Home > Economics, Social Issues, Taxes, The Class War > Shut Down the F**k Barrel

Shut Down the F**k Barrel

March 23rd, 2015

John Oliver:

Watching this, something occurred to me: when explaining how those terribly oppressed rich people should have their taxes cut, conservatives love to harp on the 47%, about how poor people get away with “not paying taxes.” What they mean, of course, is that poor people don’t pay income taxes. Well, federal income taxes. Well, in that one year where so many people lost their jobs. Usually it’s been more like 40%. Although most of that 40% do pay federal payroll taxes—typically only 14% of households don’t pay payroll taxes. And in fact, the poorest 20% of households pay more than 12% of their incomes in state and local taxes, and about 16% of their total income in taxes altogether. While Mitt Romney, who is worth more than $200 million and apparently works little enough to enjoy equestrian dressage, only paid 14% on his $13.69 million income, and that’s the only year he let us see, meaning he usually pays less than that.

But I digress. Suffice it to say, people who claim poor people “don’t pay taxes” have their heads up their asses. Let’s leave it at that.

But the video above, along with Oliver’s piece on civil forfeiture, made me realize that there are even more hidden “taxes,” and they’re not just lottery tickets. The heinous system of cities and their police forces shaking down citizens for as much cash as possible is perhaps one of the more significant overlooked taxes paid almost exclusively by poor people.

These videos also made me realize something else. Remember how, a few decades ago, we shook our heads at the kinds of countries—and we usually envisioned Latin American countries—where policemen typically shook down citizens for bribes and protection money?

Yeah, that’s right: we’re that kind of country now.

Congratulations, everyone who decided it was a good idea to cut taxes. This is so much better.

Categories: Economics, Social Issues, Taxes, The Class War Tags: by
  1. Troy
    March 24th, 2015 at 01:37 | #1

    Missing from our discussion entirely is an analysis of how the rich have bought up the monopoly board that is our economy.

    For the poor to merely exist on the surface of this planet they must pay a tax to the landlords who now own everything.

    It didn’t use to be this way, the country had good, productive land free for the taking for much of the 17th through 19th centuries — so much so that the landowners who controlled the government tried to limit people just going off and taking some unclaimed land (Native Americans weren’t thrilled by this either of course).

    And on top o that, now when the poor turn on their thermostats, put gasoline in their car, buy the prescriptions at the drug store, etc etc they are getting rents beat out of them by the rich who own all these rent-seeking enterprises.

    It’s amazing how we just blithely let people profit from selling our own natural resources back to us! Discovering this Georgist critique last decade blew me away, I’d been so brainwashed by our system that I couldn’t even see it for years and years.

    But once you do see this issue, it’s pretty obvious why and how our economy got so asymmetric.

    Japan has a similar problem, landowners impoverishing their tenants, though the outright depopulation of the country should soon put a stop to that.

    Wages may be stagnating, but corporate profits sure aren’t!


    blue is nominal wages, 1970 = 100

    red is corporate profits, 1970 = 100

  2. Tim
    March 25th, 2015 at 00:24 | #2

    North St. Louis county is well known for this. In fact, I170, which is the link between Central County and the Airport, had 55mph sections through those tiny hamlets, and even for people who drove it every day the point where it changes was easy to miss, but there was always a police man farther on up the road.

    In fact St. Louis county has perhaps one of the highest number of municipalities of any county in the nation. There are municipalities that are no larger than a small, and I mean very small subdivision. And if that subdivision backs up to a major thoroughfare you can bet there would be a speed trap where the road went from 45 or 50mph down to 30mph. And not all those mini-municipalities are in North St. Louis county they are all over the place. I even had repeat hits.

    Everyone knows that these municipalities do this to raise revenue. Eventually you plan your trip around instead of going thru because its too easy to make a mistake. I usually hired a lawyer who charged me an additional $200 to plea bargain me down to avoid moving violations because that hits your insurance and if you get three of them you lose your traffic ticket.

