A comment on a previous post suggested that, rather than attack unions or cut spending, we should just raise taxes. My gut response was “raise taxes on what exactly?”
I’m pretty sure that most Americans have no idea who is paying taxes, how much taxes they are paying, and what effect those taxes have on the economy as a whole.
Before I go into more detail, let’s get one thing straight: you do not pay taxes if you get more money back from the government than you paid in. If you paid, say, $1000 in and get $1500 back because of credits and whatnot, you did not pay taxes. If your income is exempt from taxation, you did not pay taxes. If you can claim sales tax credits, you did not pay taxes.
Now, because of the fact that so many Americans get more back in taxes than they pay in, only about 53 percent of taxable Americans actually pay federal income taxes. And, since most states base a payer’s taxable income on what income was taxable, large numbers of people do not pay state taxes either. The issue is a little more muddled at the local level, but it is safe to say that there are tens of millions of Americans paying no or very little taxes.
That brings us to the 53 percent who are paying taxes. One of the battle cries of the progressive movement is to tax the rich, yet most reliable estimates place the amount of revenue gained from those taxes at around $90 billion per year, or about 7 percent of the projected deficit in 2011. Even if all of the tax cuts were eliminated, it would only gain around $500 billion a year, or about 38 percent of 2011’s deficit.
So, what about raising those taxes even higher? I can speak to that issue personally. I already pay about 40 percent of my income in total taxation–sales taxes, excise taxes (as on gas), income taxes, etc. Ending the current tax cuts would represent a 50 percent increase in my federal taxes (because the 10 percent tax rate would cease to exist, meaning the bulk of my income would be taxed at the 15 percent rate). Further, the expiration of current tax breaks would increase my taxable income, thereby exposing more of my income to state and local taxes. In the end, this method alone could increase my tax burden to as much as 50 percent of my income, and for most Americans the effect would be similar.
What would you do if you took a 10 percent pay cut, because that’s what those increased taxes would represent. What would you have to cut? What would you stop doing? What would you stop paying?
Now, imagine what would happen if the government actually raised those rates even higher.
And, keep in mind that 65 cents of every dollar you are paying in taxes already goes into someone else’s pocket, very likely someone else who is not paying taxes, at least at the federal level.
With that picture in mind, explain how raising taxes helps us get out of debt.