Depicting the Abject Misery of the Top 3% That Face Higher Federal Income Taxes


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Many of you will have seen this graphic from the Wall Street Journal that made the rounds of the Internet mid-last week, but many of you won’t have seen it — and, really, you just gotta. If you’ve had the slightest lack of sympathy for people in the top 3% or so of income earners, this will test your icy lack of empathy. Behold what the new federal income tax hike will do (according to the WSJ, and I haven’t verified any of it) to these suffering taxpaying specimens of humanity — and to their kids!  First off, don’t look at the words for now, just look at the pictures.

WSJ Graphic Showing  Sad Wealthy People & Tax Increase

When a graphic artist wants to depict true misery, there’s no better choice than a woodcut.

Holy multicultural, multiple age, single and beleaguered joint parenthood hell!  The adults, at least, may try to hide it.  (Well, at least the Asian woman in the lower left may be trying to hide it, but I remember that expression from an ex-girlfriend and I know that the only course of action when you see aimed at you that is to start apologizing profusely and at great length for whatever it is you may have done — and if you don’t know then you’d better guess.)  But look at the kids!  What are we monsters doing to them?  Do we need to pull out the famous Depression Era Dorothea Lange photos before the message gets through!  We’re cutting their net income post-federal income tax down from — let’s go clockwise from the upper left:

Miserable single parent with two miserable children: down from $189,647 to $186,291 — that is, by almost 1.78%!

Miserable African-American and/or Latino retirees: down from $157,155 to, uh, $157,155.  … Well, moving on!

Miserable married parents of miserable four kids: down from $475,325 to $453,727 — that is, cut by 4.54%

My disapproving ex-girlfriend, had she’ been a lawyer: down from $168,317 to $165,410 — a cut of the same 1.78% as above!

Don’t make fun (at least not unmitigated fun) of the Wall Street Journal — these are their readers and subscribers.  That’s who they know; that’s to whom they’re catering.  They get to bemoan the fate of those in the mid-$200K and mid-$600K income ranges if they want.  The people facing these tax rates generally do feel the loss of 1/56 of their income and they may well be upset about it, rightly or wrongly.

But — misery?  No.  Look, these are my people from a decade or so ago, before I went reverse-Galt, and I promise you — they may feel angry at their tax increases, they may feel acute sadness, and those in hock to loan sharks may even feel fear — but misery?  No.  Misery applies elsewhere.  You take away 1.78% of the income of someone making $16,000 per year and chances are you’ll see misery.  The increases in the bus fares in OC from $1.50 to $2 is likely to cause more serious misery than the effect of all of the federal tax hikes on all of the residents of Newport Beach, Newport Coast, Yorba Linda, Anaheim Hills, Rancho Santa Margarita, and Coto de Caza combined.  Less anger, I’ll bet — most poorer people seem resigned to the inequities of contemporary American life — but more misery.

Had the artist behind this graphic — who I suspect may have been slipping an intentional exaggeration by his or her editors as a joke just to see if anyone noticed — wanted to depict the people in the various panels as burning with rage at the temerity of the government for tapping into their pockets, I could not argue with it.  (I could argue with the sentiment itself, but not with the depiction of it as representing something real.)  But depicting these people as miserable?  Please, for the sake of all that’s right and holy in the world, whatever else you take from them, leave the poor and working class their experience of greater misery than those earning dozens of times their own income.  Please leave them at least that, Wall Street Journal – or we will make enormous amounts of fun of you.

(P.S. — Note that those who earn income by investment rather than labor aren’t depicted in this graphic.  Just saying.)


About Greg Diamond

Worker's rights attorney now moving into "good governance" litigation. North Vice Chair of Democratic Party of Orange County and occasional candidate. Proud to be prolix. Unless otherwise specifically stated, his writings never speak for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level. He tries to either suppress or openly acknowledge his partisan, issue, ideological, and "good government" biases in most of his writing here. If you have a question about any particular writing, just ask him about it and (unless you are an pseudonymous troll) he will probably answer you at painful length. He lives in Brea but generally doesn't blog about it. A family member works as a campaign treasurer for Wendy Gabriella in AD-73; he doesn't directly profit from that relatively small compensation and it doesn't affect his coverage. He does advise some campaigns informally and without compensation, although in 2014 he may receive some compensation for campaign consulting and fundraising for the campaign of Jorge Lopez for Orange County Assessor.