 

      1.  True.  But do you have any idea how fucked by all the system you are when you’re poor? 

  5. Claiming that a small handful of millionaires should just write a few checks for a few million is very short sighted. Let’s say that King, Buffett, and Gates each write a check for $10 million. That’s $30 million for the US! Woohoo!

    I found an estimate that says that there were 114,825,428 households in the US in 2010. For sake of argument, let’s assume that those are all the taxpaying households in the US. Ahh, but of course, not everyone pays taxes. Let’s say that only 1/10th of all households pay any tax. That’s 11,482,542 tax paying households. To raise a comparable amount of money to those checks from those three guys, we could distribute the cost across all of those households, and everyone’s tax bill goes up by $2.61. Per year.

    That monetary contribution is just trivial. The only way to actually make it work properly is to actually increase taxation on the highest brackets that can afford it. I don’t want Stephen King to pay an extra $10 million every year. But maybe I do want everyone in his income bracket to pay an extra $500,000 per y ear. Maybe more, I haven’t done the numbers.

    That’s how you fix things. I refuse to believe that the only way proper way to increase revenue is to beg the occasional rich person to write us a check for a (relative) pittance. 

    1. Claiming that a small handful of millionaires should just write a few checks for a few million is very short sighted.

      Agreed. They should write their checks now and continue to fight for an increased tax rate. The best of both worlds! Every little bit helps.

  6. Oy, the comments.

    Putting aside the validity of what King wrote, heavier and more progressive taxation would help with the deficit, but the deficit isn’t our most immediate problem. That’d be unemployment. Fix that as best as you can without shooting yourself in the foot by increasing taxes too much in the wrong places, then when you’re not spending as much on unemployment insurance and such and demand for bonds drops, increase taxes and decrease spending.

    As I see it, there are always three questions: Where is the money, where’s it going, and what’s it doing?

    1. “Where is the money, where’s it going, and what’s it doing?”

      Take a look at the federal budget. The biggies are Medicare & Medicaid, Social Security, Defense, Interest on Debt.

      Federal receipts are down, due to the economy (affecting individuals and corporate receipts) and due to maintaining historically low tax rates. Federal revenues are at 15.8% of GDP, versus the post-war average of 18.5%. In fact, at the low-water mark of taxation in 1984, federal tax revenues were 1.5% of GDP higher than they are today.

      1. The money that’s gone into the federal government is easy enough to get general figures on. But of course there are a lot more dollars out there than just that, and more detail can be useful. (Of course, knowing where the bonds are is important too, but that makes things even more complicated. So does adding in private creditors.)

        We’ve got a lot of people and resources in this country. It’s not using them very effectively. Part of that is that the money isn’t flowing right, or isn’t in the right places. I think right now it’s a little like standing water — the dollars pile up in the bank accounts of people who don’t need it and don’t have anything worth investing it in. And then you have to wonder just where the money the government spends on healthcare, the military, etc. ends up. Social Security, I guess it goes to the businesses that supply everything the elderly use (food, real estate, petroleum, pharmaceuticals, utilities); Medicare goes to… hospitals? And what about those hospitals’ budgets? And then there’s the debt interest, which ties back into who owns the bonds, which is confused by all the talk about China when they actually hold a minority of it, and the military pays soldiers, officers, private contractors, and so on with the net effect of our society putting lots of its resources into breaking stuff and threatening to break stuff (admittedly sometimes necessary)…

        I know I’m rambling. It frustrates me that I don’t really get how all this fits together, even if I’m not sure anyone does. Our brains aren’t really suited to grasping the circulatory system of a 310,000,000-human behemoth. What I am sure of is that more of the money needs to be flowing through the lower class.

        1. Well, let’s note something first. There is a large amount of federal debt. Set the blame/reasons for the debt aside for now. The government, as voted by its citizens, has spent more than it takes in, and has borrowed money in the bond markets to do this.

          Should we pay off these debts, i.e. the money we already spent? If we agree that paying these debts must be done without taxes (raising revenues), should we slash middle-class programs like medicaid, medicare and social security in order to get our fiscal house in order?

