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The byline date on this is a week old, but it was just forwarded to my by my son.  Last week Bruce Bartlett, longtime conservative Republican, wrote an article in Forbes  wherein he reviewed the beliefs (certainly can't call it knowledge) that Teabaggers have about Federal Taxes.  The astounding results (and correct answers) below.

Obigatory Thank-you update .... I really did step away for my A.M. Latte break to come back and find a very nice discussion going on.  I tried to tip pretty much everybody but feel a bit overwhelmed in terms of responding to each post. * sigh *  Personally - I find that the kinds of facts that Barlett presented very helpful - especially when dealing with my saner Republican friends...

Questions #1: "How much does the Government get in taxes as a percentage of GDP?

Teabagger Answer #1:  (Caveat - first you have to assume they know what a percentage is, and then you have to assume they know - even vaguely - what GDP stands for and is) ..... drum roll ... average of 42%, and median of 40%

Reality Answer #1:  

Max in history (WWII) was around 20%.  Right now, ALL Federal Taxes(including personal, corp, payroll, etc.) = 14.8%

Question #2:  How much does a typical family making $50,000 pay in federal income taxes?

Teabagger Answer #2: (Again, this is a bit tricky - is that w-2 50K, gross income 50K? Is it taxable 50K? - so room for some multiple correct answers.)  Their average response was $12,700, and median response was $10,000 (just as an aside, I wonder how many could explain the difference between average and median, and then give a mathematical example of how the two numbers could be different?)

Reality Answer#2:  

OK - several ways to slice this.  According to IRS tax tables, a single person with $50,000 in taxable income last year would owe $8,694 in federal income taxes, and a married couple filing jointly would owe $6,669.

 As Bartlett points out

But these numbers are high because to have a taxable income of $50,000, one's gross income would be higher by at least the personal exemption, which is $3,650, and the standard deduction, which is $5,700 for single people and $11,400 for married couples. Owning a home or having children would reduce one's tax burden further.

 So ... Bartlett notes ...

According to calculations  by the Joint Committee on Taxation, a congressional committee, tax filers with adjusted gross incomes between $40,000 and $50,000 have an average federal income tax burden of just 1.7%. Those with adjusted gross incomes between $50,000 and $75,000 have an average burden of 4.2%.

 Now, if you include FICA and Medicare taxes, then "those earning between $40,000 and $50,000 have an average tax rate of 12.3%, and those earning between $50,000 and $75,000 pay a rate of 14.5%." [one of the things that this demonstrates is the regressive nature of FICA, something all those flat taxers should really think about.]

And finally Question #3 (the reality based answer to which should be on billboards across the country)

Question #3:  Have personal taxes gone up or down under President Obama?

Teabagger Answer #3:  No brainer - two thirds thought they had gone up.

Reality Answer #3:  To quote Bartlett:  

As noted earlier, federal taxes are very considerably lower by every measure since Obama became president. And given the economic circumstances, it's hard to imagine that a tax increase would have been enacted last year. In fact, 40% of Obama's stimulus package involved tax cuts. These include the Making Work Pay Credit, which reduces federal taxes for all taxpayers with incomes below $75,000 by between $400 and $800.

According to the JCT, last year's $787 billion stimulus bill, enacted with no Republican support, reduced federal taxes by almost $100 billion in 2009 and another $222 billion this year. The Tax Policy Center, a private research group, estimates that close to 90% of all taxpayers got a tax cut last year and almost 100% of those in the $50,000 income range. For those making between $40,000 and $50,000, the average tax cut was $472; for those making between $50,000 and $75,000, the tax cut averaged $522. No taxpayer anywhere in the country had his or her taxes increased as a consequence of Obama's policies.

Bartlell (being an economist) then spends a number of paragraphs exploring why all these misconceptions might be out there, and even references an economic theory or two.  But in the end, this is what he concludes with.  

Whatever the future of the Tea Party movement in American politics, it's a bad idea for so many participants to operate on the basis of false notions about the burden of federal taxation. It only takes a little bit of time to look at one's tax return to see what one is actually paying the Treasury, calculate the percentage of one's income that goes to taxes, and compare it with what was paid last year and the year before. People may then discover that their anger is misplaced and channel it into areas where it is more likely to bring about positive change.

So my conclusions:  The ignorance (willful or otherwise) is deep.  The anger (justified or otherwise) is high.  Teabagger solutions are silly at best and dangerous at worst.  But what bothers me more is that our side has been so woefully inadequate at laying out these facts.  These are not sophisticated concepts and the words can be small.

  1.  Taxes are a small part of our nation's economy
  1.  For all but the top 5% or 10%, your federal income taxes are low.
  1.  And they just went lower!!!  -  Check your refund!!

I have heard Obama say this in town hall meetings, but for whatever reason, I have not seen it be a drumbeat message from others.

Final personal note.  It does my heart good that this article was forwarded to me by my son.  Shows he is out there reading and absorbing fact and not fantasy.

Originally posted to Pinecone on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 05:40 AM PDT.

Poll

On questions of true self interest (like taxes), teabaggers are

3%60 votes
72%1230 votes
20%354 votes
3%52 votes

| 1696 votes | Vote | Results

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