Friday roundup: Tampa official stonewalls, Falcons get sued, Amazon is the new Olympics

Okay, let’s do this thing:

34 comments on “Friday roundup: Tampa official stonewalls, Falcons get sued, Amazon is the new Olympics

  1. I am center left, but I kind of hate the hypocrisy of the left on the taxes issue. I am pro-progressive taxes, but we already do have quite progressive taxes (though not as progressive as they once were). The top quintile generally pays about 30% in taxes, and the bottom quintile 10% . Even if you factor in “regressive” things like sales tax (not really regressive). And if you add in transfer programs the bottom quintile is paying a negative amount.

    Upper middle-class people in particular who cannot afford trusts and shell corporations, and such pay an absolutely huge amount of taxes compared to the lower middle class and lower class people say Hamilton Nolan/Splinter are stumping for. Of course tax cuts are going to disproportionately benefit the people actually paying taxes.

    You have say my sister-in-law who bounces from menial job to menial job due to laziness and generally makes in the high $20ks and definitely isn’t paying much in taxes beyond sales/excise. She probably pays $2-3k a year if you add in her landlord’s property taxes (not sure why you would do that, but fine). And that is not even getting into her subsidized healthcare and other things.

    At times listening to the public policy opinions of someone like her (which invariably are just throw more tax money at any an all problems) is pretty galling. More spending on this that and the other thing. More spending for everyone! An easy attitude to have when it is not your money and you quit you job and switch careers anytime you advance to a position that would necessitate some diligence/responsibility.

    Anyway I hate that fucking Splinter piece, and as much as I am no huge fan of Thatcher, this is definitely an issue where we are in line.

    So if you make say $40k a year and pay 18% it might seem unfair that someone making $170k only pays 28%. Except you are paying $7,200, and they are paying $47,600 and suddenly it sounds a lot more “fair”.

    • I sort of get your point — people who earn more have more to pay in taxes — but I don’t think it’s “hypocrisy” to think that progressive taxation is a good thing. You may disagree with it, but “people should pay more if they have more disposable income” is an ethically consistent position.

      Also, you’re confusing marginal and effective tax rates in your example: Nobody earning $40k pays 18% of their income in federal income taxes, and nobody earning $170k pays 28% — that’s just what they pay on the *last dollar earned*. And, of course, as the chart linked above shows, state and local taxes mean that pretty much everyone ends up paying close to the same percentage of their income in taxes, since sales taxes take a bigger cut of low earners’ income, balancing out their smaller share of income taxes.

      • The “hypocrisy” comes from always complaining about the “framing” the right does on this (and other) issue(s), while the left does exactly the same thing. I mean in some very real sense even a “flat tax” is quite progressive, because the people making more pay more. You could just as easily have a per capita tax.

        So you have people on the left desperate to always talk about rates and not actual dollars, because the picture with actual dollars is way way way less compelling.

        “Also, you’re confusing marginal and effective tax rates in your example”

        No I am not. I am talking about total tax burden. Sales/Excise/Property/Cap gains/Income/State/local, the whole shebang. Those are roughly correct figures for that, though it varies greatly state to state.

        “close to the same percentage of their income in taxes, since sales taxes take a bigger cut of low earners’ income, balancing out their smaller share of income taxes”

        This really isn’t true. The last good study I saw had the bottom quintile ~10% all in, and the top ~35%. And that isn’t even getting into the transfer payments back to the bottom and less so the second quintile.

        Someone making $30k a year is not really paying that much in sales taxes. $1-2k. Sales tax is what 10% at most? How many sales taxable purchases do you really think they are making in a year? Someone making $100k is maybe paying a lower percentage of their income in sales tax, but still paying in much more actual sales tax.

        • “No I am not. I am talking about total tax burden. Sales/Excise/Property/Cap gains/Income/State/local, the whole shebang.”

          Ah, okay, I misunderstood your point, I apologize.

          “The last good study I saw had the bottom quintile ~10% all in, and the top ~35%.”

          Yeah, no, that’s way off. It’s more like 18% vs 30%:

          (From Citizens for Tax Justice figures, original link is broken so I can’t find it at the moment.)

          If you add in transfer payments, definitely the amount paid by the very poorest goes down, and may even be negative for some people. But the amount of total taxes paid in percentage terms is a lot flatter across income brackets than anyone gives it credit for.

          • Neil,

            Forgive me if I don’t take a group whose website says on its banner

            “as citizens working toward a fair and sustainable tax system,
            our goal is to ensure that working people’s voices are heard and influence the nation’s tax policies”

            as the absolute gospel on the actual facts of the matter.

            I spent a 10 years at two advocacy/research nonprofits and they cook the books in their own way, if slightly less egregiously.

            Anyway the exact split isn’t really that relevant.

