It seems that Mitt Romney took up—though admittedly in a private gathering—the dangerously misleading statistic about how 47 percent of Americans pay no income taxes. I pushed back against this last year after Tom Neven wrote a misguided First Thoughts post on the subject. Here’s what I had to say:
Many writers (including, ahem, one guest poster to this blog) have fretted that the 47 percent of Americans who pay nothing in income taxes are freeloaders who pose a threat to the nation’s moral fabric. This worry has issued recently in the unusual spectacle of a Republican presidential candidate calling for tax increases. Not on the rich, but on the poor.
There are a few problems with this idea, but the most obvious is that Americans who pay no income taxes do pay a battery of other taxes, including sales tax, property tax, and payroll tax. Indeed, a substantial percentage of these citizens pay no income tax because of family-friendly tax reform ideas like the child credit.
It would be a shame if religiously motivated voters embraced rhetoric aimed against family-friendly policies they successfully championed in the past. As Ramesh Ponnuru warns in a new article for National Review, “worrying too much about this number will lead conservatives down an intellectual and political dead end.”
As I said then, I strongly encourage you to read Ramesh’s full take. Mike Konczal also has a good post showing how most members of the 47 percent pay income taxes within two years. The idea that half the nation is part of some dependent class is an utter myth.
Anna Williams, Makers vs. Takers
R.R. Reno, Absurd Republican Rhetoric