Why Vox’s Numbers for Bernie Sanders’s Tax Plans Are So Wrong

Bar chart comparing the pooled burden of individual and employer taxes and healthcare as a percentage of total compensation using current rates (gray) or Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders's proposed tax plans (blue).

Having completed a thorough analysis of the impact of Bernie Sanders’s tax plans on incomes for individuals and families across the income spectrum, I was curious to see why the numbers in this article by Dylan Matthews in Vox were so different. Reviewing his analysis, I found that there were some analytical decisions we differed on, a few tax policies that Mr. Matthews omitted or implemented inaccurately, and some significant errors in his math. The result is that Matthews’s exaggerated all of the rates in Bernie’s plans. Even if we grant his decision to pool employee and employer taxes together, which I contend is misleading for a general audience, it turns out that his infamous 77% figure for the top bracket exceeds the real rate by nearly 10 points.

The figure above includes an accurate representation of total effective rates with taxes and average family healthcare costs included. As in Matthews’s analysis, I have pooled both the employee and employer contributions. While this gives a complete picture of the impacts of Bernie’s plans in comparison with current rates,the rates can be misleading if you’re curious what these plans mean to you. Some portions of the costs shown are paid out of an employee’s paycheck, but other portions are paid by employers behind the scenes. Additionally, the net differences (savings and increases) include the pooled amounts saved or paid by both employers and employees. If you’re looking for figures that relate more directly to what you could expect to save or pay, take a look at my previous post on Bernie Sanders’s tax plans. Otherwise, continue reading below for the details of where Mr. Matthews went wrong in his analysis.

 Analytical Differences

I made some different judgment calls compared to Mr. Matthews. Neither choice in this section was strictly correct or incorrect, but I will explain why I believe my decisions better represent how Bernie Sanders’s proposals would impact the general public. Despite our differences, I do want to praise Matthews for sharing the details of his calculations (just as I have published my source code), which facilitates these comparisons of our methods and explanations of our different results.

Marginal v. Effective Tax

We use a marginal tax rate system for income and several other taxes in the U.S. In a marginal system, your income is broken up into chunks that are each taxed at a different rate. Take income tax for example. For married joint filers, the first $18,450 of taxable income is taxed at 10%, and the next chunk, $18,451 up to $74,900, is taxed at 15%. If your taxable income is $48,450, your top marginal tax rate would be 15%, but your actual tax rate would be lower than that. You’d separate out $18,450 and tax that at 10% ($1,845) and then tax the remaining $30,000 at 15% ($4,500). Your total tax bill would be $6,345 ($18,45 + $4,500), and that amounts to 13.1% of your $48,450 income. This 13.1% figure is called the effective tax rate, the actual tax rate paid when all is said and done.

You don’t care whether one was taxed at 10% and the other was taxed at 15%; you care that there is $2 in your wallet

Tax plan proposals, like Bernie Sanders’s Medicare-for-All plan, list tax brackets and marginal rates because that’s how tax laws are constructed, but it’s primarily only legislators and accountants that care about marginal rates. If you look at two dollar bills in your wallet, you don’t care whether one was taxed at 10% and the other was taxed at 15%; you care that there is $2 in your wallet. Because of this, my analyses use what matters to most: effective tax rates. I will grant that determination of effective tax rates is difficult and perhaps beyond the reach of the tools and skills available to most journalists. However, I would argue that, for any journalist forced to settle for a discussion of marginal rates, great reporting would take care to explain the difference and clearly label marginal rates when they are presented.

Ignoring Healthcare Savings

Matthews’s analysis includes only the new costs of buying healthcare in bulk as a nation and ignores the savings from no longer having to buy healthcare individually

Imagine you were considering whether to buy toilet paper in bulk. You could choose a 24-pack for $12 instead of frequently buying 2-packs for $2 each. If you were to consider costs alone and ignore savings, you would conclude that buying in bulk raises your toilet paper budget by $12. That is, of course, ridiculous, as you would instead be saving $12 because you were no longer buying all of the 2-packs. Matthews’s analysis includes only the new costs of buying healthcare in bulk as a nation and ignores the savings from no longer having to buy healthcare individually through premiums, co-pays, and deductibles. This does not present an accurate view of the impact of Bernie Sanders’s proposals from the perspective of an individual or a family, and that is why my analyses include estimates of savings from the elimination of current healthcare costs.

