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I woke Saturday to Tara the Antisocial Social Worker's rant of the fantastically righteous variety.  I love this stuff.  Giving context to the claims of the Republicans and conservatives is vitally important.  As is pointing out the dishonesty in the way this talking point is framed.

At the very moment I found Tara's diary, the Front Page had Laura's piece about the Heritage Foundation misusing statistics in their claim about how great life is when you live in poverty.

And it occurred to me...this '50 percent' thing has never passed my smell test.  Could conservatives and Republicans be repeating a false reading of a statistic and the zombie media uncritically repeating the falsehood?  Do baby's make poopy diapers?  Yes, of course the claim is factually deficient at best and more likely a deliberate misrepresentation, and of course the zombie media is not taking a critical look.

The problem with both lines of defense that we tend to make in this argument is they both accept what Republicans and conservatives say as having a modicum of truth.  What's good about both is they try to lend some context, but they don't give the complete context or put numbers to that context.  

Please follow along as I blow up that '50 percent' myth, smack down the media while doing their jobs for them, and put some numbers to the points Tara was making.

Update:  Thanks for the rec list folks.  If you dig this diary, please do what I implored in my immediate previous diary and pay Robert Greenwald some attention.

The cliff notes version:

Even in the worst year of 'people not paying taxes,' approximately 40 percent of households don't pay federal income taxes, far short of the 50 percent claim.

In normal years, it breaks down something like this:

53.6 percent do pay taxes
23.3 percent are either young people or destitute people
10.2 percent are the elderly
4.5 percent receive tax breaks that benefit the wealthy more than the poor and middle class
8.4 percent are (for the most part) working class people and people with kids that are trying to improve their lot in life.

Fifty Percent of What?

This talking point is always stated in one of two ways.  Either the way John Cornyn phrased it on the Senate floor

the fact (is) that according to the Committee on Joint Taxation, 51 percent -- that is, a majority of American households -- paid no income tax in 2009.

or the way Rick Warren phrased in his tweet

HALF of America pays NO taxes.

Half of All Households?

So let's look at Cornyn's claim first.  What do you think when you hear the term "households?"  Chances are you think of something similar to how the U.S. Census (at page 104) defines "Household"

A household consists of all the persons who occupy a house, an apartment, or other group of rooms, or a room, which constitutes a housing unit. A group of rooms or a single room is regarded as a housing unit when it is occupied as separate living quarters; that is, when the occupants do not live and eat with any other person in the structure, and when there is direct access from the outside or through a common hall. The count of households excludes persons living in group quarters, such as rooming houses, military barracks, and institutions. Inmates of institutions (mental hospitals, rest homes, correctional institutions, etc.) are not included in the survey.

In other words, a single person, couple, or group of people (extended/unextended; married/unmarried) living in a defined housing unit.  How many households are there in the United States in 2009?  About 117.5 million.  That seems to make sense, right?  About 2.6 people per household times 117.5 million equals 305.5 million, about what the U.S. population actually was in 2009.

And what does it conjure in your mind when someone says 'half of all households don't pay federal income taxes?'  I'm willing to speculate that most people think half of the houses and apartments in the country are occupied by a single person, couple, or group of people pay no federal income taxes between them.  Wrong.  Not even close.

Nobody who studies this issue measures how many "households" do or do not pay taxes.  What they measure is whether a "taxing unit" does or does not pay taxes.  For instance, Cornyn was basing his statement on a Letter to Congress from the Joint Committee on Taxation.  They estimated that there were 164.4 million "taxing units" in the United States.  Admittedly the entities who compile this data are often guilty themselves of conflating 'households' with 'taxing units.'

So, how does the Joint Committee on taxation define a "taxing unit"  when there were only 140.5 million individual tax returns filed in 2009.  Presumably they combine the number of individual tax returns with the number of individual tax returns they think should have or could have been filed.  (The fact that this entire conservative/media meme rests on a single Letter to Congress that is completely based on estimates and the background information upon which said Letter is based is not released to the media or public is an entirely different rant, but something you should be aware of).

Now I'm going to ask you to assume something, but it's a pretty safe assumption.  I'm going to ask you to presume that the vast majority of "taxing units" that had a positive tax liability in 2009 occupied a household that contained no other taxing units that paid federal income taxes.  

Sure, there's probably a good chunk of Singles and Heads of Households who pay federal income taxes who live together, but the vast majority of Married (Joint and Separate filers) occupy separate housing units.  So let's try to figure out how many filers who paid income taxes occupy houses without other filers who owed taxes.

Number who paid fed inc taxes x estimated percentage living without other people who paid fed inc taxes = approximate number of households with at least one tax payer.

Single - 37.8 x 85% = 32.1 million households with a tax payer
Head of household - 5.3 million x 85% = 4.5 million households with a tax payer
Married - 37.1 million x 95% = 35.2 million households with a tax payer

Add them up and you get approximately 71.8 million households with at least one person who paid federal income taxes.  Divide by total number of households - 71.8 million / 117.5 million = 61% of all households have at least one taxpayer with positive federal income tax liability.  39% do not, and I request you to remember that number.

So let's look at this in reverse.  Half of 117.5 million households is 58.8 million households.  80.2 million "tax units" paid federal income taxes.  So in order for half of all households to pay no federal income tax, 21.4 million "taxing units" must live with other "taxing units" that also pay federal income taxes.  Seem absurd?  That's because the claim that half of all households pay no federal income taxes is absurd.  And the media should find the claim facially absurd as well, but they don't bother looking into it, much less recognize the absurdity.

Here's the problem...a large portion of "tax units" live with other "tax units" and it's a pretty safe assumption that most of those combinations are not "tax units" that pay federal income taxes living with other "tax units" that pay federal income taxes.  Thirty percent of all "taxing units" that have enough income to result in a positive federal income tax liability live with other "taxing units" that also have enough income to have a positive federal income tax liability?  I don't think so.

Slacker 22 year old pulling bong hits and playing X-box all day living in the basement of his parents suburban home - one "household," two "taxing units."

Elderly grandma and her spinster sister sharing a condo - one "household," two "taxing units."

Four Masters students sharing a flat - one "household," four "taxing units."

Family with live in grandma who also takes in brother-in-law who lost his job due to bad economy - one "household," three "taxing units."

We can see how this plays out when looking a bit at the other entity that studies the topic of 'who doesn't pay federal income taxes,' the Tax Policy Center.  For instance, in a 2009 estimate the Tax Policy Center found approximately 46.9 of all 'tax units" would not pay any federal income tax, but when we look at "nondependent tax units" (presumably meaning those tax units that can't be claimed as a dependent by another tax unit) that figure dropped to 38 percent.  Remember my presumption of percentages of "tax units" that pay federal income taxes having distinct households?  Pretty much jibes.

Our atrocious media, and we ourselves, have let this abuse of the data to continue without even questioning it's validity.  It conjures a picture of the distribution of the American tax burden that simply does not reflect reality.  

Half of All People/Americans?

The second way conservatives and Republicans like to frame the data is by stating 'half of all Americans don't pay federal income taxes.'  This claim is just as dubious as the claim of half 'households.'

In fact, far fewer than half of all Americans pay federal income taxes.  Let's see, 37.8 singles, 5.3 H of H, 37.1 Married (times two equals 74.2) = 117.3 million Americans pay federal income taxes.  About 305 million Americans in 2009 = only 38.5% of all Americans pay taxes.

But they don't say that, do they?  They don't say that because it wouldn't pass the smell test.  If the conservatives and Republicans put it that way, the media might actually start asking questions.  They would immediately recognize the conservatives and Republicans are trying misreading the data and start asking questions about children, and old people, and perhaps even the poor.

Conservatives and Republicans don't want that.  So they use a proxy to conjure the image that half of Americans are freeloading on the other half.  The media's gut tells them that seems about right, so they don't ask any questions.

A Word on PolitiFact and Marth Hamilton

I'm sure most of you remember the standard to which PolitiFact, and it's editor Martha Hamilton, held a tv comedian to when said comedian used an obvious bit of hyperbole in an off the cuff exchange with an ideologue.  

For those who don't remember, Politifact and Ms. Hamilton created their own definition as to what Jon Stewart meant by "misinformed" and gave zero leeway as to the term "every."  

In short, they changed Stewart's statement from a way to express that Fox viewers are most consistently wrong about important issues of the day, which is undoubtedly true, and analyzed his statement as if he said

Whose viewers are able to best answer trivia questions?

while taking his use of the word "every" hyper literally.

Let's see how Politifact and its editor Martha Hamilton analyzes an error by a United States Senator speaking from a prepared statement on the Senate Floor.

The JCT found that for tax year 2009, roughly 22 percent of "tax units" (not exactly "households," but we’ll give Cornyn a pass on the terminology) ended up without any tax liability.

Ms. Hamilton...a word.  Do your job.  I just showed how there is a vast difference between "household" and "tax unit."  You get paid to inform the American public about the veracity of statements made by public figures, yet here you give Cornyn "a pass" but not Jon Stewart?  You get paid to NOT 'give Cornyn a pass.'  You get paid to get to the truth behind these statements.  You get paid to lend a critical eye to things Senators say on the Senate floor.

Something is seriously wrong when you create false frames and  split hairs to show Stewarts' statement to be false, then put absolutely ZERO effort into determining the accuracy as to what Jon Cornyn says on the floor of the United States Senate.  The document you link says "164.4 million tax units."  It's common knowledge that the average household in the United States has about 2.6 people and there are about 300 million people in this country.  This didn't raise your suspicions at all?  Even after recognizing there was a discrepancy?  Wake up Ms. Hamilton, and start casting the same critical eye toward Republican Senators that you give to comedians.

So Who Are These "Taxing Units" That Don't Pay Federal Income Taxes

A bit of an admission.  The media deserves a couple of breaks.  First, many reports on this 'half of tax payers' meme do point out that we are in all time high of household/taxpayers (never 'tax units' but I digress) that don't pay federal income taxes due to the economic downturn.

