Visualizing America's Tax Inequality, The Wealthiest 11,000 People, And Why Obama's Campaign Promises Mean 77%-91% Taxes For The Richest

Tyler Durden's picture

Now that healthcare "reform|takeover" has passed, Obama is rightfully shifting his attention on tax "reform|takeover" for the very simple reason that America is getting bankrupter by the day, and at some point even our ever so patient creditors will say 'enough'. We take this opportunity to disclose the massive pain that lies in store for those who are currently benefiting the most from the endless stock market rally, of course assuming the president keeps his #1 campaign promise (which is a vast assumption). As the charts below demonstrate, American society is currently stratified beyond repair. In this vein, the Tax Policy Center calculates, that for a return to economic normalcy, or deficits at a "mere" 2% of GDP, households earnings more than $200/250k would see their tax rates going up to a stunning 91%. If the economic underperformance target is reduced to more palatable deficits at 3% of GDP, then the top earners would be hit with "only" 77% taxes.

A summary of the details:

  • 40% of US households make below $36,000
  • 60% make below $57,000
  • 80% make below $91,750
  • 95% making below $165k
  • 98% making less than $250,000
  • 99.99% make less than $5 million and 0.01% make more than $5 million (with a very special category for those making over $1.5 billion: "Hedge Fund Managers")
  • 1% of society makes 17.3% of the income,
  • The average income in the top 0.01%, or 11,000 households, is $35,473,200, and a minimum of $8,579,000
  • The average income in the the next 99,000 households, or 99.9%-99.99% of the population makes an average $4,699,500, and a minimum of $1,532,400
  • The average income in the next 451,000 households, or 99.5%-99.9% of the population makes and average $1,206,200, and a minimum of $482,400
  • The average income in the next 564,000 households, or 99$-99.5% of the population makes and average $269,800, and a minimum of $126,300
  • ...and so forth.

Here are the charts that capture the stratification of America, and its new "nobility" class, courtesy of Visualizing Economics:

First - the peasants, and the clergy:

Next, the nobility:

And, a little bit more, on those who, unless they manage to stop Obama from following through on his plans, are about to be taxed between 77% and 91%.

Here is the reason why those in the above chart should be very worried. From the Tax Policy Center of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution:

In August 2009, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected that the federal budget deficit would total $7.1 trillion over the 2010-2019 decade—under current law. That outcome would require the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts to sunset as scheduled in 2011 and Congress to stop “patching” the alternative minimum tax to minimize its bite. If neither of those things happens, CBO says the cumulative deficit over the decade would jump to $11.1 trillion, more than doubling the national debt. Our economy cannot sustain that rate of debt increase. How can we reverse it? This paper poses a simple question: could incremental reforms of the current tax system raise enough revenue to reduce the deficit to an average of 2 percent of GDP over the last five years of the budget window?

Here are Brookings' observations as pertains to both US social strata and Obama's chief campaign promise to not touch taxes on those earning less than $200k (single) and $250K (married):

Raise tax rates proportionately on single taxpayers with income over $200,000 and married couples filing jointly with income over $250,000. This policy would impose tax increases only on those taxpayers targeted by President Obama during the 2008 presidential election for tax increases under the expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts.

We model a proportional increase in tax rates for taxpayers for whom adjusted gross income minus the standard deduction and one personal exemption (two exemptions for married couples) exceeds the relevant threshold. To meet our revenue target [of 2% deficits of GDP] under current law, the top two tax rates would have to increase more than 40 percent, lifting the top rate to 56.4 percent. Under the administration baseline, the top rates would leap by 160 percent, lifting the top rate to nearly 91 percent. We would need much smaller—but still substantial—tax increases to meet Orszag’s deficit target [of 3% of GDP]. For example, under the administration baseline, the top tax rates would have to more than double, pushing the top tax rate to almost 77 percent. Under current law, the top rate would have to increase to about 43 percent.

