I have written in the past about the real unfairness of the tax code. [Taxes, Taxes, Taxes, July 18, 2011]
For a while, though, I found the "pay their fair share" mantra extremely seductive. It's easy and attractive to go after the 1%. It's so attractive that the supporters who ride the "tax the rich bandwagon" either don't bother to check the math, or they don't believe the facts, or they don't want to hear the facts. If taxing the rich does not solve our governments' debt problems, we will have to come up with more complex and painful solutions.
First, to increase the taxes on the rich will not solve the problem. If we tax the top 1% of our income earners at a rate of 100%, it will not solve our problem. There are not enough people in the top 1%, and their total annual income would not significantly reduce the debt.
Second, the rich people (with a few notable exceptions) are already paying more than their fair share of taxes:
- The top 20% of taxpayers earned 51% of the nation's personal income, but in 2009 they paid 68% of the total federal taxes. That's more than their fair share.
- The top 1% of taxpayers earned 13% of the income, but paid 29% of all federal taxes. That's more than twice their fair share.
- The bottom 20% of taxpayers earned only 5% of the income, but paid only 0.3% of all federal taxes. That's not a fair share, but most of us concede that the very poorest should not have to bear a tax burden.
Remember, too, that 46% of tax filers pay no federal taxes at all. That's not just poor people. Almost 7,000 people in the top 1% pay no federal taxes. Many more of that middle 60% also pay no federal tax as well, but a lot of people are falling hook, line and sinker for the "tax the rich" slogan.
Some people consider taxes just to be a fee for the services the government provides. If that is the case, then 46% of our people are gettting all those govenment services free of charge, while the rest of us are over-paying for them.
Reducing government spending by itself will not reduce the nation's annual deficit. Some tax increases will be necessary. But, like it or not, some of the freeloading 41% will have to chip in, including some of that middle 60% who are not paying their fair share.
Our Congressmen don't want to tell us that. They do not want to propose specific, realistic debt reduction plans. If they do, we the people won't re-elect them. So instead, they throw us the "make the rich people pay their fair share" slogan. Don't fall for it.