Saturday, September 22, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #74 - Part 7

Romney disses half the population

Last, the other on-going news thread of the week, the Witless Romney video. You know the one, the one at the $50,000-a-plate fundraiser where he says the 47% of Americans who don't pay federal income tax "believe that they are victims."

He also said they are "dependent upon government" and believe "the government has a responsibility to care for them." They believe "they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. And the government should give it to them." What's more, he wouldn't worry about them because "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

That is, those who don't pay federal income taxes are  just lazy bums and moochers.

Lots of people - including some on the right - have pointed out how insulting those remarks are and how incredibly wrong they are. Witless was right that nearly half of Americans pay no federal income tax but wrong about just about everything else.

First and most obviously, not paying federal income taxes does not mean you don't pay taxes. There are payroll taxes, for example. There are state and sometimes local income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, excise taxes.

Only 18% of Americans paid neither federal income nor payroll taxes, and they are largely low-income seniors living on Social Security and the very poor - and even they are subject to some of the other taxes, such as sales taxes. Last year I said to a co-worker "Be glad you have to pay income tax: It means you are well enough off to owe it. Half of your fellow citizens are not."

Check out this tax chart. This looks at all taxes, not just federal income taxes.

Notice for one thing that even people in the lowest income bracket, the poorest 20%, surviving on an average income of just $13,000, pay taxes. Note too that as income level rises, the percentage of your income going to federal taxes goes up - but the percentage of your income that goes to state and local taxes goes down.

But here's the thing I wanted most to point out on this chart: The two columns headed shares of total income versus the shares of total taxes. Note that for each income group, the two figures are just about the same. We are supposed to have a graduated tax system, with your burden increasing as your ability to carry it increases. But we don't - we have what amounts to a flat tax, where your share of taxes is the same as your share of income. On that basis, the real moochers are the rich.

I have one more thing to say and it's the most important because it‘s the thing that you won't hear most other places, including all the "liberal" talk shows. Romney said the people who pay no federal income tax believe "they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it."

Yes. They are. We all are. Just by being human, we are all of us entitled to a basic, an adequate, level of food, of clothing, of shelter, of health care. One of the whole purposes of government, of society, is to see to the needs of those who need it. To, that is, "promote the general welfare."

This is not just a philosophical point, it's a legal one. The UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which the US is an original signatory, says in Article 25:
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
And for all of you who consider yourself Christians, remember Matthew 25:41-45, describing the final judgment, when God will say to those on his left,
"Depart from me, you who are cursed.... For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me."
They also will answer, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?"

He will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."
And don't forget Matthew 19:24: It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

The answer to Cain's famous question is "Yes."


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