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"Less For Our Labor" Day? ^ | 09/02/2002 | Gary Galles

Posted on 09/02/2002 7:32:46 AM PDT by Constitutionalist Conservative

Every Labor Day, the U.S. is carpet-bombed with politicians' rhetoric extolling working Americans' very real and substantial contributions to our society, followed by words of devotion to their interests. From their speeches, you would think that the government was doing wonderful things to help workers. 

But, in fact, with the average American spending more to fund government than to buy food, clothing, and shelter combined, the greatest impact the government has on those of us for whom it cares so much is through the huge gap it creates between the value of our productive contribution to others in the workplace and what we actually take home.

In other words, the government's primary contribution to our lives is to make us substantially underpaid for the productive work we do, judged by the line labeled "net" on our pay stubs. But because our net is all that most of us really look at any more, we tend to blame our employers rather than the government for that underpayment

If you are one of those whose net pay makes you feel underappreciated by your employer on "your" holiday, remember that what your employer pays for your services is far greater than what you net. The grasping hand of the government that is "honoring" you  is primarily to blame for the difference between what you are "worth" to your employer in productivity and what makes it to your bank account.

The most obvious difference between your gross and net pay is income taxes. But if you are like most, you are now so accustomed to income tax withholdings--which you can do little about but change your claimed exemptions at the beginning of the year--that you don't even look at the amount withheld from your pay any more. Labor Day is a good time to take another look at how much of your compensation goes directly from your employer to the IRS, rather than to you.

Social Security and Medicare taxes, which are greater than income taxes for a substantial majority of Americans, also create a huge gap between workers' compensation and their net pay. Some do not even know that 7.65 percent of their pay goes toward Social Security and Medicare taxes. Those who do notice often say "I was robbed" as they get their paycheck (remember what you or your children said upon receipt of that first "real" check, if you have forgotten). 

But even then, they recognize only half of the tax cost, because employers must also "contribute" an equal amount on your behalf, an amount that really comes out of your pocket. Employers compare their estimate of your productive contribution with the cost of your entire compensation package. 

The result is that, since employers know they must bear this 7.65-percent tax over and above the wages they pay, they offer less in wages. But employers, rather than the government, get the blame for the resulting underpayment for our skills.

Other taxes supposedly borne by employers are also borne by employees in reduced net pay (or higher prices for the products they buy, which is analytically equivalent), as well. Unemployment taxes and "workman's comp" payments may be officially paid by your employer, but workers actually bear any resulting burdens employers can anticipate from hiring them. Sales and excise taxes also lower the net value to purchasers of the goods and services workers produce.

Similarly, corporate taxes impose a burden on workers, either by reducing their pay or increasing prices they must pay out of their earnings. In each of these cases, you may blame your employer for the lower real wages that result, but the government actually gets the money, along with accolades from taxpayers who think they are less burdened (instead of indirectly burdened) as a result.

Further, because all of these taxes reduce saving and investment, they also reduce the accumulation of capital over time below what it would have been otherwise. With fewer tools, workers are less productive, and they receive less income as a result.

Benefits which the government mandates employers to provide their workers also really come out of workers' pockets, because that cost is part of their total compensation package, which must be covered by the value of worker output to their employer. Similarly, the productivity-reducing costs of complying with regulatory burdens (a "tax" of hundreds of billion dollars a year) reduce take home pay.

Labor Day is intended to recognize and honor the contributions of the working men and women of America, and to give politicians a chance to make speeches to show how they represent the interests of every worker. But rather than a holiday that mainly reminds me how much the government makes me underpaid with what they squeeze out of what I earn, I would feel far more appreciated if the government just took less instead.

Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University. Send him MAIL, and see his Articles Archive.

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Government
KEYWORDS: sheeple; taxes

1 posted on 09/02/2002 7:32:46 AM PDT by Constitutionalist Conservative
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To: Constitutionalist Conservative
Fine post. About half the country believes they are getting more from the government than they are paying. The other half knows this is not true.
2 posted on 09/02/2002 7:54:22 AM PDT by shrinkermd
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To: Constitutionalist Conservative
The author might add, the wages of the 11% of workers represented by unions are milked again by being required by unions to contribute a portion of their earnings to the corrupt labor moguls. In Florida, the labor goons are trying to require non members of the NEA to pay them for their "basrgaining" efforts.
3 posted on 09/02/2002 7:55:19 AM PDT by hgro
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To: Constitutionalist Conservative
Great article! I want to gag everytime I hear a lib praising a new federal give-away program. They seem not to have a clue that the money is coming out of their pockets. But, they also whine about their taxes--go figure!
4 posted on 09/02/2002 10:15:23 AM PDT by scholar
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To: Constitutionalist Conservative
No doubt we are overtaxed.

Worse, many of the 'services'provided in return are things no sane person would want, let alone need.

I would be happy if the Feds did little more than keep the borders secure (they aren't, I know) do air traffic control.

5 posted on 09/02/2002 10:25:49 AM PDT by LibKill
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To: LibKill
IMO, the "government services" argument for taxation is inexcusably idiotic.

The argument, as we know, is that taxation is payment for government services that we, the taxpayers, use.

Even a moment's reflection on this theory reveals numerous holes in it:

  1. If we need these services so badly, why does our money have to be confiscated to pay for them? It would seem obvious that we would willingly pay for services we need.

  2. What kind of service provider charges you for services basd on your income, and not on the services you use?

  3. Exactly what "services" did each taxpayer use in 2001? Where's the personalized invoice that contains line items detailing each specific service each taxpayer used, the date of the service and the charge for that specific service (think of your phone bill). We should be able to add up all these items and come up with our 2001 tax bill.

Truthfully government taxation at current levels is really about pork-barrelling and wealth redistribution. The embarrassing "services" argument is absolutely preposterous.

6 posted on 09/02/2002 4:41:41 PM PDT by j271
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