Second, the media deserves some leeway for their conflating "tax unit" with "household."  When speaking about taxes, it is natural to speak in terms of households or filers.  Thus, when the two primary entities that conduct 'who doesn't pay taxes' conflates one term or another with "tax unit," it's understandable that our lazy, stenographic media just repeats what the alleged experts have to say about it.

As an aside, Politifact and Ms. Hamilton don't deserve ANY leeway because they are explicitly in the business of looking into things like this and not 'giving them a pass.'  They're not supposed to be just playing stenographer.  They're supposed to look into the statements and analyze them, not selectively 'give a pass' when 'giving a pass' completely changes whether or not a statement is true or false.

As I noted above, the Joint Committee on Taxation didn't release much more than a letter without any background data.  The Tax Policy Center in the past has done the same, issue a chart or a graph and maybe one page of explanation.  But that's not the case right now, and what is inexcusable is the media's failure to give context to this discussion now that a more detailed analysis of who does not pay federal taxes is available.  

Three weeks ago The Tax Policy Center released a report entitled Why Some Tax Units Pay No Income Tax.  In a culture with a functional media, we would have heard much of what this report has to say after the breathless "50 percent of households" reporting we've been subjected to over the past few months.  

46.4 percent of 'tax units' don't pay taxes

A quick caveat, this analysis is based on estimates for 2011, not 2009 which was the point of discussion up until this point.  The first thing to note is their estimate for how many 'tax units' won't pay income tax is already down from 50.8 percent in 2009 to 46.4 percent in 2011.  

Another interesting factoid is that approximately 433,000 tax units have incomes over $100K per year and pay no federal income tax, and that this number would be higher if the Tax Policy Center didn't decide to exclude from that number those paying income taxes to foreign governments but not the United State government.

To understand the report, you need a quick background in what the IRS and tax analysts consider 'standard' and what is considered a 'tax break.'  Congresses past, in their grand generosity, decided that Americans should not be taxed on the portion of their income that is estimated to be necessary to supply a minimal amount of basic human necessities.  They created two tax mechanisms to make this happen, the exemptions and the standard (not itemized) deduction.

23.3 percent of 'tax units' are kids and or don't have a pot to piss in

According to the Tax Policy Center, HALF (50.2 percent) of those who don't pay income taxes would not pay even if you stripped every 'tax break' out of the system and left only exemptions and standard deductions.  In other words, 23.3 percent of the tax units pays no income taxes because they make so little money they couldn't even afford to pay for basic human existence (a quick note:  I'm sure a sizable percentage of those folks are people who are dependent on other 'tax units' that do pay federal taxes).

10.2 percent of 'tax units' are old folks who don't pay taxes, most of whom don't have a pot to piss in

So let's look at the other half (actually 49.8%) of people who don't pay federal taxes.  They don't pay because of one or a combination of what the IRS and tax analysts consider 'tax breaks,' referred to in the report as "Tax Expenditure Provisions."  

Forty four percent of those who pay no federal taxes due to "tax breaks" are seniors.  In other words, 10.2 percent of the tax units pay no federal income tax because of the increased standard deduction for the elderly, exemption of a portion of SS retirement from income tax, and the tax credit for the elderly.  It should be noted that 90.7 percent of these folks have incomes below $40K per year, and 54.9 percent of them have incomes under $20K.  

4.5 percent of 'tax units' don't pay taxes due to 'tax breaks' that Republicans most likely won't ever repeal because they benefit the wealthy'

Another large subset of people who don't pay federal income tax due to 'tax breaks' are those who enjoy what are, for the most part, middle class tax breaks.  Above the line deductions/exclusions, itemized deductions, education credits, misc. credits, and reduced rate for capital gains and dividends account for 19.6% of those pushed into "no tax" territory by one or more 'tax breaks.'  

So 4.5 percent of the population doesn't pay federal income tax because of 'tax breaks' that benefit the middle class...and also happen to be tremendous benefits to the wealthy elite.  Good luck getting them on board in changing mortgage interest deduction, local and property tax deductions, medical expense deductions, bond interest exclusion, special rate on cap gains and dividends, and self employment tax deductions there Orrin.

8.4 percent of 'tax units' are working class folks and people with kids that are working hard

So with that we are left with the heart of the matter.  What conservatives and Republicans really have a problem with:  refundable tax credits and not taxing SSI/TANF/Workers Comp/Disability/Energy Assistance.  And this should be obvious to us.  The Republican crusade to tax your bar tender and waitresses tips should have been a dead giveaway to every American that Republicans really aren't interested in low taxes.  They're interested in low taxes for the wealthy elite.  Their SSI tax holiday position is only the latest reminder of that.

And the thing is, these people aren't driftless slack abouts.  The very low income people don't get these credits.  From the report:

Nontaxable units with incomes below $20,000 or above $100,000 will more likely owe no tax than have negative income tax liabilities.

People who don't pay taxes because of these two 'tax breaks' account for 36.4 percent of those who pay no federal taxes because of tax breaks.  That's 10.7 percent of the tax units.  And why are Republicans after these 'tax breaks?'  Because these 'tax breaks' are an end around Republican intransigence when it comes to helping the working class improve their lot in life.

What the Republicans are really after

Republicans use, and be fearful if Obama adopts, the term "expanding the tax base."  This is code.  What it means is one or more of: taxing the young and destitute, taxing more Social Security benefits and at a higher rate, taxing TANF/disability/workers compensation, and eliminating the Earned Income Credit and Child Tax Credits.  And if the Republicans think $800 billion is a pittance, just wait until they try to close the budget deficit by making those who can least afford it pay more.

Originally posted to whereisboblafollette on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 07:21 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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  •  Tip Jar (285+ / 0-)
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  •  I think when they say that half don't (37+ / 0-)

    pay taxes they are including dogs and cats in the total. I myself don't think that cats should be included.

    Don't tell me what you believe. And don't tell me what you do. I barely know you.

    by doc2 on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 07:26:14 PM PDT

  •  ?? The Elderly Pay Income and Capital Gains (24+ / 0-)

    taxes unless they're low income. In my house that includes BOTH HALVES of social security payroll tax because we're self employed artisans who can't retire until our final disability.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 07:31:53 PM PDT

    •  So you fit into the group of 'tax units' (13+ / 0-)

      that does pay federal income taxes, not the group of elderly folks who don't pay federal income taxes.

      I make no claim that no elderly people pay federal income taxes, and actually, some extremely high income elderly folks pay no income taxes.

      As for payroll taxes, this has nothing to do with them.  

      •  I agree that more people should pay federal taxes (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TX Scotia, kyril

        and all we have to do is give a lot more people a lot bigger paycheck for the jobs that they do or the jobs that they get.

        (I don't think that is what republicans are trying to being about by always bringing this up. Still to be fair to them we should cut their pay to closer to minimum wage so that they won't feel picked on.
        And all of the wealthy who are bumming about paying extra tax on amount over 250K? They can donate all the excess to a fund we can use to bring up the wages of others...
        I'd better go work on this plan)

    •  Self-employed people pay 50% of the employer (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TX Scotia, kyril

      half of FICA.  So it is half again as high as the employee contribution, but not double.  Self employed folks do have the tax advantage that business travel, expenses attributable to business (even if you get incidental personal use, eg, computers), and part of your house expenses if you work out your home are deductible from your income.  Medical insurance is also deductible under some circumstances by the self-employed.  So it's not all bad.

      Real plastic here; none of that new synthetic stuff made from chicken feathers. By the morning of 9/12/2001 the people of NYC had won the War on Terror.

      by triplepoint on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 10:49:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Incidentally, why would artisans want to retire? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Wouldn't you die of boredom?  

      I am sole employee of two self-owned businesses at age 68 and while I'd like to shed some of the less interesting parts, I find too much engaging my intellect and interest to fully retire.  I design and manufacture scientific instruments for a small niche market, and do most of the machining and fabrication myself, so I consider myself an artisan, too.  

      I'm going to start collecting SS next year, getting the benefit of waiting a couple of years after becoming eligible so I will get about 15% higher benefits.  Then I can hire people to do a some of the scut work and leave me time to pursue other interests.

      Real plastic here; none of that new synthetic stuff made from chicken feathers. By the morning of 9/12/2001 the people of NYC had won the War on Terror.

      by triplepoint on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 11:03:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The obvious rejoinder to shut them up is that (23+ / 0-)

    people DO NOT MAKE ENOUGH MONEY to have an income tax bill.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White

    by zenbassoon on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 07:32:13 PM PDT

    •  Wait until you watch them go thru the hoops (18+ / 0-)

      to show you how it's possible for someone making $50,000/year to pay no income tax. It's actually mathematically possible though I doubt there are two such households in the country. But because of that "fact" they make it sound like everyone making $50K/year is a "tax deadbeat".

      Modern Conservatism isn't simply about them owning as much as possible; it's also about breaking anything they can't own.

      by ontheleftcoast on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 07:36:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Anybody with a job (40+ / 0-)

      pays taxes.

      Ever heard of a thing called witholding?

      Even if you get a refund, you've still given the gov't. what amounts to an interest-free loan.

      I've been unemployed since June of 09. I was one of the lucky ones who received a full 99 weeks of UI, but guess what: We are obligated to pay taxes on unemployment benefits.

      Then there is the fact that the poor pay a much higher percentage of their incomes than the rich when it comes to regressive taxes such as sales, property, and utility taxes, not to mention things like license and user fees. A truck driver who earns the profits made by a trucking company has to pay hours or days worth of salary just to pay for his CDL, while an heiress who inherits the stock of that company pays a mere 15% capital gains on the dividends that she "earns" by doing nothing at all.

      Anybody who says that the poor don't pay taxes is politely invited to write the checks for all of my sales taxes, property taxes, utility taxes, gasoline taxes, as well as pay for my highway tolls and park entrance fees.  While they're at it they might as well buy me a powerball ticket, because hey, who knows?

