Fox and Drudge Sucker Tea Partiers with a Big Lie About Taxes
Here's how Fox Nation and the Drudge Report were fanning the flames of their readers' simmering tribalism last week, courtesy of Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog:
Those banner headlines led to an AP story that might make wingnut blood boil, but was in reality about a rather irrelevant bit of Tax Day trivia:
Tax Day is a dreaded deadline for millions, but for nearly half of U.S. households it's simply somebody else's problem.
About 47 percent will pay no federal income taxes at all for 2009. Either their incomes were too low, or they qualified for enough credits, deductions and exemptions to eliminate their liability....
Many people continue to labor under the false belief that the United States has a progressive tax system.
Here's the reality: after decades of assault on the taxes that fall disproportionately on the wealthy, we now have an effective flat tax.
Poor people in this country pay around 40 percent of their incomes in taxes, give or take 5 percent.
Rich people in this country also pay around 40 percent of their incomes in taxes, give or take 5 percent.
And folks in between pay around 40 percent of their incomes in taxes, give or take 5 percent.
The idea that most working people don't pay taxes -- an incredibly popular talking-point on the right -- is the product of a rather easy-to-understand Big Lie.
You simply pretend that the most progressive tax in the United States, the federal income tax, is the only tax that Americans pay. You move the goal-posts, beginning the discussion with a statement of fact -- 'many people pay no federal income taxes' -- and then shifting to an egregious falsehood: 'many people pay no taxes.' It's a simple but incredibly effective lie of omission.
Here are the facts (as I lay 'em out in my upcoming book, The Fifteen Biggest Lies About the Economy (And Everything Else the Right Doesn’t Want You to Know about Taxes, Jobs, and Corporate America)).
According to a Congressional Budget Office analysis conducted in 2007, it's true that the wealthiest one percent paid more in Federal income taxes than the bottom 90 percent kicked in.
But what else did the CBO find? Drudge won’t tell you, but the CBO also said that the top one percent paid 5 percent of their incomes in state and local taxes, while the bottom 50 percent -- many of whom pay nothing in federal taxes -- paid 10 percent of their take, twice as much proportionately.
It also found that those in the bottom 80 percent of the earnings ladder paid around 9 percent of their incomes in Social Security taxes; the top one percent paid just 1.6 percent of theirs. After the income tax, payroll taxes represent the largest share of the federal take -- those dollars represent a much bigger piece of the pie than corporate income taxes or taxes on capital gains.
A 2009 study by the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy looked at state and local taxes in greater detail. It concluded, “nearly every state and local tax system takes a much greater share of income from middle- and low-income families than from the wealthy. That is, when all state and local income, sales, excise and property taxes are added up, most state tax systems are regressive [emphasis theirs]."
The researchers found that those in the top 1 percent of the heap paid around 5 percent of their incomes in state and local taxes; the next 4 percent paid about 7 percent of theirs; the middle 5 th paid just over 9 percent and those at the bottom of the ladder, the poorest 20 percent of the population, forked over almost 11 percent of their incomes on average to state and local governments.
They also looked at excise taxes -- taxes on gas, cigarettes, alcohol and other goodies. They found that the “average state’s consumption tax structure is equivalent to an income tax with a 7.1 percent rate for the poor, a 4.7 percent rate for the middle class, and a 0.9 percent rate for the wealthiest taxpayers."
So, as I said up top, we really have a flat tax. That's the conclusion of a 2007 study by Boston University economists Laurence J. Kotlikoff and David Rapson, who found that when you add it all up -- state and local taxes, federal taxes and excise fees -- “The average marginal tax rate on incomes between $20,000 and $500,000 is 40.3%, the median tax rate is 41.8%, and the standard deviation of all of those rates is 5.3 percentage points. Basically, most of us pay about 40%, plus or minus 5.3 percentage points.”
The thing is, this isn't just a Big Lie, but a beautiful example of right-populism. This is how you shift the focus of people who are rightly angry about their loss of economic security from those above them on the social hierarchy -- the elites who in fact can influence their own outcomes -- to those who are poorer (and/or darker) than them.
Is it effective? Steve M. sampled some of the responses from Fox Nation commenters:
I believe the half that don't pay taxes are the ones working for this administration, the average American would go to jail if they don't pay their taxes!****What percentage are elected officials and federal workers?****47% of households will pay no income taxes.
I want to know what percentage of households actually get a check from the govt. ie bought votes****If they dont pay then why should we?
BOYCOTT ALL UNION GROCERY STORES!
Obama and the Democrats (commies) have committed treason
ITS TIME TO IMPEACH THE IDIOT OBAMA
It's like shooting fish in a barrel. As vile as they may appear at times, at the end of the day the tea-party types are just suckers. Easy marks.
*Edited a bit for smoothness.