Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Economics...Edge Style

A brilliant explanation of our tax system using actual percentages, the impact of a tax cut, and the public reaction that even Obama should be able to understand.

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that's what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. "Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20. "Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes, so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men - the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?'

They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so -

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).
The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 ( 22% savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings) (Note: the richest man gets the largest $ discount but the smallest % of savings!)

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

"I only got a dollar out of the $20,"declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man," but he got $10!"

"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I!"

"That's true!!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!"

"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. (Note again: the richest man gets the largest $ discount but the smallest % of savings!) Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D.
Professor of Economics
University of Georgia

For those who understand, no explanation is needed. For those who do not, or will not, understand, no explanation is possible.


Salubrina said...

when you can successfully realte politics and taxes to beer and bars, you've got it made.

very cool post.

AI said...

Interesting post Edge, I believe I may have visited this site before, but this is the first for comments. I was wondering whether you had featured the early 2008 release of Ironman ... not that I considered it conservative in a strict sense although I thought it contained elements of ... Anyhow keep up the good work and have added yours to our blogroll....



Brooke said...


I think I need a beer!

And you're right; those that don't get it never will.

kevin said...

I'll drink to that!

Anonymous said...

Ha! Excellent post, Edge.
I'll join ya, Brooke.

After that debate tonight...ouch.
Maybe two or three? ;-)

Brooke said...

Drinking game for the next debate:

Take a drink whenever Obama says, "Um" or Well" at the beginning of a sentence, or whenever he gets that shit eating grin while McCain is talking.

Take a drink whenever McCain says "my friends."

Ticker said...

Absolutely brilliant. As one of the let us say, elder bloggers, it is refreshing to see young men taking an interest in what is occurring in our nation today.

You will remember me as "Erin's Dad" rather than the name that appears on the post.

Thanks for your permission to crosslink this piece. It will probably not be the last request you receive.