      Al Qeada is a faith-based initiative.

      by drewfromct on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 07:50:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Problem is, the wingnuts don't count those as (20+ / 0-)

        "taxes".  You bring that up and then they change the subject to just income taxes, as if that's the only important part.

        "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White

        by zenbassoon on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 07:58:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  it is, (the only important part) to them (13+ / 0-)

          because the rest is such a small share of their income as to be insignificant and unnoticed by them

          "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

          by eXtina on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 09:02:11 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  It is excluded... (5+ / 0-)

            ...because payroll taxes go toward consumptive insurance programs like SS and Medicare in which you contribute in exchange for a share in an insurance program.

            Payroll taxes don't pay for Medicaid block grants, the military, foreign aid, national parks, or any other service the government provides. That's all income taxes.

            (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
            Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

            by Sparhawk on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 05:34:30 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Do tell (7+ / 0-)
              Payroll taxes don't pay for Medicaid block grants, the military, foreign aid, national parks, or any other service the government provides. That's all income taxes.

              Someone please remind me again what Federal gasoline taxes---which are paid by every retail gas buyer--pay for.

              The bottom line is that regressive federal, state, and municipal taxes take up a substantial percentage of low-income purchasing power, and hit the poor and middle classes a lot harder than the rich, who have the means to avoid them. That is the message we need to stay on.

              Al Qeada is a faith-based initiative.

              by drewfromct on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 06:50:56 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Excise tax is like 3% of the federal income (0+ / 0-)

                Federal Gasoline Taxes go into the Highway Trust Fund, not the general budget.

                Personally, I don't think there's any reason a little clever maneuvering can't let both sides "win" on this issue.  Refundable tax credits are essentially being used as backdoor welfare payments.

                Eliminate them to make the Republicans happy and have everyone pay some "tax" in exchange for greater funding for programs for the poor that end up in a net positive transfer of money to the poor.

            •  so if this is the case (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              VA Breeze, TX Scotia, kyril, eXtina

              why do they want to cut SS and Medicare instead of increasing payroll taxes to help pay for any projected shortfalls?   If the middle class and working poor are paying the payroll tax (so it doesn't count??), the amount the rich pay is to them insignificant, why oppose payroll tax increase ?  Especially since Medicare is such a large share of the projected deficit?

              •  Because income tax pays for SS as well (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                In order to meet its obligations, SS has to draw down the T-bill "trust fund". Those T-bills are be paid for out of income taxes (just like all other federal debts are, since debt service is one of those things that's paid for out of income taxes as well).

                SS is only solvent if you consider income tax hikes to cover the trust fund redemptions. If you don't hike income taxes (on both the rich and middle class, if you do the math), SS just becomes another unsustainable obligation like all the other ones our overleveraged country has.

                (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
                Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

                by Sparhawk on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 11:51:46 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  Taxes are not the point; the point is to show how (0+ / 0-)

                victimized the rich are, and to justify eliminating SS and Medicare because they are such a drain on "the rich" who -- poor things -- pay for everything.

                I'm trying not to gag here.

        •  Since the income tax... (17+ / 0-)

 the primary tax that effects the wealthy, it is the only tax that counts in conservative ideology.  Taxes that effect primarily poor and working people are irrelevant in their world.

          Political Compass: -6.75, -3.08

          by TexasTom on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 05:44:46 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  It's the tax that pays for everything. (0+ / 0-)

            Medicare and SS (I.e. FICA) are pay-through taxes that are essentially refunded to the taxpayer at a later date through those services.

            Federal income and excise taxes (a tiny percentage) pay for virtually everything people associate with the federal government (Interstates, the military, foreign aid, etc)

        •  All people making less than $106,800 (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Neon Mama, RantNRaven, mkor7, kyril

          pay Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes.

          Per Wikipedia: Federal social insurance taxes are imposed equally on employers and employees, consisting of a tax of 6.2% of wages up to an annual wage maximum ($106,800 in 2010) for Social Security and a tax of 1.45% of all wages for Medicare.

          What about the deadbeats above that level than get a free ride on every cent above $106,800?

          Anyone who makes a million a year gets a tax cut of $55,378.40 on SS and $12,951.40 on Medicare taxes, a total tax break of $68,329.80 for the first million and quite a bit more for every million over that.

          It's fair to note that a person making $1,000,000 a year can better miss that $68,000 and get by just swimmingly over a person making $22,350 a year (the poverty level for a family of four) who pays $1,385.70 for SS taxes and $324.8 for Medicare. A total of $1,709.78 or roughly equivalent to a month's pay.

          Let's see the millionaires start forking over a month's pay each year for payroll taxes (or about 83,333.33 dollars, yes that's right, we give millionaires a free three week's value  tax holiday every year -- many times more for multi-millionaires --  while taking away a month's pay from the poorest Americans!) before we start gouging the poor even more than we do.

          •  Well, virtually all. (0+ / 0-)

            Just to be pedantic, some people are exempted from FICA, but they're a tiny percentage of the population.

          •  There's no cap on Medicare taxes - ever. (0+ / 0-)

            Raising the cap on SS would help if there weren't so many loopholes to remove income from the SS tax computation.

            And if you are going to pay more in you would expect more back which would not help the problem numbers.

            Not to mention that if more wasn't paid out for more coming in, it would be called welfare not insurance.

            And besides that $68k the millionaire would miss wouldn't be there for job production. snark

      •  I think a lot of people really don't realize what (11+ / 0-)

        a low percent of their AGI they pay in taxes.

        Perhaps, especially, a lot of people who are so worried about "undeserving" people "mooching" off of their tax dollars.

        Sure, they see deductions from their paycheck each pay period, but when they finally do their taxes and get their refund they aren't noticing that maybe they are among those paying little or no taxes themselves.

        Some people fight fire with fire. Professionals use water.

        by Happy Days on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 08:28:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Actually (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        drewfromct, kyril

        That heiress would likely not pay any capital gains taxes since the estate tax exempts the first 5 million (10 million if married).  And thats not even taking into account the tax avoidance that can be engineered through trusts.  All of that capital gains that has been accumulated could be transferred without ever having been taxed.

    •  I agree (9+ / 0-)

      but that's why my emphasis is so heavy on the media.  Most of us don't actually come face to face with some red eyed conservo-freak ranting about 'half the people paying no taxes.'

      My hope is the media is shamed into not repeating the zombie lie, so there are fewer red eyed conservo-freak(s) ranting about 'half the people paying no taxes.'

      Unlikely I know, but hopefully, at a minimum, word gets back to Politifact that some foul mouthed DK Progressive asshole just schooled their ass.

    •  There was a show on Bloomberg radio this (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GMFORD, jimreyn, Catte Nappe, RantNRaven, kyril

      weekend someone brought that up, and the host said, they pay no federal income tax because they don't make enough money, but that doesn't mean they're, you know, poor. He hesitated before being able to say the word 'poor'. I've been searching for a clip of this since then but haven't been able to find it.

      They truly have an answer, or at least a retort, for everythign.

      "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

      by eXtina on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 09:00:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Facts about ultra wealthy who pay no income taxes (9+ / 0-)

        I never see any winger complain about all the extremely high income units that pay zero income taxes in 2011.  According to a recent Huff Post article, in the 95-99% wealthiest bracket, a whopping 78,000 units did not pay any income tax.  In the upper 1% bracket, 24,000 units did not pay any income tax.  And finally in the super wealthy bracket, the top 1/10 of a percent bracket, 3,000 units did not pay any income tax.  

        Some of the largest and most profitable corporations in the United States paid no taxes at all and some even got rebates.  Shouldn't these ultra wealthy units be asked to have "some skin in the game" first before they demonize the ultra poor?

        The United States is not just losing its capacity to do great things. It's losing its soul.--Bob Herbert. gulfgal98's corollary- Our soul is gone.

        by gulfgal98 on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 07:45:25 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Obvious (8+ / 0-)

      But falls right into their thinking.  You see, to those folks if you're poor and therefore don't have any tax liability you have no right to demand anything or expect anything since you didn't pay for it.

      It's only us bleeding heart liberals that see the invalidity in that argument.  And we're not on the news as much as the other yahoos.

      If you don't stand for something, you will go for anything. Visit Maat's Feather

      by shanikka on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 07:10:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's exactly right (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        but I don't think it's so much that you have no right to anything, as much as it is you have no right to a say in how you are "charitably taken care of", and absolutely no right to "demand" anything.  

        You have no right to a say in how much charity you receive.  It is viewed as charity, because you didn't pay for it, and charity is always discretionary.

        BTW, even after reading the diary twice, I can't get past the fact that it appears that despite all the rational for why,...30-40% of tax units pay no federal income tax.  If that is technically correct, then I'm not sure that number helps the argument all that much more than saying 50%.  If anything, it can hurt the argument, because now they can tell people that if things don't change, soon half the people in America will have no stake in tax policy, other than to get something from it. It still sounds like a lot of people who get to vote without having a stake in raising federal taxes - and that is really what their argument has always been about.

        •  Having been one of those people... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Neon Mama, Arenosa, kyril

          Something bothers me about this.  I have held jobs of one kind or another since 1977.  I have ALWAYS had income taxes taken out of my paycheck -- even when I was so poor I was making the "gas to get to work or food for lunch?" kind of choices.  Then, come tax time, I filed my EZ form and got back the meager couple of hundred dollars that had been withheld over the year.

          Now, I don't know the intricacies of how the IRS handles money over the course of the year and a quick trip around Da Google didn't give me that info.  So if I'm wrong about how this works, I welcome correction.

          It seems to me that this means that over the course of the year, the Federal Government got to use my tax money at 0% interest.  It had to pay it back after April 15th, of course, but in the meantime, that's money available to the government.  And while they're paying that back to me in the form of a refund, they've already collected 1/3 to 1/2 of the money they're getting for the current year.  It seems like I'm having my own money taken out and given back to me in an endless cycle -- while meanwhile, the government gets to look on it as a "liquid asset" for the year.

