While we’re on the subject of taxes, it’s common to hear right wing carping about how the rich, like Atlas, shoulder the country’s tax-burden. For example, Robert Samuelson’s utterly delusional column from the weekend alleging the poor have unjustly outsized political influence (not true, surprisingly enough) breathlessly claims, “Sure, the wealthy extract privileges from government, but mainly they’re its servants. The richest 1 percent of Americans pay 28 percent of federal taxes, says the Congressional Budget Office.”
True enough, but this fails to mention that the top 1 percent is also enjoys roughly 19 percent of the national income. Ezra Klein explains:
In 1979, the top one percent brought home 9.3 percent of the national income — which is to say, for every $100 paid in wages, $9.30 went to the top one percent — and paid 15.4 percent of federal taxes. The ratio of tax share to income share was 1.65. Their tax burden was 1.65 times larger than their income share. In 2005, they brought home 18.1 percent of the national income — it had doubled — and paid 27.6 percent of federal taxes. The ration was 1.52. In other words, it has gone down. The rich pay less taxes as a share of their income than they did in the 1970s, and they control much more of the nation’s wealth.
So yes, it’s true that the top 1 percent pays 28 percent of federal taxes, but it’s also true that they pay less than middle class citizens in terms of total income even as their tax burden has gone down relative to the income they earn.
Oh woe is the plight of the top 1 percent of earners!