Pooling Employee and Employer Burden

Bernie Sanders’s tax plans include increases in taxes both in the withholding taxes individuals see on their paychecks (such as income tax and Social Security tax) and in the payroll taxes that employers contribute behind the scenes. Several economists have argued that these should be considered together because, from the employers perspective, these are all part of the total compensation cost for an employee.

When the new plans result in savings for the employer, I doubt that they would just hand out raises with all of the extra money

I agree that both the individual and employer perspectives should be considered (and I included both in my previous post on Bernie Sanders’s tax plans), but I am hesitant to pool them because I do not think that presents an accurate picture of what an individual could expect to experience under Sanders’s plans. First, if the cost of an employee increased, I do not think all employers would implement pay cuts to compensate. Employment contracts and union agreements would take this option off the table in some instances, and the cost to employee morale and turnover for a business would discourage the practice somewhat. More importantly, when the new plans result in savings for the employer, I doubt that they would just hand out raises with all of the extra money. Since I have found that employers would indeed save money on any employees with salaries in the range of about 70% of American families, I had decided not to pool employee and employer results in my previous analyses because it would overestimate the amount that most would be saving under Sanders’s plans, making the results for individuals look better than they really were. If, on the other hand, you compound the decisions to ignore savings and to pool burdens, as in Matthews’s analysis, then you end up grossly exaggerating the impact to individuals with middle class incomes.

Tax Policy Implementation Oversights

Matthews’s calculations have omitted one tax, missed a significant quirk in the proposed implementation of another, and ignored tax deductions and credits altogether.

Federal Unemployment Tax

The Federal Unemployment Tax Act applies a tax of 6.0% to the first $7,000 of wages for all employees. Employers can receive credits for taxes paid into state unemployment programs, but a minimum of total of 6.0% is always collected between state and federal programs. This tax appears to be absent form Matthews’s calculation spreadsheet, but it is included in my analyses.

Social Security Cap Backlog

Sanders’s proposed lifting of the Social Security wage base limit has a quirk to it that is not included in Matthews’s calculations. At present only the first $118,500 of an employees income is subject to the two 6.2% Social Security taxes (one for employees and one for employers). Sanders’s proposal (pdf) is to lift that cap and apply the taxes to all income, but with a catch: the cap is only lifted when the total income is $250,000 or more. This means that incomes between the current cap and $250,000 would pay the same as they do today, but once the new threshold is passed, Social Security tax would be due for all of the “gap” income ($118,000 – $249,999).

In his analysis, Matthews’s only applied new Social Security taxes to income above the new threshold, and, unlike in my analyses, he did not add in the backlog of tax ($8,153) for the gap. In another example of the limitations of reporting on marginal rates, this policy’s large jump in taxes at the new threshold would essentially create a tax bracket from $250,000 – $250,001 in which $8153.06 of Social Security tax is due.  Expressed in Matthews’s preferred terms, this $1-wide bracket has a marginal rate of 815,306%.

Deductions and Credits

In his figure, Matthews reports that income above $0 and up to $18,550 has income tax applied at a rate of 10% and 12.2% for the current and proposed rates, but this is simply false because tax deductions and exemptions save the first portions of income from the federal income tax and from Sanders’s proposed Medicare-for-All tax (pdf, footnote 3). Matthews is using the 2016 tax brackets for married individuals who file a joint tax return. All married and jointly filing couples will be able to deduct at least $12,600, most would deduct $20,700 or more (those earning less than $311,000), and those with children would deduct even more. This means that the actual rate paid on at least the first $12,600 would be 0%.

Changing the figure label to “taxable income” would alleviate the deductions issue, but it would also widen the rift between the information presented and values actually applicable to readers. However, there would still remain the issue of tax credits. The Earned Income Tax credit ensures that couples with a taxable incomes below $20,330 (or $49,974 with 2 kids) pay lower tax rates than what is listed in Matthew’s charts, and the Child Tax Credit offsets rates even further and extends to incomes slightly above $100,000. All of my analyses include the exact amounts for standard deductions, personal exemptions, Earned Income Tax Credit, and Child Tax Credit that apply to each income level. Admittedly, these issues only have a significant impact on tax rates for the bottom 99% of Americans, but Matthews was more focused on rates for extremely high incomes. For these high incomes, however, Matthew’s rates are still overestimated due to the mathematical errors described in the next section.