We hate to break it to those who are making 1% each and every day in the melt up, but quite soon (assuming Obama doesn't want a revolution on his hands), all the income America's uberwealthy generate, will soon be taxed anywhere between 77% and 91%... And of course, assuming simple math still works in the Obama universe.

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Shameful's picture

So this assumes that Barry is going to keep his campaign promise and strike at the rich...I suppose it could happen...I mean the impossible has happened before.  This is also assuming that he isn't just going to try to kick the can and lean on Zimbabwe Ben.  Expect to see a VAT and carbon tax before this.

Sam Clemons's picture

Agreed.  The chance of this happening and actually being enforced within this country controlled by the wealthy is slim-to-none.  If anything like this is passed, massive loopholes will exist.

Shameful's picture

Well our tax system is about the most complicated ever imagined.  Put the statues books side by side and you'll be impressed.  And then there is a bunch of case law to interpret the statute. 

The quote I got from my income tax law class was "I've been teaching this class for 40 years.  No one has ever got the same answer as me on the final"  40 years and no one has ever gotten the same interpretation of the tax law as him.  That there lets you know there is a lot of wiggle room.

ozziindaus's picture

And to think that just like maths and physics, there is only one right way to do your taxes. No.

Shameful's picture

Note he didn't say right way, just the same way as him.  Another tax prof told me once that the tax code is so vast, so complicated, and so ever changing that no living person knows and understands the whole thing at any given moment.  How could they?  The real trip is the IRS of course are "right" unless you take them to court.

Sam Clemons's picture

If I were to ever set-up a society, I'd make the laws so simple and related to common morals that everyone could remember them.  Oh wait, that was already tried and we pissed it away.

ChanceIs's picture

When Napolean took over, he shredded France's Byzantine civil code and started over with the Napoleanic code.  I suppose that the French have made a mess of that over the last 200 years.

Speaking of Napolean and hedge fund managers making $1 billion plus, any of those boys say "Let them eat cake" recently?  BTW:  I am no egalitarian.  Rather I admire Taleb and Niall Ferguson.  One can learn from history.  What do they doesn't repeat, but it rhymes?

berlinjames02's picture

My first accounting professor said it best: "Tax mitigation is legal and even encouraged by the IRS. Tax evasion is illegal and highly prosecuted. There is a thin line between the two, and, it's often separated by bars."

Unfortunately, the real criminals always walk free.


On a separate note- I believe the tax code (or rather the laws that create it) is the primary reason for stratification of the middle class. In order for any law to pass, concessions are made at both ends of the spectrum. Ex. If the Dems want to pass (and bribe) healthcare or some other entitlement, the Republicans or business receive a tax break somewhere else.

Thus, a rich Republican doesn't pay a tax, while a poor Democrat receives an entitlement and the middle class is squeezed. While this is sustainable in the short-term, if this game is played for 20 or 30 years the middle class will bear a disproportionate burden of the taxes.

I have no empirical evidence...just a theory of mine.

Voluntary Exchange's picture


I would ask you all to focus on the big picture. Here is the short version. You are all slaves. Every one of you that supports the so called “government” by even one penny is partially responsible for the murder of millions upon this planet, as well as theft, fraud, and other crimes that are done in it's name.

Taxation is theft. Any entity that would presume to provide any service to anyone must pass the test of voluntary exchange. Almost all tax does not pass this test. It is not voluntary as you must pay some one or group even if you do not want any of their “services”. If you do not they will initiate force against you to take what they want and then some. Elections are are a tool of deception. They produce no contract and encourage people to view the world in a deceived way. You must never pay anyone for something you do not want to buy voluntarily. It is false that the things that need to get done will not get done unless some people are “forced” to pay them. That is a lie. Think it through clearly in your mind if you can. If you can't, ask for help from those who can explain it to you.

We make choices in life. The liars and cheats and murderers who call themselves “government” are very strong now as they have not been challenged in their crimes. Their organized looting has been going on so thoroughly and so long that things are about to collapse under the unsustainable weight of so many crimes in so many places. Criminals become more and more bold and more and more pervasive until they are stopped by the non-criminals or the natural laws of nature step in to cause their final destruction. If not challenged, ultimately everyone becomes a criminal and unending war among criminals ensues. Then everyone who has made their “deal with the devil” relearns a few basic moral lessons. Crime does not (ultimately) pay. You shalt not steal. You shalt not lie. Choose life that you may live.

