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Do the Rich Pay Their Fair Share of Taxes?

I must admit I’ve never understood the concept that some people would be excused from paying zero taxes and so would be completely disinvested in the system. I doubt I’m alone in favoring a far simpler tax code or my unease at the government’s willingness to push social or random political agendas through taxation. I doubt I am alone among residents of Montgomery County, Maryland, when I avoid shopping at local outlets and instead head to more consumer-friendly locations in Virginia. I can save 60 cents (!) a gallon simply by driving 15 minutes to Fairfax, Virginia. When it comes to tax burden, a new posting from my colleague Mark Perry offers some damning statistics:

We hear all the time that the “rich don’t pay their fair share of taxes” (123,000 Google search results for that phrase). Here’s an analysis using recent IRS data that suggests otherwise.

1. In 2009, the top 400 taxpayers based on Adjusted Gross Income earned $81 billion as a group, and paid $16.1 billion in federal income taxes (see chart).

2. In 2009, the bottom 50% of taxpayers, a group totaling 69 million, earned collectively more than $1 trillion and paid $19.5 billion in federal income taxes (see chart).

Democracy breaks down when the majority of American citizens pay far less in taxes than they receive in benefits. When the majority expects entitlements for which they need not pay and candidates can win elections not by promoting fiscal responsibility but rather by promising the populist status quo, then we really have become Greece. Here, the web application “Soak the Rich” really is worth a look. How ironic that Greece was once the model for democracy, but now we follow it off the precipice.


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