Liberals Are Out to Get Me, So Let’s Tax the Poor
Republican Senator Orrin Hatch recently made a public statement chock-full of erroneous junk and studded with error. Let’s take a look. First, the merely political:
“It touched a nerve because last week after I raised this issue on the Senate floor, MSNBC and the liberal blogosphere — presumably armed with the talking points from the Senate Democrat war room — went ballistic suggesting that I wanted to balance the budget by raising taxes on the poor,” Hatch said.
This is more a political standby than an error, but citing MSNBC as a liberal bastion is not entirely accurate. It’s just the best that they have now. It used to be CBS–remember when that was what people used to counter Fox News? Not because it was actually a liberal bastion, but because it could be painted as one–for no other reason than that once, the CBS News anchor went after a story about Bush that turned out to be false. MSNBC may be an easier target because it has a strong lineup of liberal opinion shows, but the channel itself is no liberal bastion. They used to have a strongly conservative lineup, and still have people like Joe Scarborough, hardly a leftie. MSNBC, unlike Fox, is only home to many left-leaning shows because it has found them to be profitable; were that support to dry up overnight and right-wing shows become money-makers, they would switch. Fox, on the other hand, is a conservative bastion, in that they would never change their orientation, no matter what. It is their identity. With MSNBC, it’s the flavor of the day–not Democratic Party Headquarters.
This exaggeration of political bias is only reinforced by his next, almost conspiracy-theory statement that there exists a “Senate Democrat war room” which churns out “talking points” loyally taken up by liberal armies to vilify poor Hatch whenever he says something that could be taken the wrong way. This shows up the common conservative trait of projection–of accusing the opposition of doing what they themselves do all the time. Either it’s a way of trying to cast guilt away from themselves, or else it displays an inability for them to imagine people acting in a way different from what they consider so natural. Just watch Jon Stewart for a short time and you’ll inevitably see his version of shooting fish in a barrel: showing a long string of conservatives repeating, almost verbatim, the exact same word or phrase, again and again and again, showing up the power of the right-wing organization distributing and faithfully executing the day’s talking points.
And Democrats? If only they could be so solidly organized. On their best days, maybe, but usually they have far less effectiveness in getting any solidified point of view out. It comes both from being disorganized and from having a big tent.
Next, Hatch gets to the meat of the issue, to what those nasty liberals have so wrongly smeared him for: his desire to raise taxes on the poor and the lower-middle class, because they’re all a bunch of liberal freeloaders living large off of hard-working Republicans.
“I’m not surprised, but this completely misses my point and the point, and the point is this: no matter what these Democrats tell you, the wealthy and middle class are already shouldering around 100 percent of the nation’s tax burden, and 51 percent pay absolutely nothing in income taxes,” Hatch said.
Well, obviously this is not true. “100 percent of the nation’s tax burden”? Not even close. Even disregarding things like import duties, Hatch apparently feels that things like property taxes, state and local taxes, payroll taxes, and a variety of other taxes never hit the poor. And even if a person somehow avoids any of those by not owning a house, by living in a non-tax state or having an income so low they never touch you, or by not having a job, nobody escapes sales taxes entirely. Most “non payers” paid around 10% of their income in payroll taxes alone. Note that Hatch plays with the truth–he refers more accurately to “income tax,” but intentionally mixes it with the just-as-clear statement that they pay no taxes at all.
So, what about that 51 percent? Are they truly freeloaders sitting comfortably in, if not luxury, then in a decent standard of living, not paying what they could?
Well, first of all, 51% is a statistical blip–in the past, it was usually under 40%. Why is it high now? Because of the recession Bush drove us into. About 10% of taxpayers have lost jobs or else taken major hits to their incomes, driving them under the lower limits for federal income tax. Bush drove unemployment from under 5% to over 10%, and Hatch is surprised that this affects revenue?
Second, many of those are people you would not expect to pay taxes in any case–like retirees living off of Social Security not great enough to qualify for income taxes. A huge chunk–fully 75%–are people who make less than $20,000, well into poverty. We’re talking about a lot of part-time, minimum-wage workers. Really, Orrin, you want to tax them more? 97% make less than $40,000 a year, many if not most of those with families to support. Orrin, you try living on $40,000 a year today with three kids and see how comfy you are. In that state, I don’t think you’d be whining about how low your taxes are.
What about the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)? Well, a large part of that contingent is people who usually pay income taxes, but whose income has fallen to a low level for the current year–that’s one reason the “no federal income tax” crowd has peaked recently–because of, as stated above, the Bush recession and unemployment numbers. Most people getting the EITC are getting it short-term, and pay much more in taxes over time than the credits they receive.
So, right off the bat, we can see that it’s not such a huge contingent of freeloaders here. Just over one percent make any kind of decent living with disposable income and pay no federal income taxes, though they probably pay a whole bunch of other taxes.
But what about those people? They get tax breaks and tax credits and so forth! How about that guy making $75,000 a year and using tax breaks to pay nothing! Oh, wait, he’s a small businessman claiming business losses, carry-overs, and other tax breaks. You know–the kind that Republicans, like Orrin Hatch, claim they want to help, but are really using as a feint to get more tax breaks for the wealthy.
And that’s where the real hypocrisy comes in. Republicans can’t stand a person making $50,000 a year using tax breaks to avoid paying a few thousand dollars when that person is hardly living in luxury–but they have absolutely no problem at all giving far greater tax cuts, even to the tune of millions of dollars, or even billions for corporations, to people and organizations already flush with cash. They would have happily overlooked the billions of tax refunds to oil companies making obscene profits already and paying no taxes, but a family of five making $60,000 a year and getting away with paying no taxes because of the recession? Those freeloading, mooching bastards!
When it comes down to it, there are a few taxes at this level which can be raised–but not without being hypocritical when you fail to raise taxes far more significantly amongst wealthier Americans. If you think that a family scraping by with barely enough to keep their nostrils above water can afford to “pay their fair share,” then you can damn fracking well deal with raising the marginal tax rate on millionaires from 35% to 39%. Don’t worry, the rich won’t go on strike.
The basic fact: there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. As Heinlein said, TANSTAAFL. We need to raise taxes. But not, as Republicans now insist, on people making small incomes. Mostly, we need to up taxes on those already paying them, like it or not.
Here’s the real hoot:
“Keep in mind, I don’t believe we should tax the truly poor, but now that’s up to 51 percent in just over two years of this administration — people who don’t pay income taxes,” Hatch said. “Are they all truly poor? I don’t know. All I know is that it doesn’t sound right that the majority of people — the majority of tax units — in this country do not pay income taxes, and the minority has to carry the burden.”
“Keep in mind, I don’t believe we should tax the truly poor”–really, Orrin? Then why is it that you’re saying exactly that?
There’s the money quote: “Are they all truly poor? I don’t know.” That’s right, Orrin. You don’t know. You don’t have a clue. Or, more likely, you do, but you want to make something false sound true. Am I exaggerating? Hell, no–Orrin says that next: “All I know is that it doesn’t sound right.” Wow. An argument boasting ignorance, showing that he is not even trying to get the facts, easily accessible to him. Or else he is purposefully ignoring them.
Yes, we should listen to people like this. We should elect them to lead. The Republican Party: Let’s Tax Poor People Because That’s What a Clueless Person Would Do.