Often-Repeated Lies26 Jun 2005 / Hostile Witness
A lie repeated often enough becomes truth.
As the GOP drifts further to the right, and becomes more starkly the party of the wealthy, it is gaining support among the working class.
I have never seen a wholly satisfactory explanation for this trend, which now spans two generations. . . . Republicans, of course, will argue that it’s simply the working man’s understanding that the GOP has the better argument, i.e., that the best way to help the working class is to shower the rich with tax breaks. But the Bush administration has been showering the rich with tax breaks for more than four years, and the working class has nothing to show for it.
Often-Repeated Lie #1
The first lie is that “rich” people are not paying their fair share in taxes. In fact, as everyone knows, the income tax is a progressive tax — the more you make, the more you pay.
A look at a summary of federal individual income tax data for 2002 (this seems to be the most recent data available) makes this obvious:
- The top 1 percent of earners paid 33.71 percent of the federal income tax, the top 5 percent of earners paid 53.8 percent, and the top 10 percent of earners paid 65.73 percent.
- The top 50 percent of earners paid 96.5 percent of the federal income tax, meaning that taxpayers in the lower 50 percent paid almost nothing.
Often-Repeated Lie #2
rich, adj.: having abundant possessions and especially material wealth.
The second lie involves the deliberate misuse of the word “rich.”
I imagine that someone like Timothy Noah, in using the word “rich,” would like you to picture in your mind people who have more than enough money to satisfy any normal set of needs and desires.
But in the context of the income tax, you don’t pay taxes on money you have, you pay taxes on money you earn. You could have a zillion dollars in a vault like Scrooge McDuck and your income tax bill on that would be zero.
So “rich,” in this context, doesn’t mean rich, it means that you have a high income relative to other taxpayers.
How high is “high”?
Well, using the 2002 numbers, an AGI of $92,663 would have put you in the top 10 percent of earners who paid 65.73 percent of the taxes.
I live in Southern California . . . maybe that skews my perspective . . . but I don’t think most families making $92,663 a year consider themselves rich.
Often-Repeated Lie #3
Timothy Noah divides America into two distinct groups: 1) the “rich,” who are being showered with tax breaks; and 2) the “working class,” who have nothing to show for it.
In other words, rich people don’t work, and working people aren’t rich.
Which group am I in? Let’s see . . .
I went to college, I got a job, I went to night school, I went to grad school, I’ve worked hard for 20 years to keep my skills current, and as a result of all this, I’m able to make a decent living as a software consultant.
My wife is not from this country, not a native English speaker, but by working 12 or more hours most days in a commission-based sales job, she too is able to make a decent living.
We seem to be “working class” people, and yet, according to the income tax code, based on our combined income, we are considered “rich.”
Those tax breaks I’m supposedly being showered with? I have no idea what they are. I do know that a lot of deductions available to most taxpayers are phased out in the higher brackets so we don’t get them.
This “soak the rich” nonsense really bugs me. It’s based on lies and contempt . . .