Debunking The Myth That 47% Of Americans Are Freeloaders

By Yashwanth Manjunath

By now everyone has seen or heard of Mitt Romney’s controversial remarks about 47 percent of Americans. How they pay no income tax, feel they are “victims” entitled to government services, and will thus vote for Obama. Naturally he’s received plenty of criticism for how tactless and insulting he was towards nearly half the country, particularly for how politically stupid his statements were. But what has not received enough attention is how demonstrably false the actual substance of his comments were.

Yes, it is true that 47 percent of Americans do not pay federal income tax. But as Paul Krugman has already pointed out:

…the great bulk of those who pay no income tax pay other taxes; also, many of the people in the no-income-tax category are (a) elderly (b) students or (c) having a bad year, having lost a job — that is, they’re people who have paid income taxes in the past and/or will pay income taxes in the future.

One group Krugman neglected to mention are troops serving in combat, they also pay no federal income tax.

But what about the freeloaders who really are just flat out not earning enough money to have an income tax burden? Those lucky individuals who make less than $10,000 a year? They still have to pay the federal payroll tax, which amounts to 6.2% of income for everyone making up to $110,100 a year, at which point it is capped. So while the person making less than $10,000 a year is paying 6.2% of their income in federal payroll tax, a person making $22 million, like Romney did in 2010, would pay roughly 0.03% of their income. But that’s not all.

When you look at the state and local levels, factoring in income, sales, excise, and property taxes, on average the poorest 20 percent of earners pay 11 percent of their income in total state and local taxes, and the second poorest 20 percent of earners pay 10 percent of their income in state and local taxes. Meanwhile, the richest 1 percent pay  only 5 percent of their income in total state and local taxes. In states like Washington and Florida the tax structures are even more regressive with the poor paying 17.3% and 13.5% of their incomes in taxes respectively, while the richest 1 percent pay 2.9% and 2.6%. When ALL federal, state, and local taxes are taken into account, the bottom fifth of households pays about 16 percent of their income in taxes on average, while the second fifth pays about 21 percent.

So to summarize, the so called “47 percent” do pay taxes, they are not freeloaders sucking off the government teat without contributing any money into the system, and many of them actually pay more in taxes than Romney and his criminal friends on Wall Street. Especially after they take advantage of all of the loopholes, deductions, and exemptions our tax code (and Bermuda, and the Cayman Islands) have to offer for wealthy people fortunate enough to hire an army of high-priced tax lawyers.