Mathematical Errors

When determining tax rates for his analysis, Matthews has made the mistakes of adding incompatible percentages and ignoring effective income.

Consider a simplified example to illustrate the problem: a $10,000 income with a 10% income tax and a 10% payroll tax paid by the employer. In this example, the employee would pay $1,000 in income tax and take home $9,000. The employer would also pay $1,000. If you followed Matthews’s process, you would add the 10% income tax and 10% payroll tax to get a total rate of 20%. However, if we deduct that 20% rate from the $10,000 income, then we would expect a take-home pay of only $8,000. Since we already know that the take-home pay is actually $9,000, we know that Mathews’s math doesn’t add up.

Bar graph depicting effective income and real tax rates
Visual depiction of effective income and real tax rates

To understand the mistake, one must consider how the taxes are applied. While income tax is taken out of the wages paid to an employee, the payroll taxes that employers pay are paid in addition to the total wages. In the above example, the employer would be paying a total effective income of $11,000 ($10,000 on-paper income paid to the employee and an additional $1,000 in payroll taxes paid). When including the effective income, we find that the true tax rates are lower that what Matthews’s method suggests. Each of the $1,000 taxes represents 9.09% of the $11,000 total, and the sum of these (18.18%) is the real tax rate. To check our math, we can deduct this 18.18% true rate from the $11,000 total, and we get $9,000, the correct amount for take-home pay.

The conversion from Matthews’s listed rates to the real tax rates is not complex, all rates must simply be divided by the sum of 1 plus the employer-paid rates. In the table below, I have applied this correction to all of the marginal income tax rates presented in the Vox article and also added in the FUTA tax that was missing. Bear in mind, however, that these rates still suffer from all of the other issues discussed in this article, and I do not consider them an accurate representation of current or proposed tax rates.

Taxable Income Above Tax Plan Real Marginal Rate Matthews’s Rate Size of Error
$0 Current 27.5% 25.3% -2.2%
Bernie 33.3% 34.1% 0.8%
$18,550 Current 28.1% 30.3% 2.2%
Bernie 34.2% 39.1% 4.9%
$75,300 Current 37.4% 40.3% 2.9%
Bernie 43.0% 49.1% 6.1%
$118,500 Current 27.5% 27.9% 0.4%
Bernie 33.7% 36.7% 3.0%
$151,900 Current 30.5% 30.9% 0.4%
Bernie 36.5% 39.7% 3.2%
$231,450 Current 36.3% 35.9% -0.4%
Bernie 42.0% 44.7% 2.7%
Taxable Income Above Tax Plan Real Marginal Rate Matthews’s Rate Size of Error
$250,000 Current 36.3% 36.8% 0.5%
Bernie 54.1% 62.0% 7.9%
$413,350 Current 38.2% 38.8% 0.6%
Bernie 54.1% 62.0% 7.9%
$466,950 Current 42.8% 43.4% 0.6%
Bernie 54.1% 62.0% 7.9%
$500,000 Current 42.8% 43.4% 0.6%
Bernie 59.4% 68.0% 8.6%
$2,000,000 Current 42.8% 43.4% 0.6%
Bernie 63.8% 73.0% 9.2%
$10,000,000 Current 42.8% 43.4% 0.6%
Bernie 67.3% 77.0% 9.7%
Corrections for mathematical errors in the marginal tax rates published by Matthews in Vox, including the amount of the overestimation (if positive) or underestimation (if negative) for Matthews’s figures.

The corrections show that Matthew’s calculations have overestimated the real marginal rates in Bernie Sanders’s plans for every single tax bracket. That overestimation was by 5 or more percentage points for two-thirds of brackets, and the largest error was with the highest tax bracket wherein the true rate was exaggerated by nearly 10 points.

The Real Top Marginal Rate

Even when granting the decision to pool employer and employee costs, his reporting of a top marginal rate of 77% has overestimated the real top marginal rates in Bernie Sanders’s tax plans by 9.7%

The table above corrected Matthews’s math, but those figures still suffer from the other issues discussed in this article:

  • Using misleading marginal rates instead of practical effective rates
  • Ignoring healthcare savings
  • Assuming employers can and will pass on 100% of savings or costs to employees
  • Skipping the backlog of social security tax for incomes over $250,000
  • Ignoring tax credits

While the above issues have major impact on tax bills and take home pay for Americans with incomes in the bottom 99%, they are less consequential for the ultimate discussion of the top marginal rates. To confirm the true top marginal rate with all factors included, I have run my effective tax engine with extraordinarily large income levels up to $10 Billion.

