Mike Kueber's Blog

September 18, 2012

More on the 47%

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 9:48 pm
Tags: , ,

Mitt Romney’s informal comments about the 47% of American households that are not paying any federal income tax have taken over the 24-hour news cycle.  Some pundits think the comments have torpedoed Romney’s electoral prospects; others think it will bring the focus of the campaign back to this nation’s dismal economy.

As with any other topic that dominates the 24-hour news cycle, this one is approached from a number of different angles.  An angle that I found particularly interesting was discussed in Ezra Klein’s blog in the Washington Post.   This informative piece, which was actually posted by Brad Plumer, makes eight points about the 47% figure, the first of which is supportive of Romney and the other seven attempt to portray the number as misleading.

  1. The 47% figure is accurate.  [Actually, 46.4% of all America households don’t pay federal income tax.  Some news reports incorrectly apply the percentage to individual Americans, not households.]
  2. The number is abnormally high due to the recession and tepid recovery.  [As our president, Barack Obama deserves a lion’s share of responsibility for the tepid recovery.]
  3. The vast majority of non-payers are either elderly or paying Social Security taxes.  [Contributing toward your Social Security pension is totally different than contributing toward the operation of our nation.]
  4. Many non-payers achieved that status due to Republican-endorsed tax-reduction initiatives, primarily the Social Security exemption for the elderly and the earned-income tax credit (EITC) for parents.  [No one is arguing that Republicans have not contributed to the current distressing situation.]
  5. Many non-payers achieved that status due to the Republicans’ across-the-board tax cuts – i.e., Reagan’s and Bush’s.  [No one is arguing that Republicans have not contributed to the current distressing situation.]    
  6. The majority of non-payers who receive the EITC become tax-payers within a year or two.  [So what?  Some go off the dole; some others come on.  All while the 47% figure continues higher.]
  7. The vast majority of non-payers will pay in the future or have paid in the past.  [So what?  Some go off the dole; some others come on.  All while the 47% figure continues higher.]
  8. Most non-payers pay state and local taxes that are typically regressive.  [So what?  Romney’s point is that almost half of American households have “no skin in the game” when it comes to maintaining our federal government.]

If Klein and Plumer had hoped to persuade us that having 47% of American households paying nothing for the operation of the federal government is OK, they failed.

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