Today a caller wanted to complain about two things: 1) that I made fun of Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) because she doesn’t know history and (2) that poor people are ruining this country because they don’t pay taxes.
I don’t apologize for making fun of Rep. Michelle Bachmann. Click here to see why.
As for the tax argument, my caller complained that the poor are “dependent” and don’t pay their fair share. It’s the standard right-wing mantra … I work hard, so why should I have to support those who don’t work. To his credit, my caller left out the standard reference to illegal aliens (perhaps because earlier I had trashed Glenn Beck, Jay Severin, and Rush Limbaugh for their xenophobic Mexican hate-mongering over the swine flu).
As for who pays taxes ...
While it’s true the bottom 50% of the wage earners pay just 2.99% of all income taxes, it’s also true that their share of the national income (about $1 trillion divided between 67.8 million workers) amounts to only 12.5%. What an atrocity, my caller might still have claimed, if we had not run out of time.
However, it was clear that my caller didn’t want to discuss that every worker has to pay 6.2% in social security taxes and 1.45% for Medicare, meaning that they do have to pay taxes out of their paycheck. In fact, approximately ¾ of U.S. households pay more in social security taxes than they do in income taxes.
What people also forget is that after they earn $102,000 per year high income earners don’t have to pay into social security. This allows at least 10% of national income to go untaxed. This explains why the average middle-income household pays 9.6% of its income in social security taxes, while households in the top 1% of income pay less than 2%.
There’s more (especially on the philosophy behind progressive taxation), but any further discussion on taxes would bore the hell out of you.
At the end of the day, as Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes pointed out, “taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society." Just as importantly, given the great infrastructures and public institutions we have created in this country, taxes have enabled us to make the investments that have created opportunity for all in this country.