    Obviously if you are living in an areas with so many predatory mini-municipalities, where its just to easy to make a mistake, you have to pay for the plea bargain if you can afford it, becauee you never know, and you don’t want to lose your ability to get to work.

    Case in point: I used to fly out to Columbus every week and fly home every weekend – for a year and a half. To save the company money, I drove my car to Columbus to use during the week, and I would rent a car for two days on a weekend rate when I got home at the St. Louis airport. Now when you are in a strange car you don’t always judge your speed well. So, one time, I got a ticket coming out of the airport in North County, going through a speed trap, and another one in South county all on my way home for the one weekend. I wasn’t intentionally driving fast, I know you just have to drive slow all the time, but it was a much bigger car than I was used to so I was going a bit faster than I thought. Anyway, that’s $400 in lawyer’s fees along plus $200 surcharge the municipality charges for the plea, plus the original fine. Eventually I learned to drive like an old lady. I think I got a total of 4 speeding tickets over the year and a half that I did that.

    Later on the highway speed limit got bumped up, in increments, first to 60, then 65, then 70 like everywhere else, because, I am sure, plenty of big wigs from Central St. Louis County were complaining. I’m sure the cops new better than to pull over a Lexus from Clayton or Ladue, but they were alo pulling over the kids from the same places, and they all have powerful parents that I’m sure weighed in. You can imagine the sweat you might endure if your running late for a flight – you want to drive fast but you don’t want to get pulled over. And that piece of highway almost never had traffic, but it did have plenty of dips and curves, the perfect set up for a speed traps.

  3. Tim
    March 25th, 2015 at 00:26 | #3

    I meant to say after you get three tickets, you lose your drivers license.

  4. Troy
    March 25th, 2015 at 02:03 | #4

    The reason government gets predatory is two-fold; one, local government like any human organization likes to spend money so they need income.

    but tax revenue comes at the risk of electoral push-back. Taxing people who can’t or won’t vote is a beautiful thing to a politician.

    And taxing people who would never vote for you anyway is even better, a win-win.

  5. kensensei
    March 25th, 2015 at 15:02 | #5

    This outsourcing the tickets to private collection agencies is a growing trend. The F#ckbarrel is in full swing mostly because the local govt agencies don’t want to be in the collection business.

    The f#ckbarrel is a direct result of privatization of the public domain.

    You are no doubt aware that many state prisons are now privatized and highly profitable. The more inmates,the more the profits the McPrisons can rake in. This is a dangerous trend because, when states ran the prisons, their goal was rehabilitation. But now there is more incentive to keep inmates incarcerated longer in spite of over-crowding. Their new goal is retention.


  6. Troy
    March 26th, 2015 at 03:16 | #6

    “This is a dangerous trend because, when states ran the prisons, their goal was rehabilitation.”

    On one theoretical facade, yes.

    But for the state employees actually running the prisons, I don’t think so.

    Repeat business is good business, public or private.

  7. Tim
    March 27th, 2015 at 01:29 | #7


    “Taxing people who can’t vote or won’t vote is a beautiful thing.”

    Is that a case for mandatory voting?

    This is collateral to the issue here. But I’ve wondered a long time if mandatory voting is the right thing.

    Australia has it. Australia also has a $15/hr minimum wage. It and South Korea are the only two 1st world nations that posted positive growth because they implemented keynesian stimulus in 2009. It is quite apparent that Australia is getting better public policy and has broader distribution of wealth.

    So I was coming around to this. It would render Republican attempts at minimizing voter roles mute. Just mentioning it would make there heads explode – considering all the work they put into reducing voter turnout.

    Recently Obama proposed this. His point is that it would minimize the affect of money flowing into politics.

    The argument against it is people who don’t vote are uninformed voters. I have friends who argue this, and not only this, they think you should have to take a simple only multiple choice civics test and if you don’t pass it, you shouldn’t be allowed to vote (that would sift out a lot of Fox viewers).

    But now your comment has me thinking, if everyone is a voter, will that make government more honest?

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