April 2007
By Alan W. Dowd

A Tax on the Rich
Who foots Uncle Sam’s tax bill? A report issued by the Joint Economic Committee during the last Congress found that the “top half of taxpayers ranked by income continue to pay more than 96 percent of federal individual income taxes, while the bottom half accounts for just less than 3.5 percent.” In fact, the top one percent paid a whopping 34.27 percent of the federal personal income taxes in 2003, and the top ten percent paid 65.84 percent.

The Time It Takes
It’s tax time again, and the operative word here is “time.” According to the Tax Foundation, tax filers may spend as much as six billion hours complying with the federal income tax code. In addition, the Tax Foundation estimates the cost of complying with the tax code—time and money spent on tax planning, preparation, filing and paperwork—at $295.8 billion in 2007, up from $274.4 billion in 2006.

“Compliance cost is found to be highly regressive,” according to the Tax Foundation, with low-income taxpayers (people with adjusted gross incomes of less than $20,000) incurring a compliance cost of 5.9 percent of income and high-income taxpayers (people with adjusted gross incomes of more than $200,000) incurring a compliance cost of just .5 percent of income.

The Tax Foundation also calculates and tracks what it calls “Tax Freedom Day,” which is the number of days Americans work simply to pay taxes. Over the last century, Tax Freedom Day has usually come later rather than sooner:

1900     January 22
1920     February 12
1940     March 6
1960     April 10
1980     April 21
2000     May 3
2006     April 26

Find out more at http://www.taxfoundation.org/.

Giving It Away: America the Generous
More than eight in ten Americans contributed to charitable causes in 2006, according polling information recapped by The Chronicle of Philanthropy. The average dollar amount was $1220. 

According to the report, “Donors were most likely to give to religious charities (35 percent), followed by groups that seek to curb hunger (34 percent) and organizations that deal with health issues (31 percent).” Only 15 percent of those who give to charity say they do so because of the tax benefit.

Common Ground Across the Pond
A consortium of foundations and research organizations on both sides of the Atlantic has released the findings of a massive opinion survey, painting a somewhat surprising picture of the transatlantic relationship. Among the findings are:

-Agreement on Iran
79 percent of Americans and 84 percent of Europeans support efforts to prevent Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. If diplomacy fails, 53 percent of the American public and 54 percent of the French public would support military action. In fact, in both America and Europe, large percentages of citizens are more concerned about Iranian nukes than Iraqi instability.

-Agreement on Terrorism
Almost eight in ten Americans and almost seven in ten Europeans view the threat posed by terrorism as “extremely important.”

-Agreement on Islam
An identical 56 percent of Europeans and Americans believe “the values of Islam are not compatible with the values of their country’s democracy.”

-Differing Perspectives on China
35 percent of Americans view China as a possible military threat, and 29 percent view China as an economic threat. However, the numbers are almost exactly reversed in Europe, where 37 percent view China as an economic threat and just 22 percent as a military threat.

-Differing Levels of Support for Democracy-Building
More than seven in ten Europeans believe support for democracy abroad should be a goal of EU foreign policy, while just 45 percent of Americans believe democracy-building should be the role of the US.  

Find out more at http://www.transatlantictrends.org/.

Code of Misconduct
NATO forces in Afghanistan recently came across new regulations issued by what remains of the Taliban, and they speak volumes about what we are fighting for—and against.

Rule 24, for instance, declares that “it is forbidden to work as a teacher under the current puppet regime.” Any teacher who refuses to quit his job, according to Rule 25, “must be beaten.” If a teacher attempts to keep teaching “contrary to the principles of Islam, the district commander or a group leader must kill him.”

Rule 19 is just as disturbing. It declares that Taliban fighters “are not allowed to take young boys with no facial hair onto the battlefield or into their private quarters,” a reference to the sexual abuse that is known to occur within the Taliban movement and even at the Taliban’s religious schools.

Confused Chairman
Someone may want to tell Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.) that people actually listen to—and remember—what committee chairmen say.

In December, Reyes told Newsweek that he supported the so-called troop surge in Iraq. “We have to consider the need for additional troops to be in Iraq, to take out the militias and stabilize Iraq,” he explained. “I would say 20,000 to 30,000.” But as The Washington Times reported, barely a month later, Reyes had changed his tune and his story. “We don’t have the capability to escalate even to this minimum level,” he said. Interestingly, Reyes’ about-face came after President Bush publicly outlined the surge plan.

As a contributing editor to The American Legion, Dowd writes columns and news briefs on national security, foreign affairs and U.S. politics each month for the magazine's "Rapid Fire" section.