Clarifying what the “Marginal Tax Rate” is, and is NOT

The other night at dinner I was sitting beside a man (talking very loudly) who said he could never vote for Bernie Sanders because Bernie wanted to raise taxes to 90%.  I believe his quote was on the lines of “…so I’m supposed to work each week and have Bernie take 90% of my paycheck?  No way!”.  That would be something to be mad about, fortunately though, this man had no idea what he was talking about.  It was, yet again, an error in understanding what a “Marginal Tax Rate” is with regards to income taxes.  Neither Bernie, the IRS, or the Easter Bunny were going to take 90% of this (loud) man’s paycheck.

Just to clarify, I’m not voting for Bernie Sanders in our state’s Democratic Primary.  I don’t technically have any “skin in the game” with hopes that this man will vote for Bernie.  I do however take issue with willful ignorance, and regardless of who the gentleman is voting for, I fully believe he should base his decision off of facts and not some anecdotal talking point he got from a misleading source.

In America we have a progressive tax system.  This basically means that as you earn more you will pay higher taxes on the “next dollar earned” in an increasingly staggered tax bracket.  The “next dollar earned” is where the term “marginal” comes into play.  It appears what confuses many Americans is that they know that they make “X” dollars, they look at an income tax chart, find where that falls, and assume ALL of their income is taxed at that rate.  This is simply not true.  Here is a visual that should be able to help explain:

progressive tax

What this means is that you, me, and your angry Uncle Joe, all pay 10% for the first $8,350 we make, 15% on the next amount up to $33,950, etc, etc…  This picture comes from a great article that does a much better job of explaining the Marginal Tax Rate than I can.  It should take you all of two minutes to read so I recommend highly checking it out.  It also dispels another myth you hear frequently, the “…I turned down that other job because it paid more, but my take-home pay would have been less because it bumped me into a higher tax bracket”.  Yes, like the above example, this is equated to three-headed unicorns crapping fairy dust.  It’s just not true because, it also, looses sight of the “marginal” component of our tax rate.

One last point, we have to remember that the greatest expansion of the middle-class in this country, in which we had the longest sustained period of overall economic growth, came during a time when our marginal tax rate was above 90%.  In today’s terms that means families making about $3.5 Million dollars or more (in income) would be impacted…and remember our lesson from above; they, you, and me, all pay the EXACT same tax on the first $8,350, and so on and so on…  Also, keep in mind, families making that kind of money are normally earning that amount in capital gains, not working income tax (meaning, they are making most of their money off of investments which is taxed at a much lower rate).  If you’d like to look for yourselves with regards to past marginal tax rates, here is a link to that information.

I hope this helps clear up some of the myths and misconceptions that are associated around income tax here in the United States.  I have always believed that the most powerful force in any election is an informed electorate.  Also, voting is the most fundamental piece to a democracy’s foundation.  While there are those out there who want to make it harder for citizens to vote, remember that we must all remain steadfast, and exercise our most fundamental task – Go VOTE!

My First Geocaching Adventure

When I was at the residential facility in Wisconsin they offered recreational, as well as art, therapy.  One day our rec therapy consisted of Geocaching on the facility grounds.  I had always heard about geocaching and thought it sounded like such a fun activity (who doesn’t like treasure hunts).  It brought out my inner Goonies.  🙂  Well, I had a blast and was determined that I would continue this activity when I got back home.  As many of you know, I got back home much sooner than expected, but it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for this new sport/hobby.

There was something very therapeutic about being out in nature, practicing mindfulness, and focussing in on the task of finding this “cache”.  I was hoping that would carry over to when I got home and started geocaching outside the bubble of my residential facility.  Today was my first attempt and I can happily report that I LOVED the experience.  I made a short vlog to accompany my first solo cache hunt in the “real world”.  I felt such a peace come over me and my anxiety seemed to quiet as I listened to nature and focussed my attention on finding this tiny cache that ended up hanging from a small tree.

I’m already planning my next outing and hope that I stick with it.  It’s something that truly combines a tangible goal with a sense of calm and excitement during the search.  If you’ve never heard of Geocaching I would encourage you to check it out.  However, if you are a pro or have some experience with Geocaching, I’d love to read your feedback, pointers, etc. in the comments section.  Thanks!

My Writing: Defending Normal

I recently entered a Short-Short Story contest, where the rules were pretty much wide open as long as the story was less than 1500 words.  It was the first time I had ever entered a writing contest and I thought…”you’ve got to start somewhere.”  🙂  Now that the contest is over (nope, I didn’t win, but I LOVED the process of writing this story) I can “publish” the story.  I hope you enjoy it and I would love to hear any feedback that you may have.  One note – this isn’t a warm and fuzzy story and may seem different than other writings I have on my blog.  To be honest, I have no idea how the story even popped into my mind, but I gave it my best and I hope you like it.  As stated earlier, your feedback is greatly appreciated.  Here is a PDF of the story if you’d like to read it as a single file.


Defending Normal

by Mark Majors

            I twisted the blade slowly, strategically, ensuring whatever life remained would be gone soon, but not before the attacker had one final gaze into my eyes, knowing who had taken his life from him.  The gaze was hauntingly familiar, one seen many times on the battlefield.  A gaze I had hoped had been left behind years ago, in that endless desert of what seemed like an endless war.  At first there was pleasure knowing his last vision was a reminder of the mistake he had made, but like too often before, the burden of taking a life overwhelmed any lust for vengeance.

Once the gaze became a lifeless stare, I took my left hand and shut the lids of the eyes I no longer cared to see.  I used the same hand to push the man away from me while sliding the blade out with my right.  The man crumpled as he fell back, collapsing in on himself.  He now laid on a floor full of debris, the remnants of what had been no more than a minute’s worth of struggle, and death. Continue reading

Mark’s Journey – I Received My Insurance Denial Letter

I officially received my Insurance Denial Letter which sent me home from the residential program I was attending. I’m having a hard time getting it off of my mind and tonight was having trouble sleeping…so I thought I’d vlog about it and how ludicrous the letter is. Also, I wanted to talk a bit about how ridiculous this whole situation is, not just for me but for all of us. We all deserve better.

Mark's Journey - Received My Insurance Denial Letter