Line plot of effective rates with taxes and healthcare for current taxes and Bernie Sanders's proposed plan. Effective rates approach the top marginal rate for extremely large incomes
Effective rates with taxes and healthcare for current taxes and Bernie Sanders’s proposed plan. Effective rates approach the top marginal rate for extremely large incomes.

Before discussing the top rates, there are two other features of these tax systems worth noting in this chart. First is the absurd regressivity of the current system. When including both the employee and employer healthcare contributions for the average family, taxes and healthcare consume more than 50% of total compensation for employees with middle class incomes, and this amount far exceeds the share of income contributed by the wealthiest. Additionally, it is worth noting the social security backlog tax bump under Bernie’s proposed plans. When income crosses the $250,000 threshold and social security taxes kick back in, the combined employee and employer tax bill leaps by over $16,000 and causes a sharp spike the in the effective rate. Both of these are discussed in more detail in my previous post on Bernie Sanders’s Tax Plans.

In regards to the top marginal rates, the above plot reveals these as the points where the effective rates level off for the highest incomes. This occurs as the portion of income in the top bracket grows to dwarf all other income, and the effective rate becomes essentially identical to the top marginal rate. Therefore, the top marginal rate for the current system is shown to be 42.8%, and the top marginal rate under Bernie’s proposed plans is 67.3%. These match exactly my results in the previous section for the top marginal rates, confirming the accuracy of the findings despite being calculated through an entirely different process.

The issues I have described in this post detail how Dylan Matthews’s analysis has resulted in inaccurate figures being published in his Vox article. Even when granting the decision to pool employer and employee costs, his reporting of a top marginal rate of 77% has overestimated the real top marginal rates in Bernie Sanders’s tax plans by 9.7%.

Take Action

What do you think? Should we work together fix this system where middle and lower class families are contributing a larger share of their earnings than the wealthy? If so, join Bernie Sanders’s political revolution:

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Why Vox’s Numbers for Bernie Sanders’s Tax Plans Are So Wrong

51 thoughts on “Why Vox’s Numbers for Bernie Sanders’s Tax Plans Are So Wrong

  1. Since 1 in 5 businesses expertise a significant disruption every year,
    these oranisations that don’t put together a buysiness continuuity plan face the possibility they
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  2. If anything, the calculations are too low. The Tax Policy Center is a left-wing organization founded by the Brookings Institute, a left-wing think tank. It calculated the Cruz and Trump tax plans to be way too deep of cuts.

    1. Complete BS. If you claim is that TPC/Brookings are liberal then why do they go against Bernie and make the right wingers look better…sorry bad theory, and…

      Brookings states that its staff “represent diverse points of view” and describes itself as non-partisan,[1][5] while the media sometimes describes Brookings as “liberal”.[6] An academic analysis of Congressional records from 1993 to 2002 found that Brookings was referenced by conservative politicians almost as frequently as liberal politicians, earning a score of 53 on a 1–100 scale with 100 representing the most liberal score.[7] The same study found Brookings to be the most frequently cited think tank by the U.S. media and politicians.[7]

      1. They would “go against” bernie because his plan increases taxes across the board, as their analysis suggests. If, as you suggest, Brookings is non-partisan, you should take it as a non-biased view.

  3. Hi I’ve worked in the realms of data analysis, and with a few econometric studies. I have one comments which speaks to how accessible this post is intended to be. I do not see any legends on the graphics so I do not know what I am looking at. Various shades of colors on bars and a big black blob. Yes, I should get it from reading the post or studying what is behind the links. Yes, I often go deeper with a sanity check on methodology. But, honestly, if I can’t get more of the jist from the graphic I’m not motivated to study the post. I scanned the text and that did not help. I think you have real information that people engaged in conversations with their neighbors, and who want to be a bit more nuanced than the ‘meme’, can use. If a bit easier to ‘get’ the point with the graphs..