          So it's not that I don't PAY taxes, it's that the taxes I pay are more than what I actually owe, and the government eventually has to give my money back to me -- after having had the use of it for a year.  In addition, if it's held in any kind of interest-bearing account, they get to keep the interest.  My measly couple hundred might not seem like a lot -- but what's the interest on it and 150 million other people's measly couple hundred?  If it does work that way, it means that even the people who "don't pay any taxes" actually DO -- in the form of money which the government gets to use for free, and from which the government collects and retains the interest -- over the course of every year in a never-ending cycle.

          "There isn't a way things should be. There's just what happens, and what we do." — Terry Pratchett (A Hat Full of Sky)

          by stormicats on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 09:05:49 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The W4 form you fill out (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            cpresley, kyril, buckeye74, Samulayo

            determines how much is taken out of your paycheck.  The worksheet with the form helps you determine recommended allowances.  But it's just that, recommendations.

            If you don't like giving the IRS an 'no-interest loan' (and yes, that's pretty much what it is), then fill out a new W4 with more allowances.  

            But be careful, because if you have too little taken out of your paycheck, that tax bill in April can be a sum'bitch if you're not used to it, and I think there are penalties if you have too little withdrawn throughout the course of the year.

        •  You start with the point about 30-40 percent (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kyril, RosyFinch

          then point out 20-25 percent are teenagers and seniors.

          Then the impression is suddenly where it belongs, it is not 'half paying for the other half.'  It's 'some people are poor.'

          Where people go there is up to them, but going from 50%, it's impossible to even get the point of teenagers and seniors through their thick skulls.

  •  Outstanding Job, TY (7+ / 0-)

    Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

    by absdoggy on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 07:34:13 PM PDT

  •  hell, way they say it, (5+ / 0-)

    i figured they mean just the entire american population - including children, veterans and social-security recipients. they sure seem to try to inflect that... i think they scare more people than they hope to "enrage" with such a statement. seems custom-made for idiot teapartiers out there...


    by theChild on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 07:38:51 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for this. (5+ / 0-)

    It always seemed peculiar to me that such statistics would be available for 'households' when we don't file by household. You've enlightened me.

    Am I right, or am I right? - The Singing Detective

    by Clem Yeobright on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 08:15:34 PM PDT

  •  Good breakdown (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shockwave, FindingMyVoice, kyril

    and I loved the cliff notes version!

    Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world--and never will. Mark Twain

    by whoknu on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 08:20:03 PM PDT

  •  While I commend the work you have done.. (16+ / 0-)

    ...and wish to add that the value of knowing the facts of the matter is invaluable. The explanation is too complicated to ever catch up with the lie being spread. It already has too big of a head start.

    So while it is valuable to be able to preface counter arguments with something along the lines of "That figure is inaccurate" and be able to back it up when questioned. The main counter point we should be making is that you would have to tax that "51%" at 50% in order to get the same $700 billion dollars you could get from slighting increasing the tax rate on the top 2% that make up the super rich.

    In other words the GOP wants to bankrupt the already poor to avoid mildly inconveniencing those who can afford to pay a little more.

    We lose if we choose to forget; the lives of men, and money spent.

    by DeanDemocrat on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 08:31:13 PM PDT

    •  As I just explained to zenbassoon (8+ / 0-)

      this isn't intended to be a rejoinder to somebody you're arguing with, other than perhaps the cliffnotes version.

      The point is not to catch up to the lie one teabagger at a time.  The point is more to stop the lie from being told, one media outlet at a time, and perhaps even have the truth told a few times when the topic comes up again in the future.

      As for your 'have to tax at 50% in order make up for 2% on the rich...I love it!  Absolutely no basis in facts.  Might be true, might be way off.  Who cares.  I'm not really one for the theory of taking the high road in politics.  We need to start worrying more about our frames and less about our accuracy.  

      When the media decides to fact check it, you cut them off before finishing their sentence and say "why don't you fact check that 'half pay not taxes' myth because there's nothing but a willfully deceitful misreading of the data."

      •  The figures are (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cpresley, Neon Mama, kyril

        I believe from the excellent segment on this particular zombie lie that the Daily Show did last week.  They showed a Fox clip of some conservatolibertarian think-tank appartchik (I forget whether it was Heritage or Cato or something else) complaining that raising the top marginal tax rate by 2% would "only" increase revenues by $700 billion over the next ten years (as Stewart skillfully pointed out, $700 billion is a pittance when you are talking about raising marginal tax rates on the wealthy, while $1 million is a huge sum when you are talking about cutting NPR or the NEA).

        He then showed one of those piecharts that documents that the poorest 50% of the country controls only 2.5% of national wealth (i.e. assets).  He claimed that this 2.5% = $1.4 trillion (he did not say where he got these numbers, but I'm sure Martha Hamilton is on the case!) and then (having shown some clips of Boehener et. al. intone re: "broadening the tax base") noted that you would have to strip the poorest 50% of half of everything they own (yes, their assets not income) to match the 2% marginal income tax increase on the very wealthy that the Vast Right Wing propaganda apparatus and its subsidiary political party find so horrifying (and useless!) ...

        -- Stu

        •  To correct myself (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cpresley, kyril

          I should say net worth rather than assets.

          And the Daily Show's figures seem to be accurate, at least as far as easily googlable information:

          Wikipedia, citing an AP story that refers to a March 2010 Federal Reserve report, say that the U.S. household net worth for fourth quarter 2009 was 54.2 trillion, and 2.5% of this is indeed $1.355 trillion.

          -- Stu

    •  DeanDemocrat (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I appreciate the main counter point you offer and I would like to be able to share it with some folks I know. Do you happen to have a source I could cite for it? Thanks :-)

  •  I knew it. I knew that number had to include (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sunny skies, jimreyn, tb mare, Neon Mama, kyril

    a group of wealthy people paying no tax, just had no idea how to find that info

    "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

    by eXtina on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 09:15:13 PM PDT

  •  and you're 100% right about 'broadening the (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Deep Texan, Shockwave, emal, kyril

    base' being code for taxing the poor and relieving the rich. Because it makes so much more sense to tax those who can least afford it. It is definnitely the favorite buzz word right now and anyone who thinks it's a fair exchange for closing loopholes is sadly mistaken.

    "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

    by eXtina on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 09:16:42 PM PDT

    •  be careful about loophole closure too! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cpresley, eXtina

      this is thin ice for the middle class. i remember deducting interest paid on certain loans back when i was in college and it helpoed considerably toward my tax liability...that is gone. i remember deducting campaign contributions dollar for dollar (up to $50 or $100...i guess i don't remember it all that well)...that is gone. next interest deductions? probably not but the loopholes most likely to be closed will be those that the masses rely on to eke out an extra few dollars in savings every april.

      •  You could never deduct campaign contributions (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        but you could deduct loan interest.

        And it's not the loopholes that's the issue. Change the standard deduction, and you can get rid of almost all deductions (except maybe for extraordinary medical expenses) and most people would come out ahead.

        Even mortgage interest.

        •  unfortunately no one is suggesting that (0+ / 0-)

          just closing loopholes and broadening the base

          "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

          by eXtina on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 06:10:23 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  go to and... (0+ / 0-)

          you'll see that i wasn't making up the campaign contribution deduction claim. click on the archived 1040s and look in the "credits" section for the years from 1974 until 1981. i did not look further back because i didn't file taxes until 1974, but seeing should be believing.

  •  Everyone pays taxes (9+ / 0-)

    Everyone pays taxes in one form or another.  Whether through payroll taxes, income taxes, sales taxes, real estate taxes, personal property taxes or excise taxes, we all pay them.  

    On the other hand, Bernie Sanders has a list of the 10 top tax avoiders in the corporate world.

    Shared sacrifice indeed.  

    I also thank the one who rearranged deck chairs on the Titanic so those on board ship could get a better view of the iceberg.

    by NyteByrd1954 on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 09:57:16 PM PDT

  •  what about all of the people in prison? (7+ / 0-)

    The US has more citizens in prison than most other nations.  Those persons are negative tax units.  

    Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity. Horace Mann (and btw, the bike in kayakbiker is a bicycle)

    by Kayakbiker on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 10:02:12 PM PDT

    •  There is far too little information (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elfling, Shockwave, FindingMyVoice, kyril

      from either the Joint Committee on Taxation or the Tax Policy Center regarding exactly who is factored in with regards to 'tax units.'  

      The question I have is what percentage of them are people who work but don't file, and are those people considered to be people who pay federal income taxes, or since they don't file a tax return aren't considered to be payers of federal income tax even though the US Treasury ends up with their money.

      And while I do agree that the prison population situation is ridiculous, the prison population is less than one percent, so they don't have a huge impact on these numbers no matter how or where they are or are not counted.

    •  Roubini estimated that our prison pop. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Kayakbiker, cpresley

      adds approximately another 3% to our unemployment rate.

      The comment starts at around the eight minute mark and continues to around the 8:45 mark.

      The United States is not just losing its capacity to do great things. It's losing its soul.--Bob Herbert. gulfgal98's corollary- Our soul is gone.

      by gulfgal98 on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 08:02:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great diary, whereis!! You might want to repost (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    it during the day to get more readers.

    I'd like to make a suggestion. In the wrap-up portion you go through an analysis of those who aren't paying taxes: the low-income elderly, young people with very small incomes, working people with many dependents, etc.

    If you exclude all these groups, what would be the percentage of tax units who don't pay taxes? That number would be good to see, especially since it's quite low - a lot lower than 38%.

    •  I don't understand your question (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shockwave, Catte Nappe, David PA
      you go through an analysis of those who aren't paying taxes
      If you exclude all these groups, what would be the percentage of tax units who don't pay taxes? That number .... it's quite low - a lot lower than 38%.