          1. The debt’s a problem. But it’s not a debilitating problem just yet. The bond rates (and therefore interest payments) are still low enough to handle. But if the government gets the economy going again, it’ll have taken a lot of money, and interest rates will be higher as well. That’s when you cut spending and raise taxes — when the economy’s doing well.

            And even if we don’t quite balance the budget at that point, it’s not the end of the world. In 1946, our national debt was something like $269 billion. That was more than our entire GDP. Now it’s maybe 2% of it. By 1970, the debt had grown a good deal, but the economy had grown so much faster that the debt was almost down to a third of it.

            If I was a billion dollars in debt, I’d be sunk. If the government were, it’d be nothing.

          2. I agree that debt is not our most critical problem right now. Unemployment and improving our economy is. However, to address this, most libertarians and conservatives advocate lower taxes, lower spending and eliminating our federal debt. That is what I was addressing– the mismatch between conserv/libertarian approaches and the goal of an improved economy and full employment.

        2. I totally get your frustration. I really have no idea how to keep cash flowing through all classes of society, but maybe we need something like a “standing water” tax to discourage hoarding?

        3. The fact that one person (or a committee) cannot understand the entire flow is the reason control economies fail. The fact that the US is “federalising” more and more will lead to the same problem

      2. Yep. And “Defense” is just the moniker that is given to the arm of our government that aids corporate expansion into other markets and filters public funds into private companies. 

    2. Where is the money, where’s it going, and what’s it doing?

      It’s in the banks, it’s staying in the banks, and it’s buying policy.

  7. Here’s a journalism lay out question:  Should the excerpt in the Boing Boing write up above be strung together like one quotation?  The paragraphs all come from different sections of the King article, but the Boing Boing lay out has them strung together like one thought.  Shouldn’t there be little elipses or dots or quotation breaks or something to show that there was information which was removed from between the featured paragraphs?

    1. I was curious about that too – after reading the excerpt I wanted to read the rest, and then was expecting to see a three-paragraph section that I wouldn’t need to read again, but that wasn’t the case. I think putting something in between the paragraphs in the excerpt would make things clearer, and would prompt people to read the whole thing (which I thought was very good in its entirety and certainly worth reading).

  8. Before we decide to lower taxes when federal tax rates and receipts are already at 50+ year lows, can anybody explain how this would raise employment or otherwise improve our economy? Bonus points for a cogent defense of slashing medicare, medicaid and social security while maintaining defense spending near 5% of GDP.

    1. I’ve got a different question. Let’s say we’re going to raise taxes. Where can we gain the most money by doing the least damage (“damage” meaning “keeping money from going somewhere that needs it”)? There’s gotta be a way to actually quantify that with multiplier effects and the like.

      1. I like this game. And I’ve got a different question too. How much wood would a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck would chuck wood?

        1. A wood chuck would chuck as much wood as a wood chuck could chuck if a wood chuck would chuck wood. Duh. :) But I’ve got a different question. How many missiles can you fit on a Variable Fighter?

      2. welcome to utilitarianism. you may or may not be aware that this was a pretty big political philosphy in the late 1800s. it has two problems, one for all time – it requires the definition of “good” which is always bound to be just a little contentious – and one for this age – it makes a nod toward a fact-based approach that has been discounted by many in the US political sphere.

      3. The Economist had an article (blog post?) on this relatively recently…or rather, an article talking about research on ideal tax rates – the ones that keep the money circulating, that don’t discourage making money, etc etc- and the percentages for the highest brackets were actually really, really, really high. So high that the main point of the post was, “this goes against the political orthodoxy so much that unfortunately, no one but academics will ever discuss it”

        1. Well, we should drag that out then, and keep at it until the political climate changes. That tactic seems to have worked splendidly for the GOP, as evidenced by.. well, all of this.

    2. [raises hand]

      The cost of shipping goods from the 3rd world is going up; supply chain says bring third world here for long term viability of profits.

    3. And why is it called “defense” spending? 

      Do the US of A really need this capability to “win” an all out war against all other nations at the same time? 