    1. Very hard to tell what’s going on in this analysis. From first glance Medicare component of FICA has been left out. Analysis bakes in projected health cost savings, while ignoring that a majority of his top group is medicaid eligible in many states and the next group has highly subsidized premiums through ACA. You can tell something is wrong when you notice that someone making $33,— just saved $21,000: bad data.

    2. The legend is at the 75th percentile in the middle of the graph. It says “Current Rates” and under that “Bernie’s Plans”. I missed it too upon first reading it. There are brackets that point to each shading color to state what they represent. The gray shades represent the various costs for “Current Rates” and the blue shades are the costs under Bernie’s plan.

      You’re right though… it’s a bit hard to read. He could have done a sample of the shading above or below the chart to make it more obvious.

      Basically, this graph accounts for healthcare costs shifting from the business / individual in the current system, to the healthcare costs being covered by the government with a person paying more in taxes under Bernie’s plans. This is something Vox doesn’t really do a good job of accounting for in their graph. A person making $33,500 in the Vox graph shows that under Bernie’s plan, they will pay $3,850 more under Bernie’s plan, which doesn’t account for any savings the person will see.

      In the above graph that does account for *everything*, you can see that those same people would save a lot of money. Basically every income level up to and slightly over the 75th percentile will end up with more money in their pockets at the end of the year under Bernie’s plan. Those who make slightly less than the 96th percentile ($250k a year) will have less in their pockets at the end of the year. As income goes up beyond that, the share of the cost also rises and under Bernie’s plan, those very high income earners will pay more.

      Hope this helps.

      1. The problem with this analysis is that it is failing to account for known variables of the current Medicare system. Currently it already implements deep cost restrictions on healthcare providers. It also currently relies on $1100/year monthly premiums, $1200 out of pocket for hospital care, significant copays on prescription drugs, a 2.9% payroll tax, and additional funding on the state level. It amounts to approximately $600 billion of the $3 trillion dollar healthcare industry.

        The idea that Bernie is going to shift the monthly premiums to an income tax and add a relatively modest 3.25% payroll tax along with adding in paid time off. There simply isn’t enough rich people making an annual income in the 96th percentile to see it cover the shortfall produced by covering a healthcare product that features no copays or out of pocket costs beyond the employer funded payroll tax and the Medicare for All tax while also covering an increase in wages for those making less that $15/hour.

  4. vox seems to have a newer candidate tax plan calculator, written up by a certain alvin chang. the numbers look roughly on par with matthews’ previous one that got taken down hard here, claiming that even mid-5-figure incomes will pay thousands more.

    does chang’s calculator build upon matthews’? or has it been fact-checked on its own?

  5. Just a quick comment. You mention:

    “Tax plan proposals, like Bernie Sanders’s Medicare-for-All plan, list tax brackets and marginal rates because that’s how tax laws are constructed, but it’s primarily only legislators and accountants that care about marginal rates. If you look at two dollar bills in your wallet, you don’t care whether one was taxed at 10% and the other was taxed at 15%; you care that there is $2 in your wallet”

    It being no one really cares about marginal rates why not implement a 99% marginal rate? Let’s imagine you work as a contractor making 100$/hour, once you hit the 99% marginal rate would you rather work another hour or do something else like write this blog? We most certainly do calculations such as these when deciding what an incremental “hour is worth” and how we prefer to spend it.

    Marginal rates also most certainly come into play when talking about investments. The biggest issue with his marginal rates is really not the raising of the income taxes but the drastic raising of capital gains taxes. The behaviour changes due to this if implemented will be immense (or more likely the taxes will be written with loop holes so that they never get paid). Imagine looking at some investment opportunity with +-70% of incremental gain going to the government (note these gains are not inflation adjusted which is why the rates tend to be lower) what would the risk profile of the investment need to look like?

  6. How about going back to the old way, where I keep more of my money and pay about 1/3 what I am paying now for insurance?

  7. So, is this supposed to be a justification of raising taxes…because Vox was inaccurate? By my very quick calculations, tax rates would increase on everyone between roughly 20%-50%. (Note, I said the rates would increase by this much…not BE this much). So, since Vox was off by 10 points, I guess it’s okay for us to PAY MORE. Just about as brilliant, as someone else pointed out, is the example of whether the 2 dollars in my pocket was taxed at one percentage vs. another. YES, I DO CARE! If I hadn’t been taxed so much, I’d have FIVE DOLLARS in my pocket!