You must stop using fiat money. It is the mother lie and deception that is the foundation of all organized crime that calls itself “government” on this planet. You must learn how to provide for yourself and others what you need to survive and do it through honorable voluntary exchanges; use gold or silver as money or something of value your neighbor will agree to. Anyone or group (government usually) that initiates force or deception is your ENEMY and the enemy of every decent person on this planet who is willing to live by voluntary exchange. Some parasites have the capacity to become productive and live by voluntary exchange. When you choose to feed the parasites you become partially responsible for their crimes. Friends, the bullies have multiplied. You must organize to defend yourselves. Surviving the storm by yourself is almost impossible. People of good will must organize to sustain each other. When you try to do this some of you will be attacked. Organize carefully. Get to know your actual neighbors again. YOU MUST! Perhaps you could introduce yourself and first find out if they are basically trying to survive honorably or by “government”. If things look promising perhaps you could show them a message like this one and ask them what they think of it? You must act and you must act fast. Time is short. Be encouraged. Ultimately there will be peace on Earth among men of good will.


Voluntary Exchange's picture

NO faith required. I prefer facts.

Voluntary Exchange's picture

Do you have faith in a constitution? Care to explain your comment a little more?

Almost Solvent's picture

Revolution is never an easy thing.


Voluntary Exchange's picture

Yes, I agree. I do not advocate anything other than a revolt against a crime as it is being committed. Such "revolutions" are the vary basis of civilization.

pan-the-ist's picture

Blah Blah Blah.  You libertarians are tools. Did Gangas Kahn care if you paid your taxes?  As soon as libertopia is formed, Mr. Kahn is going to ride in and take all of your shit.

He'll give you two choices:

1. Don't resist and I will take your shit, rape your wife, and steal your fit children for military duty.

2. Resist and I will take your shit, rape your wife in front of you, impale you on a stick, but keep one of your children alive and lame, so the lame child can point at you when some other idiot decides to take choice number 2.  And then I will salt your fields.

Anton LaVey's picture

Actually, the real Gengis Khan used a somewhat different strategy:

Lay siege to a city. Demand submission and tribute (= tax). If the city resisted, wait until it fell (never took very long), then kill absolutely everyone inside (no exceptions and no mercy), make a big pile of corpses and skulls, with assorted crucifixion and impaling for good measure. Then, salt their fields, raze all walls and houses and burn everything left standing (except for the big pile of corpses). Then, move on to the next city.

Lay siege to the next city. Demand submission and tribute (= tax). If the city resisted, point to the first city and even (if required) organize a guided tour for select leaders of the second city.

Usually only one city was necessary in a good long while.

Simple and effective. Surprising how much tribute (= tax) was gathered this way.

Voluntary Exchange's picture

HI Anton:

In todays world, each community would have the capacity to communicate with other communities in the society. Those who are willing to stay free could organize a “welcome” for “Gengis” should he care to dance at their private party. Plan and practice, the “Red Coats are coming”. The tyrant always prefers to isolate you and pick you off piecemeal. Those who value their freedom prepare well so they will prevail.


Anton LaVey's picture

Oh boy, where do I start? Let me keep this short, sweet and to the point:

  1. I am truly sorry if the world seems that dark and dangerous to you.
  2. You really need to have your head checked.
  3. If you are right, and they are really out there to get you, they probably know where you are already, and you will be among the first to be sent to the work and rehabilitation camps. But, hey, at least you would be proved correct, right?
  4. "The fear of death is the most unjustified of all fears, for there's no risk of accident for someone who's dead".  -- Albert Einstein

There, I think that about covers it. Have a nice day.