          • Also just for the record I am sure the current tax bill whatever it might end up to be, will probably be an abomination.

          • CTJ has an outstanding record when it comes to the math. If you want to go dig around on their site for these numbers, I’m sure they cite their sources.

        • You are using the word “progressive” wrong in this statement. A tax has a “progressive” incidence if the rate/percent of the tax is greater as the base (income) increases. A “flat tax” that has the same rate for all people is neither progressive nor regressive by definition.

          The fact that an absolute amount increases as the base (income) increases (increasing amount but at decreasing rate) is interesting calculus but a lot less interesting politically than you are suggesting. Poor people have less income and wealth by definition so it does little to note the absolute amount paid by them in any tax is less.

          The whole reason the progressiveness of a tax is politically interesting is the effective rate is an intuitive method of determining “fairness”. I think most economic progressives are pretty clear and consistent about this. I do think it is fair to talk about the absolute amount in some contexts but it definitely obfuscates more than it adds to discussions of fairness and “oughts”.

          • That is just framing. In the past it has meant different things. I am fully aware of how it is used in the modern political context, but I think that is frankly about as honest as “death tax”.

            “a lot less interesting politically than you are suggesting. ”

            I think the last 300 years of electoral politics worldwide would beg to differ.

            Almost everything else you said is just importing the various value judgements under debate. That not only should the amount be progressive, but the rate as well is not written is stone anywhere.

            I happen to be fine with a progressive rate, but just as there is massive inequality in who is making money, there is also massive inequality in who is paying taxes (for obvious reasons).

            The left really likes to shirk around that point, and talk like the rich paying 30% versus the poor 18% (by Neil’s figures) is some grave injustice despite the fact that there is no a priori reason to think so.

          • It really has never meant different things. Here’s an article from 1894 clearly contrasting “progressive” (graduated rates) from “proportional” (everybody pays the same rate) taxation:


            The “progressive” here has nothing to do with “progress” or “progressive” (left-of-center) politics. It just means that the rate gets progressively higher as you earn more money.

          • As for grave injustices, I doubt there are many on the left or anywhere who think our system of taxation is unfair because of math. It’s more that the massive accumulation of wealth by a tiny minority while a huge portion of the population is one paycheck away from not being able to feed itself is seen as obscene, and the tax code is the only means of doing anything about it. (Well, that and raising the minimum wage to $50 an hour. Or outlawing inheritance.)

          • Flat taxes of say 2% or wealth or whatever in France and other countries were and are indeed described as “progressive” frequently at least in the history literature. This distinguishes them from things that are more per captia based, like a poll tax. The usage simply is not as consistent outside US politics as you seem to think.

  2. Forgive my language but commissioner Javan is an ass and his constituency should recall him as soon as possible.

    He is a symptom of what’s wrong with most politics left or right in this country

    Man he fries my butt

    Then again maybe his constituency doesn’t care, is also on the take, or is just that dumb

    Of course a small amount may be fighting him or just plain given up

    Either way he is an asshole

    • I think he made a huge error in that video where he says he’d talk to “literally any other station.” Every station is going to want to get a piece of him dodging questions looking like an idiot.

  3. MLB expansion would be nuts. They need to get the attendance-deprived Florida teams moved before even considering any sort of expansion.

    • I know it’s just a dream, but I wish MLB would close down both Florida teams and then sell Marlins Park to David Beckham to convert to soccer.

      • I have a better chance of snagging a date with Emma Stone than either of those things happening (both Florida teams being relocated or contracted).

        Attendance has f*ck-all to do with franchise relocation in 2017

        When it comes to topics like these, fans tend to speak in terms of what they would *like* to see happen, rather than what’s *actually likely* to happen. I mean, I get why, but still.

      • Only if Jeter & Beckham become buddies. MLB will never contract teams as long as cities continue to work over billions.

  4. Just a few thoughts:
    1) Hagan has pushed doggedly for the Rays to move to Tampa for a decade. The targeted areas of the fairgrounds, downtown Tampa along the waterfront and westshore are all disasters due to normal nightmarish congestion that occurs now without a ballpark. As to the question of how the city / county is going to pay…
    2) Who wants to trade? Hillsborough offers to swap land with Ybor-area property owners for potential Rays ballpark
    Note that the Mayor wasn’t included in this idea…
    3) Moving onto the fairness of taxes, let me be clear – anyone who owns a private business, gets paid with a 1099 or files a schedule C among other things, is NEVER going to pay the effective tax rate. It is unfathomable for those being paid with a W2, the absolute thievery of those who have the resources to manipulate their returns. The IRS is underpowered and overwhelmed to audit only a few % of any years returns. I don’t have any answers but the top tax rate in the early 1960s was over 90%. An interesting start to any discussion would be to read John Steele Gordon’s book, “AN EMPIRE OF WEALTH”.

