I have a friend whose in-laws are strong Southern conservative Republicans, and since his marriage, I've noticed strange (for him) talking points creeping into our conversations about politics. The one that bothered me the most was the oft cited claim that some large percentage of Americans don't pay federal income taxes. Right from the off, I would argue about the other taxes that people pay, but to no avail. My buddy, rightly, sees himself and his family as a part of the middle class that is being squeezed from all sides. However, he saves his strongest criticisms for those below him on the economic ladder, a point I've raised to him continually. Finally, a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has come out essentially de-bunking that tax line by providing a more complete picture of the tax burdens of the lower classes. It is well worth the read.
And on a final note, I find it totally tiresome, this effort to demonize the middle class, working class and the working poor, and the various government programs currently in place to help ease their financial burdens. That demonization is made easier when you play class warfare, but not in the way that most people hear it from conservatives and Republicans. This particular brand of class warfare is from the top down, and I would argue that this brand of top down warfare started in January 1981 (and that war is almost won, in my opinion). The idea that only some are paying federal income taxes, while others leech off of the success of their "economic betters," fits comfortably within that brand. How many times have we heard about "punishing the successful?"
Folks like my friend, I believe, understand that they will not be able to go after folks like the Wall Street denizens who brought this country to its knees, because they bought the fictional line from the movie "Wall Street" that "greed is good." Folks like my friend, I believe, understand that most of our politicians are bought and paid for, regardless of party, and only grandstand for the middle classes and below. Yet, folks like my friend, I believe, feel the need, maybe to build self-esteem or to re-direct their frustrations, to snarl at those who aren't as fortunate. They are comfortable using the phrase "my tax dollars," when speaking derisively about someone with food stamps, for example. Yet, they rarely express that same derision toward American corporations that make the old "welfare queen" look as poor as she actually is.
This report on how the lower classes pay a multiplicity of taxes will help to blunt the context free statement that some large percentage of Americans "don't even pay federal income taxes (which of course becomes shortened to just "taxes")." But until these same folks look more closely at who actually has been "taking" from the rest of us, we will continue to bankroll those least in need of our hard earned money.