    And what is this bologna about income inequality? Did none of these people play the game “Life” when they were kids? For those of you who are unfamiliar, you could pick your path in life by spending more time in the early stages of the game on careers like being a doctor, and your income would reflect that later in the game…very much like real life. I wish these losers would understand that, in general, your life decisions will have an impact on your earning ability. If you chose to smoke pot through high school and college (if you made it that far) and are now a garbage collector (oh, excuse me, a sanitation expert)…boom! Guess what? You AREN’T going to make the same money as your nerdy classmate that stayed in school until the age of 30 and now makes hundreds of thousands of dollars a year as a brain surgeon or NASA engineer. What’s unfair or unequal about that? Duh. Nothing. No, I don’t make that kind of money, so I am not trying to protect myself. I am middle class, but I don’t have a single problem with a friend of mine who is a multi, multi, multi millionaire. Do I wish I had that much money? Of course! But you know what? He EARNED it, it’s HIS, and it is not my business nor anyone else’s what he wants to do with it. He pays more than his fair share already. You should see the tax bill he foots…easily more than the yearly earnings of most anyone reading this I bet. The problem with the socialists is they always want MORE.

    1. You just don’t understand the meaning of “income inequality”. It doesn’t mean everyone needs to make the same amount of money. Its the fact that over the past 35 years the share of income gains across all levels has gone 100% to the top earners. Even though the average worker is 2.3X more productive than he was 35 years ago. That means for every $1 of value produced in 1980 he produces $2.3 of value today. These are in adjusted $ not due to inflation. Instead of income rising the same amount, wages have stayed the same while the top 1% are making 7X more than in 1980. You see the problem now? 2.3X more OUTPUT for the SAME pay. The top 1% gets 7X more pay for 2.3X more output. Put it another way. If you were making $50K 2015 dollars in 1980, you should make $130K today but you only make the same $50K. OTOH if you made $1Million 2015 dollars in 1980 you would make $7Million today, instead of $2.3million that you should make if income inequality were not a reality. From 1948 until 1980 productivity and wages were in lock step, no inequality.

      You also missed the point on marginal vs effective. He meant, you dont care if they take $0.25 out of your first dollar and $0.50 out of the second dollar. All you care about is that they took $0.75 total. So your effective tax rate is 37.5% not 50% and thats what you care about. How much are you going to keep?

    2. Its not that people like garbage collectors (who perform a more valuable function in society than most hedge fund managers) need to make as much as highly skilled engineers- its that they need to be paid a living wage. Its not practical to have a society of ONLY highly skilled high achievers and then farm all the other vital jobs out to foreign child labor, not to mention it being perversely immoral. In the “happy 50s” which built the American middle class, a meatpacker or trash collector could buy a home and send their children to college on a single income. Wether you have a problem with your multimillionaire friend has little to do with the fact that while the productivity of the American worker has increased, they’ve seen their wages and benefits decline while heirs and financial technocrats hollow out the economy benefitting from Wall St. Casinos on a level no ordinary person, even a hardworking self made millionaire, could dream of.

    3. you dont seem to realize that the basic structures of civil society like garbage pickup are as important as brain surgeons.. we need fair deals and accurate evaluation of whats important in society. you appear happy with $500,000yr income for doctors and $30,000yr income for garbagemen cuz youre blind to their equal importance to human civilization. it is you who want more than your fair share of money and recognition…while blind to the value of the civilizational structure upon which you rest.

      1. Sorry… are you indicating that an unskilled laborer (garbage man) with a high school education should be payed the same as someone who applied themselves and worked hard to qualify for a high paying job? That makes no sense… where is the incentive to succeed?

        In no society is garbage pickup as important as a surgeon. What happens if garbage pick up stops on my block? I drive my trash to the dump my next day off. What happens if medical services stop? someone dies.

        I worked hard to obtain the position and pay I have. Why in the world should I support the health care of John Doe down the street with 5 kids? The answer is I should not… in no way should I have to support his bad decisions anymore than I already do by funding welfare.