      And you seem to think it was a good thing to spend 5% of GDP on military overkill. 
      $1.030–$1.415 trillion this year. 
      Over 25% of all federal government spending.

        1. Just keep in mind we don’t wreck countries with oil wells to get their oil, we wreck them to keep oil prices measured in dollars.  Destroying the wells works fine.

    1. Reading comprehension: fail.

      ETA, since I can’t reply: Um, no. “Each according to ability etc” is not about taxes. It’s about a centralized economy. You’re actually talking about production. That’s different from the idea that the ones that benefit most from a system should bear a larger share of the burden in supporting it. Would you argue otherwise, and say that those who benefit most should be exempt from the responsibility of supporting the system that made it possible? Should the less fortunate bear the brunt of responsibility for a system they don’t prosper from? What nonsense. What feudalism. There is nothing anti-capitalistic about the idea of paying your fair share, and to compare it to communism is a laughable exercise. I fear conservatives have forgotten what true communism is, because oddly enough, for all that they talk about communism, somehow, a centralized economy and the construction of a monopartisan political system and the nationalization of all industries, etc etc never seem to make it into the conversation.

      1. “That those who have received much must be obligated to pay—not to give, not to “cut a check and shut up,” in Governor Christie’s words, but to pay—in the same proportion. ”

        Sounds like at least the “from each…” part to me.  And where you figure they are looking to send that money?  To each according to ability?

        No! Wait… I got it… “for the greater good”. Sorry, bro – you’re right – that’s a whole ‘nuther animal.

  9. Why does he think that spending X dollars on a radio station will do less for the economy than spending X dollars filtered through the sieve of government?  I understand the argument that with enough money, the federal government can do certain large (and even occasionally worthy) things.  But $10M pushed through Washington is not better — either locally or overall — than $10M spent in Bangor.

    1. That’s not his argument. His argument compares $X spent on a radio station to $500X or whatever moved through the government.

  10. “I guess some of this mad right-wing love comes from the idea that in America, anyone can become a Rich Guy if he just works hard and saves his pennies”

    Sure, but how does this apply to Romney– the guy wasn’t exactly born and raised in the ghetto.   We can talk about “hard work” all we want, but if you are born into money you don’t actually have to work hard at all.  Take Mitt’s venture capital dealings?  I have a hard time defining that as “hard work”; consider the amount of money he made simply by signing some papers– ask someone working 80-hour weeks to keep their business afloat or their home from being repossessed if that constitutes “hard work.”

    1. But then again, you’re making a judgement based on your life experience. I find it remarkable that anybody would consider working in a venture capital firm and working eighty hour weeks mutually exclusive, or would think that putting up risk capital consists soley of “signing some papers”.

    2. What exactly do you think venture capitalists do?  “Sign papers”?  Seriously?

      1.  OK, I’m willing to admit that I’m wrong on that point– how about you describe to me a venture capitalist’s average work day or work week.  I don’t believe that ALL they do is sign papers, but I do find it hard to believe they come home exhausted and still have to cook dinner for their family.

      2. I guarantee few venture capitalists work nearly as hard as the average migrant farm worker. Anyone who really believes that income is closely tied to how hard an individual works is delusional.

      3.  I’m pretty sure they don’t split rails, dig ditches eight hours a day or wash dishes on a 16 hour shift.  Since I’ve done those last two, and have actually met several venture capitalists, pardon me if I don’t melt with pity for their poor blistered check-writing fingers.

        1. I’ve never worked in a venture capital firm, per se.  I worked on the trading floor of an investment bank. When the jobs left for Europe, I’ve  done what I have to do to survive and feed a family.  Came back to Texas – worked in the oilfield here until the drilling permit moratorium after the BP spill, and then went back to contracting and trim carpentry. 

          I wouldn’t say carpentry is harder work – physically, yes, of course. But if I cut a piece of crown 1/8″ too short, I throw it in the pile and use it for a different cut.  I may stay up thinking about how to do a job to make it cool and different, but that’s not the same as working eighty hours a week and then lying in bed worrying about a decision I had to make.  If venture capital or investment banking were easy, everybody would do it and it wouldn’t pay. If they provided no value, they would not exist.

