Tax Law

Law Prof’s Deleted Post: I’m Not ‘Super Rich’ Enough for Higher Taxes

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A University of Chicago law professor’s controversial blog post condemning higher taxes on the so-called super rich—he’s one of them, but says he can’t afford to pay more—has been taken down, but it lives on in cached form.

Writing at Truth on the Market, law professor Todd Henderson said he and his wife, a doctor, make more than $250,000, making them eligible for President Obama’s proposed tax hike. But he sees a problem. “A quick look at our family budget, which I will happily share with the White House, will show him that like many Americans, we are just getting by despite seeming to be rich,” he writes. “We aren’t.”

The blog post prompted a flurry of responses in the blogosphere, not all of them sympathetic, the Atlantic Wire reports. The “blogocane” (Henderson’s term) took the professor by surprise, resulting in an online apology for posting the material without his wife’s consent and a revelation of threatening e-mails he has since received. The firestorm later spurred Henderson to “hang up my blogging hat,” he revealed at Truth on the Market.

In the original post, Henderson lays out his finances. “The biggest expense for us is financing government,” he writes; he and his wife paid nearly $100,000 in federal and state taxes. “This amount is so high because we can’t afford fancy accountants and lawyers to help us evade taxes and we are penalized by the tax code because we choose to be married and we both work outside the home,” he offers. His next biggest expense is his mortgage. Then there’s a $15,000 payment for property taxes, private schooling for the kids, school loans of nearly $500,000, retirement investments, insurance, doctors’ bills, utilities, two cars, daycare, groceries, gasoline, cell phones, and cable TV (but “no movie channels”).

“At the end of all this, we have less than a few hundred dollars per month of discretionary income,” Henderson says. “We occasionally eat out but with a babysitter, these nights take a toll on our budget. Life in America is wonderful, but expensive.”

If his taxes are raised significantly, Henderson says, he may have to eliminate his lawn service or fire his cleaning lady, and maybe even sell his house. “The problem with the president’s plan is that the super rich don’t pay taxes—they hide in the Cayman Islands or use fancy investment vehicles to shelter their income. We aren’t rich enough to afford this—I use TurboTax. But we are rich enough to be hurt by the president’s plan.”

Writing at, University of California, Berkeley, public policy professor Michael O’Hare estimated some of the missing numbers, figuring that Henderson and his wife likely make close to $400,000 a year. He argues that the Hendersons’ taxes will actually go down by about $3,700 under Obama’s tax plan.

“The next time you come upon a Chicago law professor in his scuffed Gucci loafers and tattered Armani on the sidewalk, holding up his libertarian down-with-government sign and shaking his tin cup to get his doctor wife and hollow-eyed waifs through another tough week in their million-dollar hovel, please don’t just walk by,” O’Hare writes. “Remember, it could be you. Be a mensch: throw a nice shiny 3/8″ washer and couple of nickel slugs in there, with my blessings.”

Henderson later posted an apology at Truth on the Market: “The posts that generated an unintended blogocane have been deleted. I stand by the posts, the facts in them, and the points they were making. The reason I took the very unusual step of deleting them is because my wife, who did not approve of my original post and disagrees vehemently with my opinion, did not consent to the publication of personal details about our family. In retrospect, it was a highly effective but incredibly stupid thing to do. The electronic lynch mob that has attacked and harassed me—you should see the emails sent to me personally!—has made my family feel threatened and insecure.”

Later coverage:

Forbes blogs: “’ Super Rich’ Law Professor Retires From Blogging After ‘Electronic Lynch Mob’ Attacks His Position on Taxes”

Above the Law: “Earning $250,000 Does Not Make You Rich, Not in My Town “

Updated on June 22 to include Henderson’s decision to stop blogging and to include additional coverage.

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