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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PoliticsTax Fairness

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  • Great article, David. There are no “bootstraps” these days by which Americans can pull themselves up. How many of our used-to-be jobs have been out-sourced? Those who have lost their jobs are working in fast food places—if they are lucky enough to even find work there. Unemployment has run out for many and if they are people of a certain age, chances of being re-hired in a similar position are nil. I also believe that there is latent racism in this country and that it is an impetus for at least some of the Tea Party members. The poor and the elderly have become disposable commodities to the GOP.

  • Well said. There is no question that outsourcing is a big problem. Giving more money to the “job creators” doesn’t bring these jobs back. The goal of a for-profit company is to make a profit and with modern capitalism run amuck, make a bigger profit each quarter. If outsourcing is one way to increase profits, a tax break isn’t going to change that decision. Another area is public sector jobs. If not for big losses in the public sector we would be growing jobs in this country at a much higher clip then we have been over the past 18 months. But even without those losses, job creation would still not be at a level required given how many people are out of work.

  • You are so right; giving more money to these corporations has not and will not create jobs. I don’t think a break on payroll taxes will either. If these corporations are trying to make so much money, why does the Market continue to tank? One guess is that few can afford to buy the products they produce. Oh for the good old days when things were still Made in America.

  • I don’t think a break on payroll taxes will make a big difference either but at least that goes to the people which means some of it will work itself into the economy. But I think if government is going to spend money to get the economy going, and I think it should, there are much better areas to spend. Government spending money to give a tax cut (and that’s what it is when the government already has a deficit) in order to stimulate the economy (knowing tax increases later will have to pay for it) seems foolish. Instead spend the money on things that will create jobs and improve this country’s assets for us and future generations.

  • David, I agree with you. These tax cuts seem absurd, given the high deficit we already have. I will anxious to hear what Obama’s Jobs Plan is, but I have little hope that anything worthy he proposes will make its way past this entrenched Congress whose only agenda seems to be to have Obama fail, at any cost to the country.

    • It’s amazing how inflexible the right is on spending due to the deficit but they have no problem keeping taxes low or lowering them further when we have a huge deficit and two wars. No problem.