The Rich Aren’t Paying their Fair Share

“The rich aren’t paying their fair share.” We’ve heard this for years. I’m sick of it. But you know what, I actually agree. They don’t pay their fair share.

Look at this chart from the IRS (click for a clear view):

See the line for the top 1%? Look across it. Under the column “Group’s Share of AGI (Adjusted Gross Income)” you will see the number 20.00. That means that for all income reported in tax year 2008, the top 1% of wage earners earned 20% of all income.

Now look across further, to the column titled “Group’s Share of Income Taxes.” You will see the number 38.02. That means that for all income tax paid in tax year 2008, the top 1% of wage earners paid 38.02% of it. They only earned 20% of all income. But they paid 38.02% of all income taxes.

Look at the row for the top 10%. They earned less than half of all reported income, 45.77%, and yet they paid 69.94% of all taxes paid in 2008. Is this fair? I say no.

Now let’s look at the figures for the bottom 50% of wage earners. The bottom 50% of wage earners earned 12.75% of all income reported in tax year 2008. If they paid the same ratio of income tax as the top 1%, they would have paid 24.225% of all income taxes paid. Notice, though, that they only paid 2.7% of all taxes paid in 2008. That is not fair.

Now look at the column for “Average Tax Rate.” The average tax rate for the bottom 50% is 2.59. The average tax rate for the top 1% is 23.27%, or  more than 11 times what “poor” people pay. That is not fair.

You say, “Well, the rich can afford to pay more. If the poor paid 23% of their income in taxes, they would not have much left over to live on. But the rich still have plenty left over after paying their taxes, way more than enough.”

“Way more than enough.” This is the real argument. It’s not about what anyone pays or doesn’t pay; it’s about HOW MUCH THEY HAVE LEFT OVER. The “rich” will always be seen as having way more left over than they need. That is, if people in the public sphere don’t stop whipping up this envy, covetousness, and greed.

How many times did your mom tell you, “Never mind what Jimmy has; you just be happy with what you have?” Well, Mom was right. She knew that always worrying about what someone else has or does is wrong, and will not lead you to seek your own happiness, contentment, or achievement.

So no, the rich aren’t paying their fair share; they’re paying some of your share, and mine, and the other guy’s too. This regime, in drumming up antipathy for “the rich” with the false argument that they aren’t paying enough, are leading people down a path straight to ruination. In this regime’s eyes, and the eyes of the covetous, as long as the rich have more left over than anyone else, they will never be paying enough.

We need to remember our childhood admonitions: You just worry about your own self. It’s none of your business how much money someone else makes. You just be happy with what you have. This should be the start and finish of the argument for anyone who says “the rich aren’t paying their fair share.”

You Know I’m Right.

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