September 20, 2012


By Jessica Chau

Today we feature some charts and graphs that show the make-up of the Americans who do not pay federal income taxes.  We also have a great article on the important but overlooked payroll tax cut which is due to expire at the end of the year, and another about how effective tax cuts for the poor have been for poverty alleviation and how it was an issue that both parties could agree on in the past.

Who doesn’t pay taxes, in eight charts

Washington Post, Brad Plumer, 9/18/2012

A leaked fundraising video caused a stir Monday when it showed Mitt Romney taking a rather caustic view of Obama supporters.

In particular, Romney bemoaned the fact that nearly half the country doesn’t pay federal income taxes: “These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. … [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

So why don’t many Americans pay income taxes? And what taxes do they pay? Let’s try to do a comprehensive breakdown in — yes — charts:



Chart: Cutting Taxes to Nothing

New York Times, 9/18/2012

We couldn’t embed the chart, but it’s worth clicking the link and taking a look.


The Forgotten Payroll Tax Cut and the Fiscal Cliff

Firedoglake, David Dayen, 9/18/2012

” . . . there is one meeting of some importance going on in Washington this week.  The House Ways and Means Committee, the main tax-writing body, will meet in a bipartisan closed session tomorrow to go over the spate of expiring tax measures that hit at the end of the year.

It’s the biggest issue facing Congress right now: the Dec. 31 expiration of all income tax rates, unemployment benefits and the payroll tax holiday. Ways and Means – chaired by Michigan Rep. Dave Camp – is ground zero for this fight.

The Bush tax cuts, mostly focused on the wealthy, target those with a lower propensity to spend.

As a postscript, you gotta love this from a defense lobbyist:

“Regardless of who wins, the big deal will have tax increases and spending cuts,” said one defense lobbyist, who asked not to be identified. “The ratio will just be different. With taxes playing a smaller role in a Republican plan, entitlement programs like Medicare will have to play a bigger one to protect defense.” 

Surely we can all agree that Lockheed Martin needs the money more than an 85 year-old on a fixed income.


Tax Cuts For The Poor Used To Be A Bipartisan and Highly Effective Way To Fight Poverty

Slate, Matthew Yglesias, 9/18/2012

Mitt Romney’s disparaging remarks about people who have no net federal income tax burden struck me particularly, because just last week I wrote a column on some new research which shows that tax cuts for the poor have, over the past forty years, been one of America’s most effective anti-poverty programs. The official federal poverty statistics, sadly, don’t capture this because they only measure pre-tax income, even though after-tax income is what really matters.

Of course partisan politics has been happening all this time. But these have been fairly bipartisan causes. Tax cuts for the poor happened under Richard Nixon and under Ronald Reagan. Tax cuts for the poor was something the Clinton administration and the House GOP was able to agree on. Tax cuts for the poor were a small-but-real element of George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cut. Democrats like to help poor people and Republicans don’t like taxes, so helping the poor with lower taxes is often something they can agree on. It’s a real shame that the official data doesn’t capture how successful this is, but it’s basically common sense. A conservative movement that can’t bring itself to want to help poor people with lower taxes is one that really doesn’t care about poor people in a profound way.


Follow Americans for Tax Fairness on Twitter and Facebook.  Right now is the best time to spread far and wide that we just can’t afford to continue the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2 percent.