StanCollender'sCapitalGainsandGames Washington, Wall Street and Everything in Between



About My Appearance On C-SPAN

29 Dec 2007
Posted by Stan Collender

I like and appreciate C-SPAN and have great admiration for it's founder, Brian Lamb.

But my appearance on Christmas morning was the first time I had been C-SPAN for about a decade. There are two reasons.

First, they haven't called.

Second, I haven't reached out to them because the calls you receive while on the air are often from very angry people for who facts and rational arguments are of little interest.

That anger, both real and trumped up by others, is a very important part of American politics these days. I just didn't see any reason to be subjected to it.

So I wasn't really surprised when some of the questions on Christmas morning fell into this category. This especially included the 84 year-old woman who insisted that her age gave her the right to make extremely rude and abusive comments about one of the presidential candidates using language that was clearly R-rated. And every mention of the word "immigration" was the on-air equivalent of waving a red flag in front of an already rampaging bull.

I also received two polite and well-written e-mails from one viewer who was incensed because I didn't wear a tie on the program.

 

C-Span appearance

But you have answered or seen fit to post my comment about what I believe to be your error concerning whether the group of married people paid more income tax in 1999 (or 2000) than they would have if they had been allowed to file as single. I do not believe either my question on C-Span or my unpublished comment ignored facts or rational arguments. I thought you looked great.

Sorry. I don't think your

Sorry. I don't think your first comment made it to the inbox. Please send it again.

C-Span

I am the mathematician who wrote you an eMail on C-Span this morning. Here are some figures on the so-called “marriage tax penalty” in 1999. “A study last year by the Treasury Department found that of 51.4 million tax returns in 1999 from couples filing jointly, 24.8 million, or 48 percent, had a marriage penalty, averaging $1,141. Couples paying the penalty tend to be those in which both partners work; the penalty is most pronounced when husband and wife make about the same amount of money. Another 21 million couples, or 41 percent, had a marriage bonus -- that is, they paid less as a couple than they would have if they had remained single. The bonus averaged $1,274. Couples receiving a bonus tend to be those in which only one spouse works.” (July 23, 2000, Sunday, NY Times, The Fight Over Tax Changes: The Marriage Penalty, and More, By RICHARD W. STEVENSON ) Now you can multiply these numbers out and see there was a $25 difference per return between the average married couple filing jointly or as single. This is way less than 1%. Given the imprecision in the data and the year to year variation, this is trivial. Can we agree there was no marriage tax penalty as presented to the public and Congress? I can go into why the bill that was passed based on this fallacy is bad, and I will if you want, but let me just remark that if you understand the situation, it is obvious that a solution is simply to eliminate the different categories and have everyone file as single. This would also be a significant simplification of the tax code. Now to my larger point, you say the facts are out there, but you are an expert and you got it wrong (sorry). What chance does a citizen have to get the correct result? There were one or two articles that were correct, but there were thousands that got it wrong. I can go into why they got it wrong if you want, but this posting is getting too long, and I have another point to make. My Representative, Rush Holt, is a liberal Democrat with a Ph.D. in physics and a staff to do research for him. He has sent me many messages in which he simply gets this issue incorrect. I have sent him the figures. I have spoken several times to his staff. He never refutes my figures or arguments. He just repeats the same fallacious statements over and over again. What is a citizen supposed to do? There are many other similar situations. Len Charlap


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