  8. Just think how many people will have zero income under bernie, my tax bracket jumps to 67% than that would many 1000’s of people are out of a job. How many poor people have ever given you a job? how many poor people have ever invested in a 100 million dollar company or started one. We all have the same opportunities under a capitalist market, how you use that opportunity is up to you. Socialist like bernie are playing on people’s greed and jealously of successful people. FREE, FREE, FREE, he has no new socialist plan, he is just marketing the same old unsuccessful plan with new lights and sound. Like giving a losing football team new flashy uniforms, same team just looks better losing. He uses Denmark as an example, one of the worse countries in that world, income is equal to 8.00 a hour American. Most European countries have a worse economy than 80% of the individual states in the US. There is a reason Bernie is the poorest member of congress, he doesn’t know how to invest his money, doesn’t know how to build capital. When you vote for Bernie, your voting for an out of touch OLD WHITE guy that still lives in the sixties, most people his age has grown up and matured into successful people at his age. He took the foolish dreams of the hippies to heart and failed at life, he sounds just like Charles Manson, he just isn’t in jail.

      1. I have to agree with him. I love Bernie, but these increases are TOOOOO high. I simply can’t vote for him now. I just can’t afford him as my president. That’s why I recently switched to Clinton.

        1. These effective rates are the same as they were for most people during the Reagan administration. The only exception being those making over $500K its slightly higher. The economy grew then. His effective tax rate chart looks ominous due to the scale, it starts at 23% and ends at 77%. It wouldn’t look so bad if it were 0 to 100%.

  9. So what happens when we keep taxing high earners. Like large corporations, and they decided to move to Mexico and take their jobs with them. Less large corporations to foot the bill for Bernies plans. With those business go jobs along with them. Hey we will have higher unemployment rates and less money coming in. Sounds ingenious to me.

    1. They move to mexico anyways, so your mad at the person for wanting to get paid for their work but blame them and not the corporation for being greedy?

  10. All the graphs and analysis point to what is exactly wrong the tax code and system we currently have and what many candidates, like Bernie are touting. They are all too convoluted and complex for anyone to understand and will only lead to more frustration and division between low, middle, and upper “classes”. This will also drive upper earners and businesses to leave to find greener pastures to keep more of what they earned, its human nature. If you “tax the rich, feed the poor till there are no rich no more”who will be paying the taxes when everyone leaves the sinking ship? We need to teach taking pride in earning and providing for yourself and quit thinking every thing is a right.

    1. Fuck the rich, if they want to leave the US cause of greed then bye bye! Corporations do this when they’re not being taxed, look at the Panama papers and you will see! Feed the poor!

  11. In other words, Vox forgot to mention that Bernie just wants to screw doctors over twice.

    This doesn’t take into account the fact that the more nationalized health care is… the more people think they have a “right” to the knowledge that doctors have learned and put into practice, the less our health care problems have to do with actual health care and the more they become social issues. No matter how you cut it, if Sanders gets his way, doctors get paid less to do more, and taxed more than they do now. My husband is just finishing surgical residency, and we are screwed as long as Sanders gets his way.

    People think that doctors want to go through with this crap for nothing? No one will do it. No one will put themselves or their families through this if it just means more crap for the rest of their lives. There needs to be a reason to do it. We’ve put off EVERYthing, not to be uber-rich in the end, but we definitely expect all of this to have paid off. You show me ONE person who wants to work 90 hours a week under complete jerks for decades, and then work at least 80 hours a week for the rest of his career out of the goodness of his heart, and I’ll show you an idiot.

    We are already warning everyone we know not to go into medicine. If he becomes president we won’t even have to say anything, it will just be obviously stupid to go into it. Good luck getting free health care when no one wants to be a doctor.

    1. Hello. I’m in Australia, where we have what you call single-payer, “nationalised” healthcare. That is, every citizen has a Medicare card entitling them to free health care and subsidised medicine, which we can afford because our national government negotiates the prices directly with the drug companies and gets a good deal.

      Our total health care costs per capita are far less than the US, and our life expectancy is noticeably higher. People are free to buy private health insurance on top of the public insurance we pay for with our taxes, if they want to have elective surgery faster. Emergency surgery and treatment is of course dealt with immediately for everyone at no cost, and non-emergency treatment is dealt with reasonably quickly as well – because to delay would just end up costing us all more in the long run, and the people running this thing are not idiots.

      To your point about conditions for doctors: my best friend and my father in law are/were both doctors; a radiologist and an ex GP. They have good and properous lives. They work hard and are paid well. They love the fact that they never have to consider the patient’s ability to pay – only their actual medical needs.