      You can just take 100% and subtract the percentage that do pay taxes and come up with 46.4%, or add up the percentage of those 'tax units' that don't pay taxes.

      23.3 make too little money with just exclusion and standard deduction
      10.2 are elderly
      4.5 are mostly middle class who get various 'tax breaks'
      8.4 are working class and middle class who get EIC/CTC or don't get taxed on various benefits like SSI/disablility/TANF/WC

      If you are saying to convert those 'tax units' into a measure of households like I did in the 'household' analysis, that's tough to do because the data I based that on (# of households, percent from each filing status that paid taxes) isn't available.

      But I think a good rule of thumb is to check out the link above labelled "2009 estimate" where the Tax Policy Center found 46.9 percent of 'tax units' paid no federal income taxes, and that 38 percent of those were dependents.

      •  Right - so if you subtract dependents, it's 29% & (0+ / 0-)

        if you take away the elderly too it's down around 25%.

        I'm saying that the 46% number makes it look higher than it is because very few would expect dependents or the poor elderly to pay taxes.

  •  Meh, till there is more fair income distribution (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neon Mama

    across the strata, I'm done with any debate right there...nobody ever brings that up with Hannity.  

    "However, I don't think that critiquing one precludes praising the other" - The Troubador

    by GoGoGoEverton on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 05:32:31 AM PDT

    •  They don't bring it up for a reason (6+ / 0-)

      Because Hannity has a ready come back....


      And until the Democrats and Progressives stop fearing that label and set themselves to showing the country that there's socialism all around them, more is needed, and a balance of certain aspects of socialism is necessary and completely consistent with the Constitution, that point can't be made.  

      I thought we elected a President that was going to give us some momentum that direction, but I was wrong.  Thus, we are stuck with "meh" analysis so we can dance around "THAT'S SOCIALISM."  But as I pointed out to other people, this isn't designed as a snappy comeback, with perhaps the cliff notes.  This is more designed to catch some media attention so they stop perpetuating the "half" myth.

      •  It doesn't have to be socialism (0+ / 0-)

        a simple rule capping ratios of pay of workers to management to executives, or a big raise in the min wage would be sufficient, and preferable IMO to losing money off the top processing it through the tax bureaucracy.

        One could just come back and say "Well Hannity, it may or may not be socialism, but in any househould the main breadwinner pays the most, and has to pay more if the others cannot."

        "However, I don't think that critiquing one precludes praising the other" - The Troubador

        by GoGoGoEverton on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 06:29:11 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Whack-a-mole (6+ / 0-)

    Nice work. The problem is that they can make shit up faster than anyone can disprove it.

  •  A half-truth twisted into a whole lie. (13+ / 0-)

    That, in essence, is the definition of efficient propaganda.

    You always base it on some little chunk of truth. Why? Because then it has to be explained. You can't just say: "That's a lie." You, if you're are an ethical person, have to explain that, technically, yes, there are people who pay no taxes, but the reason is......

    And this takes time. Time that most people will not give you. Time that the 30-second sound bite media will not give you.

    So.....we have to boil it down.

    First, no one pays no taxes. We are talking solely about federal income tax here. Not sales tax, gas tax, property tax, state tax, excise tax. Everyone who consumes anything pays tax.  

    -Almost 9% of all Americans are without a job. Yes, since they have no earned income, they don't pay this tax.

    -Students over 18 who are being supported by their families. They don't pay this tax.

    -The elderly who live with their families, especially those who never worked (elderly homemakers)....they don't pay this tax.

    -Those who are sick and/or handicapped to the point that they can't work. They don't pay this tax.

    -The working poor who make so little that after they take the standard deduction,they have no taxable income. They don't pay this tax.

    -Nearly half a million people making over $100,000 a year, who, between loopholes and deductions, have no taxable income....they don't pay this tax.

    Meanwhile, millions of people do pay taxes in this country; and thousands of the richest among us, pay a much smaller proportion of their income as tax then does the middle class.  To paraphrase Kay Bailey Hutchinson, the rich know ways to minimize their tax liabilites. Or to put it another way, the tax codes are written to favor the rich.


    Freedom has two enemies: Those who want to control everyone around them...and those who feel no need to control themselves.

    by Sirenus on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 06:01:26 AM PDT

  •  Re Ms. Hamilton and Politi"Factoids," far as I can (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Seneca Doane

    tell she and the other "reporters" doing this work are in fact doing the job they have been paid to do. Which is a long, slow, poisoning of politicisms, a grand taking-advantage of the tendency of the most of us to presume that people who claim to speak the unbiased truth and present some carefully packaged "analysis" to us rabbleois, MUST be telling the Facts -- an analysis slanted increasingly toward the Wrong side. The local version, here in the St. Petersburg Times, has achieved a particularly high level of skill at the game, in aid of making the Kleptocracy an immutable ruling class.

    Keep working on the vain effort to bring truth in the face of truthiness... It really IS God's work, not like that other shit...

    "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

    by jm214 on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 06:02:16 AM PDT

  •  Thank you so much (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I'm bookmarking this thread.  The same myth always keeps popping up.

    "My father always told me that all businessmen were sons of bitches, but I never believed it until now." - JFK during the 1962 Steel Crisis

    by Betty Pinson on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 06:13:58 AM PDT

  •  If I may summarize (0+ / 0-)

    In the vast majority of instances, there is a very good and justifiable reason why some folks don't have federal income tax liability.  

    In a few instances (really rich folks), there is no good reason why they are not paying more income tax.  

  •  A point to ponder (7+ / 0-)

    The income tax is combined with income exemptions and deductions which eliminate income tax liability for a greater or lesser percentage of the population -- and they've always done so. There is no mystery, and no real "unfairness" about this.

    Everyone who does their income taxes knows that they get personal and dependent exemptions, they get a standard deduction or they can itemize deductions, and they may also qualify for tax credits which all lower their liability, for some percentage of taxpayers (which varies with time) to $0.00 or below.

    It has been thus since the first imposition of the income tax in the United States, and the income tax system has been specifically designed to limit or eliminate the income tax burden of the poor, the aged, the infirm, as well as a good deal of the working and middle class. (On the other hand, lucky-ducky unemployment benefit recipients don't get a break. If their overall income is high enough, they pay income tax on their benefits. Same with the old. If their combined pension/SS income is above a certain -- very modest -- level, they pay income tax on their benefits.)

    The progressive income tax is designed to tax income according to ability to pay. And at first, because of exemptions -- and horrifyingly low working class incomes -- it only applied to the upper 3% or so of tax filers.

    Would the yabbering-lying Republicans like to go back to THAT era? Why not? It was considered "fair" then.

    This is a really good chart that shows how income tax rates and exemptions have varied over time. Plug in worker's income figures and household (not taxing unit) sizes, and you'll see exactly how it is that for almost all of the history of the Federal Income Tax, large percentages of individual filers and/or households have not had a Federal income tax liability. It's meant to be that way.

    Just as the payroll tax is meant to be a flat tax on all income up to the ceiling, without exemptions or deductions. You pay it on every dime you earn up to the limit for SS and every dime in wages beyond that for Medicare.

    In addition to the code talking of "broadening the tax base" -- a phrase I believe I have heard Mr. Obama use more than once -- meaning the elimination of (certain) deductions, credits, and exemptions so that more people are liable for income taxes, many Republicans have long been advocating a flat rate income tax something like the payroll taxes, with few or no exemptions, credits or deductions.

    Their goal is obvious as sin: lower income tax liability on the rich; higher income tax liability on the poor and working class.

    In their world, that's the way it should be. Ask any one of them. They'll tell you, "taxation is punishment" and the only ones who deserve to be punished with income taxes are the "parasites," which of course does not include Job Creators like themselves...

    -- felix

    •  Very's not their only goal (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The flat tax serves the purpose you describe, yes.  But it serves an even more cynical purpose.

      In the diary I link to an article about how we now instituted social policy through the tax system.  They argue it 'makes sense.'  I argue we have no other choice.  The Republicans have made it impossible to institute meaningful social policy in any other way.

      Thus, you institute the flat tax, you eliminate the only avenue left for implementing social policy.  

  •  Terrific diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kevin k

    Thanks for the explanation.  I heard this argument come from the mouth of a conservative I work with recently and pointed out all the other taxes people pay, but didn't know that the premise on income taxes was wrong.

  •  great work but (14+ / 0-)

    can you pare it down to an 'elevator pitch'?

    EG: About half of everyone doesn't pay taxes, but if you exclude children, old folks, and the rich who work the tax code, it's only 8 percent of middle-aged households who don't pay taxes. And unemployment is over 9%.

    Have I got it right?

    Personally I think all this tax unit stuff is designed to make it hard to generalize and remain understandable.

    the future begins

    by zozie on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 06:38:44 AM PDT

    •  Nicely summarized! (9+ / 0-)

      My response is usually:

      People with zero tax burden are usually taking advantage of the same deductions many of us use: mortgage, child, and health care deductions.  Which deductions are you willing to give up so that other people -- and you -- will owe more in taxes?

      I support public employee's unions.

      by Tracker on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 06:56:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Elevator pitch? Try bumper sticker (0+ / 0-)

      The Tea Baggers don't have the attention span.

      "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."- Arthur Carlson

      by bobinson on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 08:36:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I may be wrong, but.. (0+ / 0-)

      I think when the diarist mentioned "kids" he was referring to young adults who live with their parents who are technically adults over 18 - not children.

      If they were children they wouldn't be considered a taxable unit.

      Saying  .. "but if you exclude college aged kids depedent on their parents, old folks.. yada yada.." I think that would make sense.

      Do not ever look at my Twitter feed! @Ralpheelou

      by Ralpheelou on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 08:41:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I've said in a few comments (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      this really wasn't designed to do that.  It's more a message for the media that they need to look more closely at the facts.

      But I think we get too hung up on accuracy.  I think we need to start what they do.  Just pull something out of your ass.

