Mitt Romney's comments in a recently released video have once more brought us back to the tired and completely misunderstood subject of who does or doesn't pay taxes. This is stupid for all sorts of reasons. It's also, like many items involving public policy, way more complicated than it's represented. Let's take a look at some important facts.
The way it's almost always put is that at least 40% of American's don't pay any taxes. This is complete and utter bull, and should be obviously so to anyone with a functioning frontal lobe. Everyone pays taxes. That's right, every single American and every single person who lives in this country pays taxes. Think I'm crazy? Take a breath and think about it for a moment. Every 5 year old who buys a candy bar pays sales tax, just like every illegal immigrant who buys groceries. Many Americans, pay taxes on property they own, including cars. Anyone earning a paycheck pays payroll taxes. And yes, a lot of us pay federal income taxes. Oh, and don't forget state and local taxes. Even if you didn't pay Federal income taxes, nobody gets a free ride, despite what the talking heads want you to think.
But even if we only focus on just Federal income taxes, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), even the bottom fifth of American households average a 4% income tax rate, according to 2007 numbers. A not insignificant amount when you consider they are only making around $18000 a year as it is. Incidentally, numerous tax cuts and short duration programs instituted in the 2009 Recovery Act, among other legislation, have inflated things a bit making the numbers over the last few years swell abnormally. Also consider that many who actually don't pay Federal income taxes are in that position, not because they are freeloaders, but because they make such a pittance. But wait, not every income tax avoiding person is even poor! Some are just able to take advantage of a tax code that is littered with loopholes designed specifically for this purpose. Who's responsible for that? Well, many of the same people who thump their chests about the freeloaders!
Am I the only one who finds it disgusting to hear millionaires whine that people barely earning enough to get by aren't paying enough taxes? Mitt Romney, all by himself, earns enough each year to raise 400 low income individuals into line with the national median income. Yet he thinks someone who doesn't make enough to qualify for income tax is a freeloader? Why aren't politicians and pundits laughed off the stage for saying things like this?
Look, I could dig up numbers to shine a light on this from all sorts of angles, but the point is that this entire line of attack is designed for only one purpose; to pit one group of Americans against another. To convince one demographic that they are doing all the work while the others are taking advantage of them. In the current climate it's being done to convince middle class conservatives that they are the real downtrodden ones and not the so called poor. The entire argument appeals to our baser instincts of suspicion and paranoia. There is little if any factual data to support it and what little there is has been horribly distorted, but that doesn't matter in a political world where lying has become normal. It would be nice if we weren't so gullible, but then again it would be nice if people in positions of authority had a sense of honor and integrity. Oh well, I can dream.