David Cay Johnston in Willamette Week:
1. Poor Americans do pay taxes.
Gretchen Carlson, the Fox News host, said last year “47 percent of Americans don’t pay any taxes.” John McCain and Sarah Palin both said similar things during the 2008 campaign about the bottom half of Americans.
Ari Fleischer, the former Bush White House spokesman, once said “50 percent of the country gets benefits without paying for them.”
Actually, they pay lots of taxes—just not lots of federal income taxes.
Data from the Tax Foundation show that in 2008, the average income for the bottom half of taxpayers was $15,300.
This year the first $9,350 of income is exempt from taxes for singles and $18,700 for married couples, just slightly more than in 2008. That means millions of the poor do not make enough to owe income taxes.
But they still pay plenty of other taxes, including federal payroll taxes. Between gas taxes, sales taxes, utility taxes and other taxes, no one lives tax-free in America.
When it comes to state and local taxes, the poor bear a heavier burden than the rich in every state except Vermont, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy calculated from official data. In Alabama, for example, the burden on the poor is more than twice that of the top 1 percent. The one-fifth of Alabama families making less than $13,000 pay almost 11 percent of their income in state and local taxes, compared with less than 4 percent for those who make $229,000 or more.