Voluntary Exchange's picture

Hi Anton:

What I consider dark and dangerous is exchanges based on force or deception. If you do not understand that that is where you and I are at then I am willing to explain more. If you do not understand how such involuntary exchanges make things dark and dangerous for everyone who would choose to live honorably then I do not think you have thought things through very carefully (Assuming you do not live by force or fraud or benefit from it, in which case we could have a different conversation). While you are motivated enough to suggest that I need my head checked maybe you will care to check out what Murry Rothbard and Hans Herman Hoppe taught about contractual societies and how they would actually work. A predator is “out there” to get what they can get and they prefer easy game. That is the nature of some “people”. Do you have a lock on your home? If you do, do you really think “they” are out there to get you?


Voluntary Exchange's picture

Hi Pan:

The ones who face #1 and #2 failed to properly organize into powerful enough groups with their neighbors.  I am aware that people all over this country are organizing now!   I strongly urge you to do likewise. The latest "health" bill means they will be coming for each of us shortly to ensure "compliance" (if they know where to look). Clearly many of us have had enough and it is time to hit the restart button. All it will take for the tyranny to fall is a few victories and the magic moment when the hired muscle sees "them" as they are and sees you (their brothers) holding your moral high ground.  Remember what  happened in Romania. One moment the tyrants were shouting orders, the next moment the people were free. It will happen again. Prepare.

QQQBall's picture

No, No, no... the big question is what does this do to business creation and expansion? Do you want to take 100% of the risk for 9% of the reward?   I was pretty surprised that alot of people here seem to be frugal types... I suppose there are more than a few of us tha tcould kinda throttle things way back and simply align our lives on an "after-tax" basis.

non-anon's picture

yeah, even old turbotax Timmie couldn't even figure it out!

Marvin_M's picture

run a quick check on what happened to tax rates after the last time income inequality approached today's obscene levels...that would have been round about 1929 or so...  Note that the runup to the Great Depression (the "Roaring 20s") featured greatly reduced tax rates across the board with the wealthiest enjoying tax rates on the order of 1/3 what they were during and after WWI.  The following link shows that tax rates rose dramatically under FDR.  Of course Mr. Obama is no FDR, and our government's reaction to this depression is not going to measure up to the beating the uber rich and the banks took after they got us into the first depression.

Close 2 the Edge's picture

And yet the country managed to survive for 140 years with no income tax at all.  Impresive how far we've come.

Marvin_M's picture

ah the good old days before the world welcomed Pax Americana...

docj's picture

Yeah, but I'm sure FDR's final solution - a world war - is already well along the planning stages in Barry's war room.

I love the smell of class warfare in the morning.

pan-the-ist's picture

docj - there is absolulety no evidence of that fairy tail history ever happening.  WW2 happened because there were a lot of poor people in Germany, not because FDR made it happen.  You could argue that the 'elite' started it and planned it all along, but then you'd have to display your tin-foil hat for all to see.

bruiserND's picture

Rev Manning

 I’m not sure what may happen,




































primus's picture

Fuck the Value Added Tax.

What about a Value Subtracted Tax?

Make all the gambler, parasite, financial engineers that 'earn' a living leeching off productive enterprise will shrivel up and die.

Hephasteus's picture

Oh I'm sure they will add at LEAST as much value as High Frequency Computer Fraud. 

dark pools of soros's picture

take the money and run.........

Nihilarian's picture

Large increases in cost with questionable increases in performance can be tolerated only in race horses and women.

Cleanclog's picture

The Admin will need to fear street riots, otherwise, the 1% uber-rich still have the overwhelming influence via campaign contributions, access contacts, and run GS, JPM, Pharmaceutical companies, Oil companies, Tobacco companies, Hollywood, and arms manufacturers.

Not that they care so much about the future of their employees - but they do want to keep taxes contained on their capital gains, dividend income, and bonus income.

Mercury's picture

More unicorn and rainbow bullshit. Those uberwealthy incomes will vanish in a heartbeat with those kinds of tax rates and the government will end up with a tiny percentage of what it thinks it will get in additional revenue.  You're going to tax something at 91% and that something is just going to stand there unchanged, chugging away as usual like some golden goose - really?

brushfire's picture

indeed. democracy's ironic underbelly. those pesky rich people will just find another palce to live with lower taxes. the govt subsidy class will not know what hit them.


the fact that this is happening should not be news to any thinking person.

