On “Injustice” in the Tax Code

Rick Perry, in his announcement that he was running for President, had this to say about his understanding of “injustice” in the American tax code:

We’re dismayed at the injustice that nearly half of all Americans don’t even pay any income tax. And you know the liberals out there are saying that we need to pay more.

Perry has apparently missed that more than 75% of these households earn less than $30,000 year and they don’t pay income taxes because of how little they earn.

Perry has also forgotten that the vast majority of these households do pay payroll taxes, Social Security taxes, medicare taxes, property taxes, excise taxes (which includes gasoline, beer, wine, liquor, tires, and cigarettes), as well as other local, state, and federal taxes.

Oh, and he apparently missed that raising the income tax rate on the top 2% in our country would raise the same amount of money as taking 50% of everything the bottom 50% owns. Clearly the problem is that we’re not taxing the poor enough.

Ruth Marcus puts it this way:

As the Tax Policy Center’s Roberton Williams has explained, “a couple with two children earning less than $26,400 will pay no federal income tax this year because their $11,600 standard deduction and four exemptions of $3,700 each reduce their taxable income to zero. The basic structure of the income tax simply exempts subsistence levels of income from tax.”

Does Perry truly see this as an “injustice”? Does he believe his “dismay” should be alleviated by raising the tax burden on these households?

Further, Rick Perry thinks it ludicrous that “the liberals out there are saying we need to pay more.” The rich certainly don’t have enough money as it is. Mitt Romney is preparing to bulldoze his $12 million mansion to replace it with one four times the size.

As for the trickle-down economics that Perry and his GOP counterparts espouse, it simply does not work. Yet, it seems that no amount of research and evidence can sway them from their talking point that lowering taxes on the rich will create jobs.

Now, to be fair, Rick Perry is right on one point. There is injustice in the tax code, but it is not that we don’t tax the poor enough.

And as to his being “dismayed” at nearly half of Americans not paying income tax, I have to ask: Of all the ills in the world, you pick this to be dismayed about? Of all the actual injustices and loopholes in the current tax code, this is what you choose to highlight? Though, I guess we should be thanking Perry and the Fox News anchors for pointing out this reality because it highlights just how large the gap has become between income levels in our country. Len Burman of Forbes reads Perry’s dismay this way:

We’re apparently not dismayed that more than half of all Americans have been in a 30-year recession with little or no income growth.

Maybe, just maybe, instead of saying the bottom 50% of Americans need to pay more in taxes we can begin asking a few other questions such as:

I believe that we could have, and desperately need to have, a balanced and informed discussion about the economic future of our country, but ill-informed comments like Perry’s are not helping the discussion and only serve to further divide the country.

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About Thomas Whitley

PhD student at FSU in Religions of Western Antiquity. Blogger. Cyclist. Husband. Dog Owner/Lover. Bibliophile.
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3 Responses to On “Injustice” in the Tax Code

  1. Do you have room for a different view point.? I just happened to come across your post after having finished my own weekly installment. This is the short link. http://wp.me/1BaiG The sixteenth(revised) amendment for income tax targeted the individual instead of apportioning the tax over geographical populations. I’d be interested in your opinion.

    • Thanks for stopping by. I always have room for a different view point. I do not claim to know all there is to know about any subject, especially economics. As to your comment about income tax I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make. I’m probably betraying my limited knowledge about economics (even though I was a business major for half of my time in undergrad). Could you explain your point in more detail?

      Also, I have begun reading your post and see that there are already quite a few areas in which we will disagree. Should make for a fun conversation.

      • I guess the point I am making is that the basic notion of the income tax as regulated by the sixteenth amendment was untenable in conception to begin with. Of course it has turned out badly. We started out with a sows’ ear and no amount of “fairness” rhetoric has turned it into a silk purse. My view is all ensuing arguments about it are moot. If you finished reading my last post I think it explained my position.

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