      If you want accuracy, you have to start with accurate using the terms.  You use 'everyone.'  That's a meaningless term, and if we are using it, we start with around 32% don't pay taxes.  From the diary...

      In fact, far fewer than half of all Americans pay federal income taxes.  Let's see, 37.8 singles, 5.3 H of H, 37.1 Married (times two equals 54.2) = 97.3 million Americans pay federal income taxes.  About 305 million Americans in 2009 = only 31.9% of all Americans pay taxes.

      The "half" thing is only meaningful if you understand 'tax units.'  And who has time for that?  

      The entire point of this meme is to rile up the masses against the rest of the masses so the first masses don't get pissed about the wealthy elite.  The world view of the people who would disagree with you is that people are poor because they deserve it because they don't work hard enough.  

      So one angle you might want to try is, instead of 'people' or 'tax units' or 'households' try 'workforce.'

      As I showed, about 20-25 percent of those who don't pay taxes are those who:

      make very little money and are not dependents of other people (a big chunk of the 23.3 percent who don't make enough)
      get refundable credits or are on TANF/disability/SSI/workers comp.  Virtually all of these people are part of the work age population (8.4 percent of tax units).

      So, 20% times 164.4 'tax units' is 32.9 million people.  Virtually all these people are part of the 'workforce.'  The workforce is approximately 67% of the population, so about 204.7 million people.  32.9 / 204.7 = 16%.

      So your comeback:

      16% of the workforce doesn't pay taxes, and the reason they don't is because the billionaires only "create" shitty jobs, or not jobs at all.  The other people who don't pay are either old, doing bong hits in their parents basement, or are wealthy enough to hire tax experts to get out of paying their fair share.

      Yes, another 4.5% or so is part of the workforce, but these people don't care about the middle class paying more, they care about the working class paying more.  So again, who cares about accuracy when arguing with the wingnuts.

      •  HEre's my draft for a discussion board where (0+ / 0-)

        the "50% pay no taxes" keeps coming up:

        First of all, it's not half. It's about 38%.  A lot of them don't pay taxes because they aren't really part of the workforce.  They're too young or two old.  They're students, still dependents on their parents,  making a pittance at a part time job.  Or some old woman living on SS at $20,000 a year. Or a guywho's been unemployed for four years, surviving on some odd job work here and there.  No, they don't pay taxes. And what's the problem with that?

        THen there are regular full-time workers, only they've got minimum wage jobs because the so-called JOB CREATORS you're so in love with have moved the good jobs to India and China.

        But you know who else doesn't pay taxes?  Exxon Mobile.  Corporations that make billions.  ANd the richest people, who pay just a tiny percentage in taxes.  Warren Buffet admits he often pays taxes at a lower rate than his cleaning lady.  The only difference between Buffet and the other super-rich is, he's honest.

        So who should we be angry at? Who's ripping us off?  THe low-income worker who gets tax credits so he can feed his family?  Or the rich people who hire lawyers and lobbyists and pay almost nothing, dumping the costs and the deficits on us?

        •  Honestly... (0+ / 0-)

          I think it explains too much, and gives an opening for them to shift the argument.

          Many have criticized my diary due to it's lack of conciseness.  As I explained many times, this wasn't meant as a comeback to a teabagger.  It was meant to lay out the facts and more directed as a media criticism.  When responding on a message board, it's better to be more to the point, and give fewer openings for diversion.

          Everything you might have to say will be ignored because you say

          No, they don't pay taxes. And what's the problem with that?

          That gives them a jumping off point to start psuedo-philisophying about their whackadoodle notions of what they think is fair and the proper role of government and blah blah blah.  

          Read through the comments.  There's tons of good zingers, but one thing I would start off with is by shouting 'that 50% nonsense is a Republican lie perpetuated by the lazy stenographic media.'

          And if you're into using links, this type of info is valuable.

          Remember...chances are you're not going to change the minds of the people you're arguing with.  You're trying to win the undecided minds of those who are reading along silently.

  •  Regrettably, the people who most need to (0+ / 0-)

    understand this would probably not make it past the KosDoily.

    I appreciate the details, though. Thanks for writing this!

    Moderation in most things.

    by billmosby on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 06:41:14 AM PDT

  •  Now for the hard part. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ralpheelou, cpresley, Neon Mama

    Repeating this information ad infinitum in the corporate media, where the Big Lie holds sway.  The local Tea Partyish rag prints an LTE almost every day repeating this vile lie.  Yes, lie.  Not a myth.  A lie.  An insistent, constant hammering away at facts to fool those who are so eager to be fooled.

    I'm thinking about getting a bumper sticker as follows

    .."Half pay no taxes"..

    I am become Man, the destroyer of worlds

    by tle on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 07:00:52 AM PDT

  •  They hate taxes (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bobinson, VA Breeze, tb mare, cpresley

    So why aren't they celebrating people paying no taxes?

    DK4 makes me lonely.

    by tarminian on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 07:36:11 AM PDT

    •  This is important (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and needs to be screamed from the treetops.  Because the fact is, Republicans have never been against taxes, they've been against taxes for a certain portion of society.

      So pointing out this hypocrisy, like I pointed out re: waitresses and payroll tax holiday, is very important.  Bob Altemeyer discussed how there's really only one way to change an Authoritarian into a thinking human being, constantly point out the contradictions and hypocrisy that is inherent in their non-logic based worldview.

  •  As I commented before, slaves paid no taxes (4+ / 0-)

    At the rate we are going we'll have de facto slavery soon and as others also commented many are de facto slaves today.; an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action -1.75 -7.23

    by Shockwave on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 07:36:30 AM PDT

  •  Winning Formula Will Be When (0+ / 0-)

    We can take this information and turn it into something that INSPIRES public opinion and the voters.

    Is anyone here able to turn it into zingers?
    The Republicans have honed the art of Talking Points, Memes, Stereotypes.

    Plus, they own most of the media.

    Any volunteers?

    (I'm no wordsmith, I'm afraid)

    •  The thing about 'we' (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ignacio Magaloni

      is it depends which 'we' we are talking about.  The Democratic Party has repeatedly rejected the notion that the art of Talking Points, Memes, Stereotypes (aka framing the debate) is important.  As has a big chunk of the allegedly liberal media.

      Chait, discussed in the link above, mentions George Lakoff.  We continue ignoring him at our own peril.

  •  OT, Morality and Taxes (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Egalitare, cpresley

    Lovely article linked from

    Rot at centre of modern economics
    By Susan Guthrie and Gareth Morgan
    Tuesday Aug 23, 2011

    Once it was each man for himself and the "deserving poor" relied on private charity. That was long after Plato had espoused the morality of taxation, saying, "When there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income."

    Whole article worth reading and saving for its quotes about Adam Smith, etc.......Perfect material to bring up in debates with Conservatives.

  •  Republicans have amnesia on this issue (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, bobinson, Neon Mama

    They pushed for welfare reform in the 1990s moving some poverty safety nets to the tax code, resulting in lots of poor people getting tax credits

    They pushed the Bush income taxes, which although they disproportionately help the rich, did lower taxes enough so that some low-income people no longer owe.

    Pushed for other countless deductions and tax expenditures that result in people getting a net refund.

    Now they want to complain that people don't pay any taxes!!!

    no entitlement cuts. period.

    by The Clevelander on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 07:47:17 AM PDT

    •  All very true, but... (0+ / 0-)

      We need to remember that their primary reason for doing this is to sow division among the masses to distract the masses from focusing on the obscenely wealthy and demand they pay more.

      In that context, how we got here is less important, but what you say is important nonetheless.  It's important to note that a large part of what the Republicans are trying to do is eliminate the aspect of the social safety net that is now politically impossible to implement any other way than the tax code.

      In other words, this is just a long winded way for them to try to eliminate the EIC.

    •  I don't think that's amnesia. (0+ / 0-)

      They pushed for welfare reform in the 1990s moving some poverty safety nets to the tax code, resulting in lots of poor people getting tax credits

      I think they consider this Welfare Reform Part 2.

  •  Excellent diary (0+ / 0-)

    Zombies all around us here in the US.  We have zombie banks and zombie lies.  It's hard to kill either.

    Nice job of factually debunking this one zombie lie.  Tipped and recommended.

    The United States is not just losing its capacity to do great things. It's losing its soul.--Bob Herbert. gulfgal98's corollary- Our soul is gone.

    by gulfgal98 on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 08:04:51 AM PDT

  •  A fact followed by its colorful analogy: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tb mare

    Could conservatives and Republicans be repeating a false reading of a statistic and the zombie media uncritically repeating the falsehood?  Do baby's make poopy diapers?

    Well put.

  •  What a great informative diary (0+ / 0-)

    I'm keeping this for future reference so I can counter when I see those complaints about all those people who don't pay taxes.

  •  What get's me is the EITC has a Repub pedigree (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neon Mama

    It was originally proposed by Richard Nixon and signed into law by Gerald Ford. It was expanded by both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. In fact Ronald Reagan called it:

     “the best anti-poverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure to come out of Congress.”

    Eligibility for the credit also expanded under George W. Bush due to a big increase in the child credit which made more people eligible.

    Now, however, the Republicans act as though those eligible for the EITC are tax cheats.

  •  This must be highlighted: (0+ / 0-)

    8.4 percent of 'tax units' are working class folks and people with kids that are working hard

    Well? Shall we go? At least that man is gone.

    by whenwego on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 08:56:14 AM PDT

  •  Let me first commend you for this analysis... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neon Mama

    This is good background and you clearly put a lot of effort into it...kudos.

    However, let me suggest for those who hear the "50% of households" talking point from friends or family...the best response will be "actually, almost everyone who works pays payroll taxes, so that 50% figure isn't quite right."  If the person then tries to argue semantics with you about "income tax" vs "payroll tax" then you've already won the argument to the audience in the room because if you're explaining, you're losing.