          The world is a big place, and everybody has different challenges.  I know plenty of bankers that would never be able to cut it on a drywall crew, and I know a lot of tough frame carpenters that don’t do well under pressure.  Same planet, different worlds.

  11. I have a fair amount of money (~$60,000/yr, only mortgage debt) and I’d like more. People–genuinely happy people–will tell you money can’t buy you happiness. That always makes me angry, not because it’s false, but because these happy people are invariably ignoring the fact that a certain amount of money really is a necessary precondition for happiness. You don’t have to have a LOT, but you do have to have SOME, and I think pretending you’re “above” money in this society is every bit as bad as pretending you’re poor when you’re merely rich as opposed to super-mega-fuck-you-rich. 

    But you know what worries me about getting more money? How easily it seems to turn people fragile. I mean, it’s one thing to want to keep your money from the tax man. I’m not suggesting that everyone should think that our tax code is fair, or well-administered, or perfectly calibrated. Even if you think it’s great, I’m not saying we should pretend we don’t have our human impulses to selfishly hoard all our swag anyway. 

    But listen to these people. They’re not mad because they have to pay higher taxes; they’re not concerned that they might have to pay taxes in the future. They’re furious–they’re full of righteous anger at the very notion that someone else might have the temerity to suggest that they should pay more. Even the idea is wicked and evil, especially if it comes from someone else. You’d think they were vestal virgins watching the barbarian hordes march into the the temple. 

    I really, really hope I never get so rich that I become such a delicate little soap bubble. Want to raise my effective income tax rate from 14% to 50%? Screw you, that’s too high. But notice how I didn’t collapse onto my gilded fainting couch at the mere suggestion.

  12. I love the greater implication of King’s screed and the Buffett statements, that we can’t raise taxes on the rich without their permission.

  13. Who knew King could do non-fiction!

    Seriously though, kudos for speaking out.

    1.  Uh, lots of people did.  Recommend his “On Writing” or “Danse Macabre”.

  14. As it’s been said way more than once in reference to these ‘Buffet Tax’ discussions, there’s a little area on the IRS forms where they can donate as much money as their little gold-plated hearts desire. 

    I’m happy that King has huge piles of money and that he gives it to causes he sees fit. But when his stunted little mind decides that since he *wants* to give away more of his money (although he never says just how much that is), then apparently everyone else should be *forced* to give their money too. That’s a loathsome abdication of free will. It’s just as bad as the people who don’t mind invasive searches by cops to ‘stop terrorism’, when a large portion of us would rather keep our civil liberties intact, thank you. 

    The real flourish is when he doubles-down on the stupid by inferring that more taxes = Gulf Cleanup and stronger New Orleans Levees. Maybe he was typing out one of his latest mediocre thrillers, but both of those instances already fall well within the responsibilities of the underfunded govt he’s wailing about: 
    A) Federal safety reviews and inspections by the Army Corp of Engineers, BLM and the MMS are supposed to safeguard against those failures and disasters. Instead their stocked with industry cronies or incompetent bureaucrats. More money will clean that up how, exactly?

    B) Courts actively meting out REAL financial punishment to companies to completely rehab area affected by their shoddy environmental practices. Even the max penalty that the Justice Dept is pursuing is laughable, and doubtful that money ever goes towards any meaningful part of the cleanup and rehab of the Gulf. Instead the Justice Dept is going after copyright infringers and counterfeit purse makers. More money well spent.

    Nah – the answer clearly is just to shovel more money on the problem. 

  15. If you want to reduce the debt you have to, at some point, start collecting more in taxes that the government spends. 

    Now if you want to do that without cutting total spending (a constraint that applies if shifting spending from military to social programs) it cannot be done without a major tax increase on the middle class, regardless of how hard you soak the rich.

    There just isn’t enough income in the $500K and up income class to get to $1 trillion plus a year.  Not even if you take it all.  And that’s not considering the demographic crash coming for Social Security and (especially) Medicare.

    Now you may say “That’s fine, crank up the taxes on those school principals and fire lieutenants too.” Or you may say, “I don’t care if the debt continues to go up by hundreds of billions a year, as long as I get the emotional gratification of soaking the rich.” But what you do not get to say is, “Soaking the rich will make the problem go away.”