      1. Thank you for the sane perspective. I’m an American who lived in Australia and know that what you say is true and achievable.

      2. That’s great for Australia. It has a population of 23 million people, about the population of Texas. The US has about 15x that number of people. We have a different medical system, a different medical education system, and a pharmaceutical industry that subsidizes pharma costs for the rest of the world for many different drugs.

        Healthcare is so much more than pharmaceutical costs. There’s no doubt that the US system is crazy expensive, but single payor will only exaggerate that fact. Doctors will have less time. They will be taxed more and make less money. There’s no debating that, really – that’s the effect of increasing tax rates on the well-paid, and that’s the affect of attempting to increase access. It will suck. You can’t increase “access” to a limited supply of providers. You can’t reduce cost by introducing more overhead. Either costs go up and access remains the same, or costs go down and access gets worse, or in the most likely scenario, both happen and American healthcare spirals.

        1. Number of people in the country has no bearing, rather it’s the number of personnel/facilities per capita. You act as though this ratio can’t change. You can indeed increase “access” to a limited supply of providers – by providing more providers. Neither Demand nor Supply is not stagnant.

    2. your husband should get out of medicine, if he is anything like you he is not suited to a profession which involves caring for others.

      1. Wanting to get paid for your work is not selfish. Maybe you should see what med school and a residency are like before casting judgment.

  12. Nice piece but having some trouble reconciling the % taxes with raw $ savings. Taking the difference in effective tax rate and multiplying by income doesn’t seem to get me the same savings figures?

  13. Why should the wealthy pay for more of the tax burden. They are getting ripped off as it is. We need to cut taxes and cut spending. No more robbing the rich to pay off low information voters. There is another word that comes to mind…theft.

  14. With regards to your comment about pooling employer and employee payroll taxes together you said:

    “but I am hesitant to pool them because I do not think that presents an accurate picture of what an individual could expect to experience under Sanders’s plans.

    Who exactly do you think “hires” these “individuals.” If you don’t account for the total cost of an employer to employ people in your analysis than your assertions are not based in any realm of reality. It ABSOLUTELY dictates to a certainty, how much an employee is compensated when you factor in the other “unseen” costs of hiring people to the employer. In many cases this can dictate the dollars and cents value to a business whether to expand or to cut jobs. This calculation should be core to any realistic assessment of tax savings, or liabilities.

    1. Your employer pays you what it will take to get you to show up. He factors in the other costs as your total cost but if those taxes disappeared, you would get the exact same pay. Case in point… We still have the option to take a PPO or HDHP but they do NOT give us the difference between the two. They put a little extra into the HSA to make it more appealing. The HDHP plus contributing your premium savings over the PPO to the HSA make it more appealing but the employer still saves more.

  15. in the end, you will still be robbed at gunpoint to pay for something that you don’t want.
    Now if it is this guy or that guy or that lady, being robbed any which way you look at it

  16. Thoughtful analysis, but incorrect on FUTA. The 5.4% credit is available regardless of whether the payer winds up paying a total of 6%. The full credit is available so long as SUTA is paid on all FUTA wages, SUTA is paid in full and on time, and the employer is paying SUTA in a non credit-reduction state. Accordingly, the unemployment tax rate can be much lower than 6%.

  17. Your bread analogy is enlightening.

    Basically as of now I have the freedom to buy bread. I can go out and buy any kind I want or as much as I want or even go with no bread at all.

    But if there was a government bread program, I would lose some freedom and under your math it should be counted as a “savings” even though I have less money and less freedom.

    It’s not a savings. All taxes are the supposed costs of the services given. Vox is merely reflecting what the bill will be, it wouldn’t make sense to subtract the cost of what we get.

  18. Even their own chosen numbers did NOT back up the bald statement that quote “Everyone pays a lot more.” unquote. Period. With that lie in place, and I cannot call it anything else, it made the entire article dubious. they doubled down claiming their false claims had sparked discussion, which is generally true of outrageous false claims. That’s where the term trolling comes from. You’re trolling for hits/bites, and lying is a quick way to do that.

  19. Where did this author invoke the hoary 1970s era faked up market fundamentalist propaganda “Incredible Bread Machine” analogy? I can’t find it on this page. I think libertarians are not just delusional any more but actively hallucinating.

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