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Friend of a friend

2011 October 29

By Stephen Banks,WWH – A friend of a friend on another post said that people in the Occupy movement don’t understand economics because 49% of Americans don’t pay taxes. Here is my reply.

“I suspect what you mean is that 49% don’t pay federal income tax, because they don’t have enough income. They certainly pay taxes – even part time minimum wage earners pay FICA. Many that are exempt from federal taxes still pay state income tax. All pay excise tax, gas tax, telecommunications tax, and property tax (directly or indirectly, unless they are homeless.) I’d be more concerned that half the country doesn’t have enough income to be taxable while the top 1% of the population owns 40% of the wealth.

But who is in that 49 “bottom” percent? Well, lets start with a 9% unemployment rate. An awful lot of people currently unemployed have worked before (and paid income tax, and will again.) Then there are the seniors who worked all their lives (and paid taxes) but are now retired – should they be paying income tax? We have one of the largest percentage of prison inmates in the civilized world, none of them pay taxes. And of course full time students generally don’t make enough to pay income tax. Oh, and the mafia. And General Electric (corporations are people too.)

So how about the low, low, just-above-poverty people who don’t pay taxes? Not pulling their fair share? Well, think about what it really costs to run a country and how that money is spent. Sure, they get food stamps I suppose. Some might even scam an extra couple hundred dollars a year from a program like that, and I won’t deny that there is waste in social programs. But how many of those people fly (the FAA and TSA are pretty expensive to run,) how much of their “stuff” does the police, fire department and military protect, how often do they get to go to national parks or send their company’s shipments over the interstate system or utilize the rural electrification grid to power their agribusinesses or rely on the State Department when traveling to their overseas subsidiaries or call the Coast Guard when their boat gets beached or have the CDC debug their pharmaceuticals or .. a million other things that those of means can do largely because of the infrastructure and largess of the federal government? Who benefits? Who should pay a larger share?

Taxes on the wealthy are at historic lows, but none of these reductions have resulted in employment or opportunities for anyone except those who already have so much. Productivity has soared enriching the owners while impoverishing labor. The wealth gap is higher than it has ever been, and far higher than anywhere else in the world.

This inflammatory nonsense about “49% don’t pay tax” is not only a lie, it pushes responsibility for the horrible state of the economy (unless you are in the top 1-5% in which case you are doing better every year) onto the victims, and the ones who have the least control over it.

Stephen Banks (nom du blogue, “Dirk Gently”) is another over-educated, underemployed, civic intellectual, living in the Atlanta area, and trying with always mixed results to beat back the advancing forces of ignorance and purposeful mal-information. He’s an admired and recognized actor/director in local theater circles. This is his first foray on WorldWide Hippies.

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