    1. That depends on how you define “income.” One reason that the majority of the nation’s wealth is controlled by a tiny few is that their money doesn’t get taxed the same way a normal paycheck-earner’s does.

    2. We don’t need to pay off the debt in one year. We need to be able to pay it off gradually over one to two decades. So please recalculate based on ten year budget windows rather than assuming anyone is talking about taxing anyone  at 100% rates. And yes, the Bush tax cuts will need to expire for everyone eventually, not just the wealthy.

      1. We don’t need to pay off the debt in one year.

        I wasn’t talking about paying off the entire debt in one year.  I’m just talking about bringing the current deficits into balance. 

        Until we start having years where income = outgo, the debt (and the borrowing from China and others) continues to increase.

        According to IRS figures for 2009, the aggregate taxable income for everyone at the $500K+ level is in the $900B range.   (This includes capital gains although they are taxed at a different rate).

         The current federal deficit is in the $1.25T range. 

        So if we tax everyone in those income brackets at an 80% rate for all income, we get about $720B.

        This leaves about $530B for the rest of us to pay, which will move the rest of America from an average 20% tax bracket to (my guesstimate) slightly over 40%.  That’s where we have to go if we want to balance the  current budget without cutting total spending.

    3.  Your analysis is correct; taxing income won’t do the job, so income tax isn’t the way to go.  The rich won’t and don’t allow their money to be anything so crass as “income”.

      Asset taxes are the way to go.  The logic as you’ve shown is relentless – it’s math.  You can’t fix it by taxing the poor and middle class, who are the ones with income.  You can’t even fix it by taxing the income of the rich.

      1. Asset taxes are no fairer or saner than income taxes.  They just screw a different set of people.

        Say you worked all your life, paid taxes on your income, bought a big house and are retired.  Your income is small, your assets are large.  Why should you be taxed again on the assets that you bought with taxed income?

        Or, to pick a less soppy example: If Bill Gates owns $trillion worth of MS shares, why should he be taxed on them>  If he gets paid dividends, he should be taxed on the income. If he sells them, he should get taxed on the capital gain. 

        Close the loopholes and introduce a flat tax.  Let’s say 25%, flat, on all income. Heck, throw in a generous allowance at the bottom end. If that doesn’t give the government enough money to spend, we should reconsider how much it spends and what it spends it on.

        1. Asset taxes are no fairer or saner than income taxes.  They just screw a different set of people.

          That’s completely untrue.  Taxing money that’s flowing through the system encourages the formation of stagnant pools of money that we call “rich people’s bank accounts”.  Taxing assets does the complete opposite – it makes capitalism work, by putting capital in motion.

          Stop reading Milton Friedman and start reading Adam Smith.

          1. So you feel that the best way to get people to put capital to work is to tax income, tax assets that are bought with that income after-taxes and then tax the dividends or income earned by the assets remaining after the asset tax?

            This will encourage investment? What incentive would any rational investor have to stand in place as we repeatedly kick them in the balls?

    1.  If you’re not getting your dose of vitriol in the UK, you must have found a way to avoid all mass media… what’s your secret?

    1.  A huge proportion of people (in the UK, I can only assume the US tax system is similar) don’t pay income tax at all.   And it’s not the rich people.

  16. Lead by example:  The rich can adjust their taxes any time they wish.  Stop taking deductions, fail to use tax shelters etc.   Or do a Carnegie and set up foundations that continue to do enormous good a century after you are gone. (And in fact do far more useful things than any government will do with your money.

    You can even write as large a check as you want to reduce the public debt any time you want.

    This is all sanctimonious BS or boils down to “tax all these other rich guys.”

    Put up or shut up.

    1.  So, amazingly enough, it presented no new ideas to you, and you saw only what you expected to see?

      Maybe all you see is a spot on your lenses.

  17. So this is what passes for political discourse these days: a profanity-filled rant capped with a not-so-subtle threat of violence if you fail to agree with Mr. King.  And from a man of letters yet.

