I had an interesting conversation with my father-in-law last night. The conversation went very well, but I need your help to finish it. Before I go on, let me describe the context:
- He is a retired physician, my mother-in-law a retired (private school) teacher
- They are affluent by most definitions of that word, but don’t live that way.
- When I married his daughter nearly 17 years ago, both he and his wife voted Republican
- The combination of my constant input to the insanity of the GOP’s politics and the witnessing of that insanity has made it so the last two presidential election cycles, they have voted for Obama.
- Regardless of that, they voted for Proposition 8 in 2008.
- They don’t understand why we need to reform our immigration laws.
- He is very much open to influence and persuasion (meaning: he isn’t an ideologue)
- We never yell about politics, but we don’t always agree. They are the kind of conversations you wish you could have with your weird Uncle Joe from Fresno who is a Tea Party and NRA member
So last night was my daughter’s 14th birthday and she wanted to have her grandparents over for dinner (they’re very close). As normal, I’m sitting next to my father-in-law. Near the end of the meal, we start talking about the stock market (I work as an investment advisor for a Wall Street firm…this topic ALWAYS comes up), the fiscal cliff, etc, and as you might assume, the discussion quickly moves into politics.
He brings up the subject of the 47% who never pay taxes. I asked him if he really believes 47% of Americans don’t pay any taxes. He thought about it for a moment and said, “I guess I hadn’t thought about it thoroughly.” I told him that there is a bit of truth to that statement, but primarily it’s a pejorative declaration meant to make nearly half the citizens of this country seem like lazy moochers. In other words, it’s a statement meant to bring out fear and hate. He considered what I said when I added that there are “income” taxes that some people don’t pay, but there is also “payroll, state, local & sales taxes” that we all pay. He called the moochers, the “leeches.” I asked him if his mother was a leech, because she didn’t pay any income taxes. He paused, mentioned both his mother and his mother-in-law (both deceased now) and said “No, they didn’t pay income taxes.” He did not consider them leeches. I told him that many people living off of Social Security don’t pay income taxes. He retorted that yes they do because HE does. I told him that he pays some taxes on his social security income because he augments that with money coming out of his retirement plans. “Imagine you only have Social Security. Your income is so low, you pay no income taxes. Most people in the US live that way.” He nodded his head.
I segued into living wages. Of that 47%, there are a significant number of them who have jobs (and families!) presently. They are not living off the social welfare programs. I mentioned that if you are married and earning $15,000 or less, you don’t pay income taxes (I believe the real number is $17,400). Again, he hadn’t considered that. His thought was that you had to be living off of welfare to not pay taxes. His comment back to me made me smile (if not caught me a little off guard), “Yes,” he said, “working people deserve a living wage.” Already I could see that he was melting from his position that many Americans don’t deserve the wrath of the Right for their lot in life.
But then he came back to “the leeches” and described how when he was a new doctor practicing in Ohio (we all live in California now), there were so many patients who came in for care that didn’t have work and claimed they didn’t even want to look for it. They were the leeches he was referring to. I brought up Clinton’s Welfare to Work program that has been successful in transitioning many people out of that situation, and again, he hadn’t put that into the equation. His thinking was from the 70’s. Then he asked me a question I didn’t know the answer to and really don’t know how to find it. Perhaps you can help: He asked, “Of the 47%, how many are those folks who are truly living off the government [in terms of being on perpetual welfare]?”
So that is my question to you…to anybody who may know the answer and be able to help me finish this conversation. Do you know how many of the 47% are actual perpetual welfare recipients? Where might I find resources to back this up? I’d love to find the actual percentage (or a chart) that highlights this information.
Thank you dear DKos community. And Happy New Year!