    The bottom line is the only reason their talking point works at all is because the general public conflates payroll and income taxes all the time.  If you force your right wing friend to explain the difference to make his/her point, they're going to ruin their own talking point.

    Just a suggestion to tack onto this diary.  Again, good work.

    •  Let me suggest... (0+ / 0-)

      that this isn't just about winning arguments, it's about changing minds.  Winning arguments doesn't change minds.  Pointing out inconsistencies and hypocrisies and lies are.

      So in my view, the best response to 'half don't pay taxes' is 'those who are telling you that are liars' and 'those who don't pay income taxes are not 'the other' you think they are.'  

      They don't particularly care about the difference between payroll and income tax.  What they care about is 'the other' doesn't have to pay something they do.  So it's important to make sure they know that 'the other' includes their retired, and their son pulling bong hits and playing Xbox in the basement.

      But also, as I've said to many others in these comments, this is more directed toward the media than designed to be a comeback to a teabagger.

  •  simple rejoinder (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tb mare, Neon Mama

    i'm tired of this "half the people in this country pay no taxes" meme too. my response is "let's raise the minimum wage high enough so that everyone pays income tax."

  •  Another great diary, but let's "dummy it down". (5+ / 0-)

    Cornyn and Warren do what Republicans are so exceptionally good at ... and we definitely are not.

    The Cornyns of the world (a world that includes every Republican candidate for President, all Tea Partiers who can grunt and every Republican so-called leader) get the gist of an issue/problem into one or few code phrases, call it "job-killing" and "costs trillions" or "raises taxes on small business" and drop a simple solution in our laps.  That whole discussion takes about 20 seconds. And then, they move on. Faced with anyone who can ask a few followup questions, the GOP-er either switches the subject away from the merits into code phrases or criticizes the question as biased and misleading. And then they move on.

    Half-truths, often less truth than that, become downright deception ... and they move the discussion on.

    Our diarist equips us to understand, maybe to have a real discussion/debate with facts versus false claims. But the subject has moved to something else and other listeners couldn't tolerate detail anyway. ("taxing units" is what, again?)

    We do not want to sink to the level of the other guy's discourse, but often when we don't, we lose the day. (We may be smarter, more nuanced, more thoughtful ... but we lose the day.)

    Suggestion. For practice, here's one of many possible rejoinders, subject to fact-checking: "That statistic is misleading. The percentages of people or households - pick the measure - who don't pay taxes is a lot smaller. And remember, that's just Federal income taxes, meaning you have to make enough money to pay tax in the first place. But everyone pays sales taxes, and that hits the poor harder, the people who can't sail their new yachts offshore to avoid taxes, or label their income as "earned interest" and pay at lower rates. It's time everyone pays their fair share."

    Obama and strong Democratic majorities in 2012!

    by TRPChicago on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 09:10:35 AM PDT

    •  I've mentioned to many others (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      that this diary isn't about snappy comebacks.  It's about getting the media to stop perpetuating the zombie lie, and perhaps even give some context to what the Joint Committee on Taxation is talking about.

      I agree about your general notion of our inability to frame.  I disagree on 'sinking to their level.'  The media constantly creates false equivalencies.  We're accused of being just as big of liars as they are.  Might as well start to tell a few whoppers of our own.  No harm can come from it.

      I've come up with some more concise rejoinders of my own.  See various comments of mine in this diary.

      •  I completely concur, except that I'm not looking (0+ / 0-)

        ... for comebacks, or maybe I am if you mean a concise reply on the merits-that-should-have-been.

        Waay back, I worked for a couple of years (as a corporate tool in DC) with some of the Joint Tax staff. No more professional and apolitical group of people have I seen on the Hill. But that crowd deals with a very high level of complexity, a level of detail that is OK for blog writers and background - and maybe Rachel with, say, 15 minutes to devote to the topic - but no good when one is confronted with Cornyn-type bombast from the stump or at a dinner party where you have an opportunity to make, say, one key counter-point before you lose the crowd.

        I was pleading for laymen-level, memorable responses.  (As I have RE another diary today, too!) And Yes, there are those in your piece. Keep writing that kind of analysis!

        Obama and strong Democratic majorities in 2012!

        by TRPChicago on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 11:45:42 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Let me know what you think (0+ / 0-)

          of this one.

          Hey TRP, on a different topic...this is my story.  I live in McHenry County, but am willing to commute anywhere in the city (Roosevelt and north), Lake, Kane, or DuPage Counties.

          Any leads or advice you can provide is greatly appreciated.

          •  RE Repostes. (0+ / 0-)

            I, for one, would not stand up in a crowd in front of a GOP stump speaker and talk about bong hits. But then, I'm pretty old, I don't remember much from my youth and even then, that was a reading knowledge only.

            As for not caring about accuracy with wingnuts, I've pretty much given up the goal of convincing them of anything. But I won't quit trying to convince others who might be listening or recording the dialog that the other guy is full of hooey, and that a listener should weigh facts before accepting any Right Wing nutterances. (That's original! Shall I copywrite it?) For that advocacy goal, accuracy is important.

            As for your story/commute, I've been retired and out of the Loop and loops for more than 12 years, but I'll think on your question for a while and leave you a message.

            Obama and strong Democratic majorities in 2012!

            by TRPChicago on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 01:08:54 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Thanks. And re: (0+ / 0-)

              bong hits, that's completely necessary to the rejoinder, so I'll have to start from scratch.  Just kidding.  Leave the bong hits out, or change it to 'stuffing his face with pizza.

              Love nutterances.  In the early days of internet arguments I came up with "douchebaggery."

    •  Tots vs. Yachts - what would Jesus tax? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Fish stix vs. Caviar?

      Bicycle vs. Bentley?

      Hovel vs. Mitt's extra mansions?

      Gruel vs. golden goblets?

      Add your own dichotomies?  

      They don't want to talk about our payroll taxes because it might remind dummies that SS is NOT charity -- but prepaid old age insurance.  

      PS -- it took me so long to pay my small student loan that I repaid original plus 300% more.   I'm so old that I was paying the govt. rather than a bank, so I didn't mind.

      I always thought America is a good investment.  Someone paid for my schools -- so I love paying for next generation's schools.   But then I invested in "war bonds" when I was a kid -- one whole quarter per stamp till my book was full.

      Everybody pays taxes.  Now let us discuss how much and why?

      De fund + de bunk = de EXIT--->>>>>

      by Neon Mama on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 12:02:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for this (0+ / 0-)

    I am going to bookmark it and send it to anyone who repeats this BS talking point.

    Which is good news for John McCain.

    by AppleP on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 09:19:34 AM PDT

  •  50% Pay NO Taxes (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neon Mama, My Left Behind

    Notice how your title says 50% pay no taxes, but in the story you qualify it by saying 50% pay no INCOME taxes. This is exactly what conservatives do. They say that 50% pay no taxes, and drop the word income from their statement.

    Of course, the poor pay social security taxes and sales taxes.  

    But your diary is a good explanation of how the GOP uses misleading statements to create popular myths.

  •  Excellent job! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neon Mama


    HALF of America pays NO taxes.

    Even if it WERE true (which it isn't) regarding federal income taxes, this would still not be true.  There's all kinds of taxes.  As a percentage of income, the poor pay much higher proportion of sales tax, property tax, etc.  

    •  Regressive taxes across the nation (0+ / 0-)

      and the need for a war tax tied to income and state-by-state economic benchmarks are where the conversation needs to be steered after taking apart the "50% pay no taxes" meme.

      Missing is the discussion back in the "Welfare Reform" days about using the tax code to ease the burden on the poor: the Republicans are simply reneging on a deal that hurt the poor much more than was projected at the time. I suppose there is no amount of suffering that will satisfy a neoconservative--or those with a moral code that is a throwback to slavery days,  when the desire to end human suffering--empathy, in current lingo--broke the support for our divided American home.

      The labor of a human being is not a commodity or article of commerce. Clayton Act, Section 6.

      by Ignacio Magaloni on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 08:40:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Every American should pay FEDERAL income tax (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    We all breath the same air and all benefit from government protections, we should all pitch in something.

    Even a token amount like $10 or $20 would go along way toward unifying our country.

    •  No (0+ / 0-)

      Some people don't make enough that we can reasonably expect them to be able to afford anything. Why should someone who's disabled have to pay a net federal income tax when they're barely scraping by on their disability income? Others, like me, pay a significantly higher rate in the country where we do live and work. Furthermore, in what way would paying a token amount go anyway toward unifying out country? It's more that we'd just be kicking the people that are down.

      Research science: a series of failures sporadically punctuated by success

      by dpryan on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 12:30:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thus the intrinsic issue with taxing benefits... (0+ / 0-)

        ...from the government.  

        You are kind of taking away with one hand and giving with the other.

        However, the IRS decided that everything should be "income" and the rest just kind of took care of itself...

  •  I paid no federal income tax last year (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neon Mama

    That's because I started a business a few years ago and am paying myself very little (and living off accumulated assets that allowed me to start a company).

    Like many who are making a lot less than they used to for a variety of reasons, many of us own homes, pay mortgages and pay property taxes.  Those deductions were enough to erase my federal tax bill.  

    Don't think I didn't pay taxes, though.  Almost 50% of the income I DID make went to some form of tax.

    West. No further west. All sea. -- Robert Grenier

    by Nicolas Fouquet on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 10:36:42 AM PDT

  •  I would be more interested in a study on the rich (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neon Mama

    they disproportionately benefit from government services, but the rich are not paying their fair share for them.  It would be good to see some hard numbers on that.

