GOP Disdain for Americans Who Don’t Pay Income Taxes

There is a growing chorus of Republicans singing the same tune about a recent report that 46% of Americans pay no federal incomes taxes. The voices include Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry to name the most prominent. I posit that the reason they point to this statistic is to offer further proof towards a longstanding conservative narrative that there are people in this country getting a free ride. That these people are the freeloaders that are taking advantage of the “productive class” in this country.

These claims are – at best – attacks on low-income, hard-working Americans and – at worst – could be considered thinly veiled racism when you take into account the wealth and income disparity of minorities. This unjustified attack on lower-income families highlights an ugly side of human nature, assuming the worst in others. I don’t exempt myself from this as I think we all have it in us. We are all guilty at one time or another of assuming something bad about another person without all the facts. I’d like to think the key difference between myself – and I hope many other fellow progressives and liberals – is that we don’t base our legislation and public policy on these ugly human traits. We might be guilty of these traits at times but we recognize it’s wrong and would never try to impose this ugliness on others in the form of public speeches and discriminatory laws.

What is it that Republicans wish to carry out by stating that 46% of Americans pay no federal income tax? How can this be anything other than assuming something bad about those Americans? Why do they jump to a negative conclusion instead of finding out the reason so many don’t pay income taxes? In some cases I believe it is ignorance, but in other cases I believe it is a deliberate deception to support a pre-existing narrative.

The 46% figure only represents federal income taxes. What you don’t hear Republicans saying is that these Americans still pay many other taxes including payroll tax for Medicare and Social Security, gasoline tax, state and local taxes, sales tax in most states and real estate taxes if they are lucky enough to own a home. After paying these taxes along with living expenses how much do you think would be left over for federal income tax for a family of four living on $25,000 a year? Within the conservative bubble the response might be to get a better job. But let’s face it, tens of millions already can’t find a bad job so a good job is a distant dream. On top of that – and let’s be blunt – we expect many people to work these low paying, labor intensive jobs for society to work. It’s simply living a fantasy to think that there is a good paying job for every American that wants one if they only lived the American dream and worked hard. I believe “bootstraps” are worked into this fantasy if not mistaken.

The truth is that there are many Americans working hard and making next to nothing. Why do Republicans speak of these hard-working Americans with such disdain?


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