Who and Where are the 47% ‘Non-Tax Payers’?

This is not meant to be a political post per se, but after the ‘leaked’ video of Mitt Romney came out this week showing him talking about the 47% of Americans who don’t pay taxes (by which he meant income taxes, not taxes in general), there has been some interesting discussion.

I wouldn’t have cared much, but one of the highlighted Kindle deals yesterday was What’s the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, which looks at the question of “Why do so many of us vote against our economic interests?”

So with that as a backdrop we have info from The Atlantic about WHERE the 47% live … and surprisingly they found that “eight of the top 10 states with the highest number of nonpayers are red states”. Here is a snip from the Tax Foundation:

According to the latest IRS figures for 2008, a record 52 million filers—36 percent of the 143 million who filed a tax return—had no tax liability because their credits and deductions reduced their liability to zero. Indeed, tax credits such as the child tax credit and earned income tax credit have become so generous that a family of four earning up to about $52,000 can expect to have their income tax liability erased entirely.

There are millions of other Americans who have some income but not enough to be required to file a tax return. The Tax Policy Center has estimated that when these people are added to the 52 million nonpaying filers, some 47 percent of all households pay no income taxes at all.

As noted, this is about INCOME taxes, not taxes in general. Interestingly, as shown in the following table, across the board things are more equal, as noted. “The fact of the matter is that the American tax code as a whole is almost perfectly flat. The bottom 20% of earners make 3% of the income and pay 2% of the taxes; the middle 20% make 11% and pay 10%; and the top 1% make 21% and pay 22%.”

This election season has already shown some interesting things, including new details about private sector job creation and government growth over the last half-century. Contrary to what I and most people thought, under Democratic presidents there was more job growth and under Republican presidents there was a greater increase in the size of government – specifically “payrolls increased by 42 million jobs under Democratic administrations, and 24 million under Republican ones.” Which – to me, anyway – does more to remind us that a president has only so much actual power to control jobs and the economy in spite of what partisans would have you believe.

All of this feeds into one of the things that bothers me the most in this election – “partisanship gone wild”. We are already a deeply divided country where civil discourse seems a thing of the past – just check your Facebook feed on a weekly basis; think about how many ‘Chik-fil-A defriends’ you had, and so on. This week we have learned that both parties have largely abandoned chasing ‘undecideds’ in favor of focusing on their base, as noted here:

Mitt Romney’s campaign has concluded that the 2012 election will not be decided by elusive, much-targeted undecided voters — but by the motivated partisans of the Republican base.

The article is about Romney, but an Obama article would read much the same – both sides feel there are more ‘base’ votes at play than reliable ‘undecideds’. Sadly, what that says to me is that on January 20th, regardless of who wins, the nation will be even more deeply divided and full of acrimonious rancor than now.

Categories: Editorials