  18. Stephen King does not speak from any hope of personal profit,  however this only gains him rhetorical credit. Who will applaud an unemployed guy like me for sticking up for a despised minority?

    Lots of voters are upset over the limping economy and feel somewhat jealous towards the rich. People see an opportunity to pander for popular support and leap to offer up a scapegoat for public sacrifice.

    The wealthy already give billions to charity, probably because they see it as a better investment than throwing it at the government.

    1. They should not throw it at the government, the government should take it from them. This is how civilization works. Also, how democracy works.

      The economy is limping because we let the rich do whatever they want with their money. A lot of them got even more as a result.  Free Market – 1, Everyone Else – 0.

      Also, you are not “sticking up for a despised minority”, you are defending the immorality of the strong and the powerfull. You don’t sound heroic, but subservient.

        1. You are, in fact, correct. Bankers steal from workers because they have created the fiction that “capital” is a thing, and “labour” is not.

          Using a washboard and homemade soap: labour.
          Using a “service”: capital exploiting labour.
          Using a washing machine: the middle class.

          I guarantee your clothes don’t get any cleaner if you put them on the floor and throw hunks of paper, metal, and plastic on them.

      1.  The economy is limping because a huge number of people borrowed way too much money to invest in a huge property bubble.  There are some technical factors – securitisation made banks worry less about the credit risk, people misused models, and yes, there was some outright fraud – but in essence it was just another property bubble, and everyone was happily buying into it.

        Scapegoating a few for the actions of the many is a common tactic.  Like blaming a few big oil companies for global warming, not the millions of drivers.  And it usually means you’re wrong.

        And even “the rich” can be a despised minority.

        1. Serial killers are a despised minority, too. Are there other criteria in your sticking-up-for checklist?

          1. Have they harmed other people?

            If the answer is no, then I will stick up for them.
            Being rich does not mean you have screwed other people to get it. Don’t lump the bad with the good. 

            I know one organic farmer who has made himself a millionaire by his insanely superior planting methods and a great distribution scheme, should he be lumped in with serial killers?

      2. “that’s how civiliaation works.”

        Yes, sadly, the state of civilization could be described as one tiny fraction of society stealing from another in an organized manner.

        If you are so eager to go along with the way things go, here, take a gun to the nearest mansion and take what your arms can carry. Then give it to people you think need it the most.

        If you’re OK with the government doing that, as a representative of you, of course you have no problem with just doing it yourself, right?

        The economy is limping because a small minority of unscrupulous rich knew they had the government in their pocket and so could do whatever they wanted knowing the government would bail them out. I fail to see how increasing the size of government would solve this situtation.

  19.  They are certainly despised and I wish they were much more despised, but to speak of them as a “minority”, the same way black people or gays are a minority, is extremely dishonest. Also insulting.

      1. I think government representatives are a despised minority. There are so few of them! And they get blamed for everything!

      2. They are despised because of the gross amount of power, wealth, and influence they wield despite representing a tiny percent of the population.  They’re despised because they undermine our democracy and represent much of what is wrong, and lost in this country.

      3. The rich are a minority like those imposing Apartheid were a minority: They have all of the rights, privileges, and access to power.

    1. Well, what do we do with Oprah Winfrey and Jeffrey Katzenberg? Despised for being rich; beloved for being minorities.

      1. Oprah, as one of like two or three incredibly rich black women needs to remain as living proof that all other black people are too lazy to get rich like her….

  20. I love…no LOVE that people have taken King’s very first point and not only ignored it but made it a foundation of their critique of his piece. SHUT UP AND WRITE A CHEQUE MR KING IF YOU CARE SO MUCH.

    It’s a total blinder.

    There was a piece three years ago that covered the problem that Mr King is going to have getting traction for this arguement. See below


    “One of the convenient things about believing in a me-first ideology like the conservatism beloved of certain News Ltd writers, is that it requires pretty much no sacrifice. Your opposition to tax increases for the rich conveniently matches your opposition to tax increases for yourself. Your political stance is “what’s good for me”, so it’s not exactly difficult to live up to it.On the other hand, wealthy lefties can be painted as hypocrites almost by definition. Their compatriots can attack them for their insolent treason to their own class traitors, by highlighting any point on which their self-sacrifice falls short – as it often does, since they’re human beings. And it’s even easier to make them look like hypocrites if you exaggerate what they’re saying: if RICH LEFTY X really believed what he was saying, he’d be living in a cave on nuts and berries!