A Nanny Moose's picture

Bingo. We are about to get a lesson on Tyranny of the Majority followed by capital flight.

buzzsaw99's picture

Absolutely correct. The wealthy will defer income and write in loopholes. The uber-wealthy have already salted away billions which is untouchable. Crap & Tax and VAT taxes will pummel the average joes while the wealthy offshore the loot.

sangell's picture

I'm not for confiscatory taxes but the proper way to demogogue those income inequality graphics is via human figures where income = height. Here the average man of, say, $40,000/year is a figure outline representing 6 feet. The million dollar/year man is thus 25 times taller at 150 feet while the hundred million man stands, god-like with his eyes peering over the Rocky Mountains.

tmosley's picture

Imagine if that god like figure were to simply give up?  To shrug, and shrink back down to a mere 6 ft?  

They are the pillars that hold the skies over our heads, and support the foundations of inductrialized society.  If they give up, it's over.

Crummy's picture

Ha ha ha ha ha ha-ah ah ahhh... ah. *cough* Ahem... Yeah, they produce all that's good under the sun with pure moxie.

Honestly, though. No one person is truly capable of that level of resource allocation to warrant those levels of "wealth". I'm all for getting rich but at a certain point it's just blatant fraud.

ozziindaus's picture

That's not going to happen quietly if not ever. In the remote chance that it does come into fruition, I'm sure a lot of countries would line up to patriate this sort of ridiculous money and leave America's 99% stuck with the bill. Something about money, it makes you greedy and insecure. 

Personally, I'd be fucking off in no time.

Mad Max's picture

but quite soon (assuming Obama doesn't want a revolution on his hands), all the income America's uberwealthy generate, will soon be taxed anywhere between 77% and 91%

Never going to happen.

For all the hopey-changey bullshit, Obama's supporters and the people he is beholden to are those super wealthy.  They are using the hopey-changey BS to eliminate their competition and stabilize their positions at the very top.  He and his policies are a puppet for them.

Not to mention that in this day and age, any tax rates even approaching those levels would spur massive expatriation.  Yes, I'm familiar with all the global-taxation provisions and various ways in which such expatriates are supposed to be looted of their assets on the way out.  It would happen anyway, with plenty of deception, and there are a number of countries that would happily shelter those expatriates from the fallout.

Shameful's picture

Could not agree more.  If anyone thinks that someone say of George Soros' caliber would be targeted by Barry you got another thing coming.  You don't buy a president and then let him walk all over you. Besides this would have to get through congress, no way.  The Reds would never go for it, and enough Blues would be bought.

Also have to agree about the expats.  Many nations would love to get that money in the system.  And as it would be a sign of America's waning power a lot more of the would be more bold about advertising for them.

MrPalladium's picture

If a 91% tax rate were to apply to all earned income over $1 million, it would pay for Goldman Sachs to move overseas and for its principals to pay the 50% exit tax. If it were to apply to short term capital gains it would pay most investors to leave, pay the exit tax, and grow the remaining money elsewhere.

This is just another example of the liberal think tanks rattling the sabre to panic the herd of Congress critters into a VAT tax that will result in a dramatic one time increase in prices, with the incidence of the tax being placed on consumers.

Just the usual syndicate looking for another hole they can use to rape the middle class.

tip e. canoe's picture

another "compromise for the common good" okie-doke pull the rug out in the last minute manuever

Cyan Lite's picture

The rich have too much power for taxes to go up dramatically.  They might get the top bracket up to 39%, or whatever it was pre-Bush at best.  There is enough spin out there from RWA (Rich, White, Americans) to sell the American public that more taxes on the rich are especially bad.


Taxes on Rich = BadAmerican Idol = Good.

ozziindaus's picture

I'm no advocate for taxing the rich unreasonable rates. Just the same amount as I cop is fine with me.