Liberal media bias? My ass.
Donny Deutsch—a regular guest on MSNBC’s non-liberal morning show, a guest who adds exactly nothing of substance to any discussion—said this morning that Romney’s “47% blunder” can be turned into a winner, if Romney will only “draw the harsh line” and say,
“You know what…maybe I didnt’ say it eloquently. The sentiment is right; this is an entitle [sic] country; it’s a weak country, and things have gotta change.” You take up the rage factor. I think there’s something there, I really do.
Yeah, Donny. That’s what Romney needs is more rage. That’ll get him those few undecided votes left.
But it wasn’t Deutsch’s stupidity that appalled me this morning. It was Joe Scarborough’s reply to it:
I really do, too. And Ronald Reagan, if he were around right now…Margaret Thatcher, other conservatives, would use this—and be optimistic about it; he’s been pessimistic about it—but would use this to say, “Listen, we’re getting to a point where one out of two Americans don’t pay income taxes, don’t contribute to the federal government, don’t contribute to schools, don’t contribute…”
Not one person on the weak panel, including Mika Brzezinski, who spends most of the show in silence in the face of such outrageous claims made by right-wingers, bothered to remind Morning Joe that he was an ignorant fool, that almost all Americans, and certainly all working Americans, do contribute to the national well-being, and most of them contribute a higher percentage of their resources than Mitt Romney, and, dare I say it, Joe Bleeping Scarborough.
As I said, liberal media bias my ass.
For the gazillionth time, here are the facts:
It’s true that some Americans don’t pay federal income tax. But virtually all Americans pay some form of tax, whether it’s sales, payroll, state income, or property tax.
Over 60% of those who don’t pay income tax are working; they pay payroll tax, which goes to support Social Security and Medicare. Another 22% of those who don’t pay income tax are the elderly; most of them don’t work.
In fact, only about 8% of Americans pay neither federal income tax nor payroll tax, because they are unemployed, are students, or are disabled.
What is missing from all this talk about tax is the fact that although the rich pay higher taxes than the poor, middle-class people actually pay a higher percentage of their income in total taxes. True, federal income tax rates are progressive, with rates going to 35% for the top earners. But deductions and special treatment of capital gains reduce actual tax rates for the top earners. So what we end up with is upper-middle-class taxpayers paying the highest actual percentage of their income, over 31%, according to a 2010 study by the group Citizens for Tax Justice.*
And finally, from the same article:
Digging deeper into why 47% don’t pay federal income tax, what we find are many former taxpayers: Twenty-two percent are the elderly, living mostly on Social Security, a benefit they got by working and paying payroll taxes. Others are unemployed or are paid close to the minimum wage, so they don’t have enough income to file any taxes.
What about Romney’s claim that these people believe they have a right to government assistance? Our research shows that over 50% of older people looking for work (but who are too young to collect Social Security) do not receive unemployment insurance or any other government assistance. They are living close to the poverty line with no help other than family.
Far fewer poor Americans get government assistance for low incomes. For the last 30 years, less than 4% of the U.S. population has received a full year’s worth of payments, like food stamps, which are based on level of income.
Romney can choose whom he cares about, but he can’t be allowed to choose his own facts and distort reality in service of divisive politics. Focusing exclusively on federal income taxes hides the fact that most Americans pay plenty of other taxes.
Finally, Romney says that the 47% can’t be convinced to take “personal responsibility.” Tell that to the single mother working the night shift to put her kids through school, or the 78-year-old widow living on Social Security, or the handicapped Iraqi war veteran who relies on government health care for his service to his country. Along with millions of working Americans, they are paragons of personal responsibility, not Romney’s caricature of self-pitying victims seeking to live off government benefits.
* I add the following, from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
When all federal, state, and local taxes are taken into account, the bottom fifth of households pays about 16 percent of their incomes in taxes, on average. The second-poorest fifth pays about 21 percent.