    So they’ll attack those wealthy people who advocate for taxes that would hit themselves hardest as “hypocrites” whilst celebrating the “principled” selfishness of rich people who are simply working to maintain their privilege. It makes no sense for the people who’d benefit from thee public services those taxes would fund to prefer the privileged people who are screwing them over to those who at least want to change; but if you shout HYPOCRITE loudly enough, some people can clearly be induced not to notice.”

  21. It has mystified me how the conservative agenda in America has escaped being called out for its ant-Americanism. It has long struck me as bearing something  resembling treason.

  22. I have heard Mr King speak of this in the past.  He is good intentioned but takes a very narrow view of the problem.  But the thing that bothers me is when asked does he deduct for his charitable deductions he becomes enraged and simply states “Yes, it is my right”.  He doesn’t have to take any deductions but he does.  He also does not support a flat tax without deductions, which is simply the best way for the rich to pay more tax.  The president of the United States made more money than me, but paid a lower rate than I did.  How is that fair?

  23. He loses the plot at the second line.

    He implies that the reason the government didn’t regulate BP is because..they didn’t have enough tax revenue to be able to afford that. Are you fucking kidding me?The federal government goes through enough cash to fill several Scrooge McDuck swimming pools daily (at $10B/day)..and yet the reason they let BP run amock is because they..dindn’t have enough money?!?!?Is he trying to insult our intelligence?And the first example of what the government should do is clean up the Gulf. No, BP should clean up the Gulf. The government should confiscate all of their assets and disallow them from transacting in America until they do so. And there is no reason that they should not have done was the right thing to do on every level.’

    But to imply we should socialize that cost while BP runs free is stupid.

    The reason we didn’t is NOT because we ‘did not have enough money.’ It is because the institution of state democracy has fundamentally broken down and no longer serves the basic functions in society it promises to serve.

    More money won’t fix the problem. It’s like putting more gas in an engine with a blown head gasket. 


    Progressives seem to have this illusion that, because the MIC and the corrupt corporations take 50% of the federal budget, if you just added 10% more money, then the ‘good stuff’ would get 60% and the ‘bad stuff’ would be down to 40%.

    But that’s not how it works. Give the Federal Govt. another 10%, and the CIA and the defense contractors and Goldman Sachs et al will get an extra 8% or so. The ‘good guys’ will get a couple of bones.

    Hey Steven, you’re a wealthy man. You have used your life to provide great value to people, through entertaining and readable books. You have justly and rightly earned your wealth through the mechanism of others freely giving it to you in exchange for what your life energy has offered them. You should be proud. In your case, your high net worth reflects a life well directed, and you should be proud of it and use it as a tool for improving the world.

    You know what would happen if the IRS did, in fact, tax you more?
    More of your net worth would go to producing white phosphorous to maim little children.
    More of your net worth would go to buying machine guns to go prop up some shitty dictator somewhere.
    More of your net worth would go to investigating new and deadlier biological weapons.
    More of your net worth would go to golden parachutes for corrupt bankers.
    More of your net worth would go towards nuclear proliferation.
    More of your net worth would go to militarizing local police.
    More of your net worth would go to buying fuel for jet bombers and tanks.
    More of your net worth would go to purchasing drone bombers.
    More of your net worth would go to the balance sheet of corrupt govt aligned corporations.
    More of your net worth would go to keeping men in prisons and smothering their spirit.
    More of your net worth would go to the enforcement of pro-corporate laws throughout the land.
    More of your net worth would go to war and death.

    Now, think really hard about this. Is this really something you want to ask for? Is there really nothing more productive or positive you can think to do with your money?

    Put simply: Would you donate money to a charity that did some good, if you knew that some departments of that charity were involved in some of the most horrific crimes in the world today? Would you really?

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