Friday, April 22, 2011

Wall Street Journal 100% Tax Hoax

A reader writes:
The Wall Street Journal notes, if you taxed everyone who makes over $100,000 at a rate of 100 percent, you still wouldn’t raise enough to balance president Obama’s budget, never mind pay off any debt.

I feel like there is something wrong with this statement... am I wrong?

WSJ link:

Well without even going further, he's saying the current TAXABLE income...
13,215,000 Americans earn more than $100k a year...

Seems they are ASSUMING THAT ALL OF THEM ONLY MAKE $100k, and no more.

6% of the US pop makes more than $100k. The top 1% of income earners alone accounts for almost 50% of all income. All income in the US is on the order of $14 trillion. So without going any further, 100% of the income (NOT WEALTH which is WAY WAY higher) of the top 1% (who earn MUCH MORE THAN $100k) would amount to roughly $7 TRILLION DOLLARS.
(and WSJ is alleging that the top 6% don't make even $1.4 Trillion)

If you want to be on the safe side and eliminate capital gains from the discussion (which pretty damn conservative given that a HUGE proportion of the top income earners income comes from capital gains), then you can work with the top 10% of income earners, who earn 45% of all income...
(see fig 1 tab in Excel spreadsheet linked to below)
which gives you about $6 Trillion.

Since $100k income earners are top 5%, you can very safely say that (ignoring capital gains, which account for more than half of actual income earned by top dudes) they earn $3 Trillion a year.

Saez, E. & Piketty, T. (2003). Income inequality in the United States: 1913-1998. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 118(1), 1-39.
data at:

Census data: