Samuel Carpenter

During a presidential debate in 1984, Ronald Reagan said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’ ”

Well, we’ve entered an era of big government and I’m reluctantly curious to see how it goes.

The Feb. 3 Post-Gazette.com headline blared “Wolf asks for tax increase on PA’s wealthy.”

As I observe the times we are living in, I think that human nature ingrains an envy of successful and wealthy people in our society; think of these people as “them.”

So, who is wealthy in Pennsylvania? “Them.” Gov. Tom Wolf has determined that income above $65,000 single, and $80,000 married is a wealthy Pennsylvanian, and he proposes to raise their tax rate from 3.07% to 4.49%, a tax increase of 46.3%. “Us” folks have never had a 46% pay raise in our lives, but I guess it is OK if you tax “them.”

This Pennsylvania definition of wealth should not be confused with the third COVID relief bill. To get the most recent stimulus, “us” folks needed less than $80,000 if single, $160,000 if married. Over these amounts, no stimulus check because you don’t need it. You are “them.”

Also, do not confuse PA’s more than $65,000 single/more than $80,000 married proposed definition of a wealthy taxpayer with the president’s often repeated phrase that he will not raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000. “Them,” so President Joe Biden says, a wealthy American is somewhere between $80,000 per year (COVID) and $400,000.

Us and Them. Pink Floyd explained this to me in 1973, but I digress.

One more, Sen. Elizabeth Warren has often said that rich people need to pay more and she says that at $50 million, surely they could pay just 2 cents out of every dollar. She goes on, and if you are a billionaire you would need to pay 3 cents of every dollar. “Them.”

The definitions of wealthy people trouble me. Notice that Sen. Warren is taxing the wealthy ($50 million and up) only 2 or 3%. Wolf wants to increase the tax on the wealthy (“them”), 46% on “them” people over $65,000 single/$80,000 married.

Authors’ note: I know this piece does not make sense and does not have a point. That is the point. Read it twice.

Back to the proposed tax increase on Pennsylvania. The governor’s plan would boost funding for public schools by $1.35 billion ...

Now stop right there. I am confused. He is going to fund schools? Will that end the “school taxes” we pay? No.

Did you know that the Pennsylvania Personal Income Tax did not even exist during the 1950s, and even during the 1960s?

That means that if you attended public schools in the ’50s, ’60s and even into 1970, Pennsylvania had no personal income tax (just as Florida is now).

Schools were funded by the “school tax” portion of real estate taxes. And, we did have public schools.

In 1971, Gov. Milton Shapp instituted a PA Personal Income tax of 2.3%. Since then, the rate has bounced around from a low of 2% to the current high water mark of 3.07%. By the way the Pennsylvania Lottery was also launched under Shapp on March 7, 1972.

Do you think we need to raise the tax on wealthy Pennsylvanians 46%? Is it OK if we just tax “them,” the affluent? Not “us.”

As you contemplate the definitions of affluence, please enjoy a trip down memory lane showing Pennsylvania governors and the personal income tax rate during their terms. I have decided to start the list in 1959 with David Lawrence This former governor now has a large convention center in Pittsburgh that bears his name.

Sam Carpenter graduated from Rollins College with Bachelor of Arts emphasis in Sociology.

Sam Carpenter graduated from Rollins College with Bachelor of Arts emphasis in Sociology.

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