Preferental option “against” the poor
It’s no longer enough to try to pay for massive upper income tax cuts by gutting the social programs that help the poor. The latest front in the war on the poor revolves around taxes. An obnoxious group is prancing around claiming that they are part of the 53 percent that pays taxes, and they want to raise taxes on the other 47 percent, the “freeloaders”. Yes, the cat is out of the bag! Republicans want to raise taxes on the poorest, to keep low (or cut further) the taxes on the richest. Obscene?
But let’s break this down. This notion that 47 percent do not pay taxes is simply false. People are looking only the federal income tax. They ignore payroll taxes, which raise about as much in revenue, and tend to burden poorer people more. They ignore the state and local taxes which also tend to be regressive. They ignore a lot. Jonathan Chait presents the the total picture. The bottom line is that taxes are really not that progressive at all. The richest one percent gets about 20 percent of the income and pays about 20 percent of the taxes.
Let’s go back to the federal income tax. The fact that so many people escape this particular tax net is because their income is low, and because they have allowances for dependents (otherwise known as “families”). There was once a time when real conservatives supported things like the negative income tax and in-work benefits like the earned income tax credit as a way to help the working poor avoid poverty without contributing to a cycle of dependency. That was when they thought about these things seriously. That hasn’t been for a while. Instead, we have descended into an infantile Ayn Rand charade, in which the poor are attacked at a time when inequality is the highest since the gilded age. Should we laugh or cry?