  •  Why Aren't The Republicans Concerned With (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neon Mama

    corporations that pay no income taxes, like GE?  I am a part time tax preparer, and here are the income thresholds (for 2009) people need to make to file income tax returns: For Single filers- income of at least $9,350 if under age 65 or $10,750 if over age 65. For married filing jointly - income of at least $18,700 if both spouses are under age 65, or $19,800 if one spouse is 65 or older and one spouse is under age 65, or $20,900 if both spouses are 65 or older. For married filing separately - an income of at least $3,650 no matter what your age. For head of household filers, income of at least $12,000 if under age 65 or $13,400 if 65 or older. For widow or widower filers - income of at least $15,500 if under age 65, or $16150 if age 65 or older. These numbers suggest that the people who aren't required to file income tax returns (and thus don't owe any income taxes) are either elderly living on Social Security, students with part time jobs, or people making minimum wage.
    The RepubliCONS make it seem like a lot of people who don't pay income taxes are freeloading - another BS piece of rightwing spin.  

  •  And the drum beat goes on (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neon Mama

    When "media" corporations hand the bullhorn to liars without rebuttal they become active participants in the propaganda process.  The media bias stinks in the extreme.  

    Your post does a nice job of debunking the lie-de-jure but why stop there?  Why don't we investigate how many of the top 1% don't pay any taxes (or even receive subsidies)?  And of those top earners why not ask questions about where the money comes from?  The Koch brothers admitted to stealing hundreds of millions of dollars of oil from public lands and paid a minor fine.  And that's only what they admitted to.  The list would go on for many pages.  

    The Long War is not on Iraq, Afghanistan, or Iran. It is on the American people.

    by Geonomist on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 10:58:04 AM PDT

  •  It was slightly encouraging to me (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neon Mama

    to talk to my new tea-party nephew-in-law (whose very young wife parrots his views) and see the light come on when I told him that the poor do indeed pay taxes, just not necessarily federal (or possibly even state) income tax. Given all the batcrap he listens to and reads regularly, it was no surprise to me that he'd never thought about that before.

    Unfortunately, he's sure the hell not the only one who hasn't thought through this issue. But it was encouraging to see him take in a new thought and find it acceptable.

  •  I expect my wife and I are one of them this year.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Neon Mama

    one of those no federal income tax paying tax-units, that is. Off course, that fact that we live and work in a foreign country and pay 42% federal income tax here (n.b., that includes things like health insurance) wouldn't stop the intellectually dishonest from including us in some sort of non-existent "free loader" group.

    Nice job exposing this absurdist talking point for what it is.

    Research science: a series of failures sporadically punctuated by success

    by dpryan on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 12:23:29 PM PDT

    •  Nope, you are a US federal income tax payer (0+ / 0-)

      at least according to Tax Policy Center.  From the diary...

      Another interesting factoid is that approximately 433,000 tax units have incomes over $100K per year and pay no federal income tax, and that this number would be higher if the Tax Policy Center didn't decide to exclude from that number those paying income taxes to foreign governments but not the United State government.
  •  Exact words of the other half of the canard (0+ / 0-)

    is escaping me.  Something like richest X percent pay X percent of taxes.

    It needs to continue/be countered to include ---"and own X percent of all wealth."  

    PS -- I paid "income tax" on the income when I loaned the government my Social Security dollars.  That's why it makes no sense to tax it AGAIN as it comes back to me.  My apologies to those who are angry that I'm not dying faster.     Just think of me as one of those bad home mortgage deals they sold.  SS fund is fine if they STOP doing stupid "payroll tax" holiday.

    They don't like it because they have to MATCH the low paid workers contribution.  They want to give themselves another break, and break the system to kill it.

    De fund + de bunk = de EXIT--->>>>>

    by Neon Mama on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 12:23:57 PM PDT

  •  Reagan was who pushed income tax relief for poor (0+ / 0-)

    None of the these right wingers know or recall that it was Ronald Reagan who (backed by the Heritage Foundation expanded massively the Earned Income Tax Credit for lower income workers.

    The argument by right wingers then was that income taxation was evil, but for the moment a necessary evil.

    Therefore it was even more evil to tax those of us least able to pay -- not only did you not get much money, but you were destroying their likelihood of earning their way out of poverty.

    Now they act like income tax relief for the lower income'd among us is some radical liberal notion.

    No, it's not:  it's an anti-tax philosophy from Republicans.

  •  Wow this is complicated... (0+ / 0-)

    You have done an awesome job of exposing a bunch of baloney from the right. But the whole analysis raises more questions. Here are some I have that I think would be useful to know:

    1) What precisely is a tax unit? Are all income earners tax units?  

    2) Can anyone who does not earn income be defined as a tax unit?

    3) What percent of income earners pay income taxes? Or stated inversely, what percentage of individuals who earn revenue do not pay any income taxes?

    4) What is the total amount of income taxes paid by wage earners below median income and how much does it compare, as a percentage of total wealth, with the amounts paid by those in the top 20% of wealth. For example, if my brother has a net worth of 5K, earns 10K and pays 1K in taxes, he just paid an amount equivalent to 20% of his net worth. On the other hand, if my brother has a networth of 2 million, earns 200K and pays 60K in taxes, he pays an amount equal only to 3% of his networth.  This would suggest the relative tax burdens on the rich and poor.  This kind of analysis would be meaningful.

  •  Wow. That was some impressive analysis. (0+ / 0-)

    I'm bookmarking this diary.

    Barack Obama: So morally bankrupt that he thinks people who tortured other people to death should get a pass. Likes to prosecute whistleblowers, though.

    by expatjourno on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 01:51:28 PM PDT

  •  Neither do more than half of U.S. corporations (0+ / 0-)

    And that's no myth.
    I think Bernie diaried this here recently:

    And I think those corporations made a heck of a lot more money than the bottom 50% of individuals.

  •  This is fine, but the real issue here (0+ / 0-)

    is what several people have pointed out--the right wing meme on this point talks about federal income taxes as if those represented ALL taxes.  Yes, the income tax claim itself is faulty and misleading as you point out, but the claim that half of Americans pay no taxes is a bald-faced lie even apart from that.

    ALL Americans pay taxes, in the form of sales taxes, social security/FICA taxes (double if self-employed), gas taxes, car tag fees, other property taxes, and so on.  The difference is, most of these taxes are regressive with respect to income.  State and local taxes in total are regressive in every state except Vermont.  The most progressive tax (besides the estate tax, which conservatives hate worst of all) is the federal income tax, so that is what the right wingers pick on.

    Total taxation in this country is only modestly progressive at lower incomes, and it becomes regressive at higher incomes.  And this is only looking at income.  If you consider wealth as a factor in ability to pay, the whole system looks much more regressive.  And if you consider the impact on a person's life from what they pay, the reality is that even the same percentage of income affects someone who is poor much more than someone who has plenty of money to meet daily needs.  The BURDEN of taxes on the poor is much greater than on the wealthy in this nation, and our overall system of taxation is more regressive than most developed nations in the world.  And I won't even get into the matter of effective corporate taxes (as opposed to nominal rates) and all the mechanisms the wealthy have to keep income from counting as income in the first place.  If there are freeloaders on our system, it is the wealthy, not the poor, and the "fifty percent of Americans pay no taxes" meme is a deliberate lie to obscure that reality.

    Civil marriage is a civil right.

    by UU VIEW on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 02:32:49 PM PDT

  •  The diary is well meaning, but Warren's claim (0+ / 0-)

    omits payroll taxes which are highly highly regressive - and ignores state taxes etc where applicable.  

  •  I'm sorry... (0+ / 0-)

    but this diary over complicates this issue.

    The bottom 50% don't pay any taxes because they own only 2% of the wealth.  The top 50% own 98% percent of the wealth.  Thus, the fact that the bottom 50% don't pay any taxes MAKES sense.

    Similarly, the top 1% control 42% of the wealth.  As such, they should also pay a disproportionate percentage of taxes.


  •  Two-thirds of American corporations didn’t pay tax (0+ / 0-)

    Two-thirds of American corporations didn’t pay any taxes in 2005.
    Remember that little zinger from the Government Accountability Office? You can throw in the superrich, peasants! No worse than peasants—beggars.  

    Government tax collection is at a 50yr low…and they want to impose austerity…on you

    Nudniks need not apply.

    by killermiller on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 05:18:42 PM PDT

  •  Single people who rent (0+ / 0-)

    pay the most taxes of anybody.   No dependents to claim and no mortgage interest deduction - it always means taking the "standard deduction".   I have to wonder why I am subsidizing someone else's mortgage?  And having kids is a choice, is it not?  Why can't I declare a cat or dog as a dependent?  And the interest on a new car?  Or rent?

    •  As mentioned in the diary... (0+ / 0-)
      To understand the report, you need a quick background in what the IRS and tax analysts consider 'standard' and what is considered a 'tax break.'  Congresses past, in their grand generosity, decided that Americans should not be taxed on the portion of their income that is estimated to be necessary to supply a minimal amount of basic human necessities.  

      People with kids, and people who own homes, spend more for a minimal amount of basic human necessities.  Thus larger exemptions.

      You can't deduct a cat or a dog because they aren't human beings and take far less money to raise than providing even basic human existence does.

      Home ownership is something the government always favors, thus it is incentivized, in part by the mortgage interest (and property tax) itemized deductions.  

  •  Has everyone forgotten? (0+ / 0-)

    If you repeat something long enough and get the mass-media parroting it..

    For all intents and purposes - it becomes "true."

    Excellent analysis/diary.

    "Insanity runs in my family - It practically gallops." - Best movie line ever.

    by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 06:31:17 PM PDT

  •  half of large oil corps pay no income tax (0+ / 0-)
  •  the working poor pay as much taxes (0+ / 0-)

    on the first 20,000 dollars of their income as the rest of us do.

  •  Thanks!!! (0+ / 0-)

    My brother is in town for a few days and this was one of the topics last night at dinner...
    I remembered seeing you diary and I am so glad I have this information to talk to him about the talking-points about tax base.

    Thanks for the very logical and understandable information on a very complex topic.

    Great Job!!

    Radical Activist Homosexual Agenda: 1. Equality 2. See #1

    by skip945 on Wed Aug 24, 2011 at 07:01:43 AM PDT

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