    • The effective tax rate is, by definition, what people actually pay.

      If you’re referring to my comment above, I was trying to clarify that someone in the “28% bracket” doesn’t pay 28% of their total income in federal income taxes. Which should be obvious to anyone who’s ever filled out a tax form, but I still have to point it out sometimes.

    • Well yeah you rates go down when you have actual business expenses because you are taxed on earnings not revenue.

      Sure some people do manipulate that system, lots of businesses buying whole families cell phones and such, but not everyone plays those games and the effective rates really don’t get pushed down that much. That isn’t even getting into that while there is chiseling in some areas to a greater or lesser degree, in other areas there are legitimate business expenses that don’t reduce your taxable income.

      You are right that the people getting most fucked are high earners with mostly W-2 income.

  5. I hope Amazon have not seen the Magic Christian. Might give them a horrible idea for how to decide the new hq. (Google it, guys)

  6. One place courting AMAZON is Delaware County. The one in Pennsylvania. They want to locate it near the MSL stadium for the UNION in Chester on the water front. The only plus would be it would bring jobs to a city with a high unemployment rate but that would mean those are the people they hire. and once hired they stay living in the city of Chester. This county was at one time 3 plus republicans to 1 democrat in register voters. Now with the influx of former Phila. residents move out to Delaware County the Republicans are out numbered but still in power. This would be a good feather for them if they get it so I wonder what they offered.

  7. I think how we look at Amazon depends on where it winds up. If it goes to a rust-belt city that’s been shrinking for decades and has a lot of empty space in the urban core and infrastructure to support a much larger population than it currently has (yes Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo I’m talking to you), it would have a huge transformative effect. Both of those places have a lot of space that’s been sitting empty for a while, so to give a property tax abatement to someone to build on a piece of property that’s not generating tax revenue anyway is good move. If they go to a place like Boston then yes it will probably be a bad deal for tax payers.

    • The problem is that a major influx of new workers and residents (unless Amazon is going to entirely employ existing locals, which it won’t) costs money for new schools, police and fire service, etc. Those are exactly the things that property taxes are meant to help pay for, so if Amazon pays nothing, a city will need to come up with that money somewhere.

      • Right but if they go to a city that has been shrinking like the rust belt those places have schools and other infrastructure in place to support a larger population. Also, while you may be giving them a property tax abatement on the property that Amazon builds on, its not as if you are going to give a property tax abatement on every home that every amazon employee moves into. Again I am referring to very specific instances such as Cleveland, Detroit, Rochester, etc.

        • The break-even point is probably higher there, sure. It’s still not going to be in the billions of dollars.

      • Also, it would be 50K employees (lets call it 120K total people as the demographic of tech workers would skew younger so not everyone will have a wife and kids) over 10 years and they wouldn’t all live in the same neighborhood. They would spread out throughout a metro area I doubt too many places would need to hire additional police and fire fighters. Now the municipality where they build the actual office probably would, but they would get sales taxes from the employees spending money and income taxes (even though I am sure Amazon would probably get some of the income taxes from their employees rebated but other businesses would have to hire people). Additionally, you would have hiring at other businesses that do business with amazon and travelers who come to town to do business with amazon, etc.

        • There are lots of spinoff effects, both positive and negative. But the main way municipalities usually get this to balance out is by collecting property taxes — take that off the table, and it’s much harder to make the math work out.

          • I’d say the chances of Amazon going to a “Rust Belt” city are slim to none. Tech snobs already turn their noses up at very nice communities in the northeast and Midwest because of the “lack of things to do” (which seems often to be lack of imagination.) This will be another Big Sort funded by taxpayers.

            Neil is right. The challenge for municipalities is being able to have a broad tax base and not depend on one source of income (as California began to with real estate sales taxes in the mid 2000s). Given the ability of stadium-boosters and “urban development” people to make tax rebates something between free and invisible, this puts a lot more pressure on sales and individual income/property taxes, which are far more difficult politically.

            Illinois in general and Chicago in particular show the folly of this approach. There is no way additional workers are making up for the taxes lost on these “deals.”

    • The only way all those vacant homes and commercial properties aren’t generating tax revenue is if they are city owned (either intentionally or through tax arrears seizures). If someone or some company owns the derelict properties, they are still paying/liable for municipal taxes on them.

      Giving Amazon (or anyone) a waiver or short term holiday on the property taxes a new or heavily renovated development would generate could actually cost the host city revenue.

      Since “downtown core” land is generally taxed on highest and best use, not necessarily current use (in the case of surface parking lots or actual vacant land), it could be that this undeveloped land is generating a significant amount of revenue too.

      If it is city owned, then it is generating nothing.

      • To be fair often those properties are in theory ringing up tax bills for years before they become tax forfeit.