Three Big Myths Right-Wing Propagandists Are Spreading to Frame the 2012 Election
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Romney has plopped this plutocratic pout right into the center of the presidential campaign, denouncing Obama for even daring to point out the widening chasm between the rich and the rest of us. Obama "attacks success," wailed Romney when the Democrat went after his ducking and dodging on the issue of his personal use of offshore tax shelters and a secret Swiss bank account. Then came The Video--Romney, speaking to a group of fellow millionaires at a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser in Boca Raton, was caught on camera casually sneering at almost half of the US population, dismissing them as slugs who're "dependent upon government." They "believe that they are victims," Romney opined, adding condescendingly that they are "people who pay no income tax."
There's the rub for the far-right rich these days. They've internalized a self-pitying myth that they alone are forced to shoulder America's tax load, while 46.4 percent of the people pay zero federal income tax. To add to the outrage of the swells, these "shirkers" are also said by the whopperites to be "takers" who're on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment comp, food stamps, veterans benefits, and (in Mitt's words) "you-name-it."
Let's dissect this urban legend. First, who are these freeloaders, these " lucky duckies," as the Wall Street Journal calls them? Overwhelmingly, they're poor people! They're those who labor in menial jobs that pay less than $9,750 a year, (the level at which they'd begin owing income tax); low paid single moms and even some of our poorly paid soldiers in Afghanistan who qualify for the Child Tax Credit; disabled veterans and people maimed on the job; and elderly folks whose Social Security benefits are too low to be taxed. Yeah, lucky duckies all!
Second, while 46 percent of Americans don't pay income taxes, they do pay billions of dollars in federal payroll and excise taxes and fees. These are very regressive assessments--people who earn $20,000 to $33,000 a year pay 10.5 percent of their income in such taxes, while those hauling in more than $450,000 pay less than half that rate. Likewise, state and local taxes hit low- and middle-income people disproportionately hard--those earning under $20,000 a year, for example, shell out 12.3 percent of their pay for state and local taxes, while the $450,000 class pays only 7.9 percent.
Then there is the gnashing of right-wingers' teeth over the "crushing" 35 percent tax rate that US corporations face. It's a job killer and a stifler of economic growth, they sob, lambasting it as the second highest rate in the world. Well, yes, unless you figure in the plethora of loopholes punched into the tax code by corporate lobbyists.
Corporate executives are gold medal champions in the Olympic sport of Creative Tax Dodging, which results in American corporations ending up with the second lowest tax payments in the developed world --not only lower than corporations pay in such globally competitive nations as Japan, Canada, Sweden, and Korea, but also lower than the amount paid in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Turkey, and Slovenia.
In a comprehensive study released last November, the nonpartisan Citizens for Tax Justice analyzed the actual tax bills paid by 280 of America's biggest corporations in the previous three years. They averaged paying only half the official 35 percent rate, and a fourth of them paid less than 10 percent. Thirty of the giants paid zero during those three years. Among these was General Electric, which had a $5 billion profit on its US operations alone in 2010. Far from paying Uncle Sam, GE got a $3.2 billion tax rebate for that year--a product of the 1,000 accountants, lawyers, lobbyists, and voodoo artists on its internal tax team. "We are committed to complying with the rules and paying all legally obliged taxes," said a spokeswoman. Sure--rules they write.