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How Rich People Are Winning the Class War

Satia Orange in ALA’s Office for Literacy and Outreach Services (OLOS) shared a recent Bill Moyers speech. Delivered to the Council of Great City Schools in October, the address treats inequality in the U.S., including IRS persecution of poor people:

In 2001, 397,000 people who applied for the Earned Income Tax Credit were audited, one out of every 47 returns. That’s a rate eight times higher than the rate for people earning $100,000 or more. Only one out of every 366 returns of wealthy households was audited. Over the previous 11 years, in fact, audit rates for the poor increased by a third, while the wealthiest enjoyed a 90% decline in IRS scrutiny. Of all the 744,000 tax returns audited by the IRS in 2002, more than half, David Cay Johnston finds, were filed by the working poor. More than half of IRS audits targeted people who account for less than 20% of taxpayers, the poorest 20%.

For the complete speech (a PDF), visit:


For more on the IRS and its resistance to public scrutiny, visit:


On a similar note, Ben Stein writes in The New York Times of Warren Buffett’s frustration with the tax system (“In Class Warfare, Guess Which Class Is Winning,” Nov. 26, 2006):

Mr. Buffett compiled a data sheet of the men and women who work in his office. He had each of them make a fraction; the numerator was how much they paid in federal income tax and in payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, and the denominator was their taxable income. The people in his office were mostly secretaries and clerks, though not all.

It turned out that Mr. Buffett, with immense income from dividends and capital gains, paid far, far less as a fraction of his income than the secretaries or the clerks or anyone else in his office. Further, in conversation it came up that Mr. Buffett doesn’t use any tax planning at all. He just pays as the Internal Revenue Code requires. “How can this be fair?” he asked of how little he pays relative to his employees. “How can this be right?”

Even though I agreed with him, I warned that whenever someone tried to raise the issue, he or she was accused of fomenting class warfare.

“There’s class warfare, all right,” Mr. Buffett said, “but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

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