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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.

See also: 

Anna Williams,  Makers vs. Takers

R.R. Reno Absurd Republican Rhetoric

Joseph Knippenberg,  Homo Sapiens  and  Homo Economicus

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