For a long time, cutting taxes for the poor was a major emphasis of the Republican Party. One reason that many poor people no longer pay federal income taxes is that they qualify for credits such as the earned-income tax credit, which has its roots in conservative thinking and has long been supported by members of both parties as a way to help the poor without increasing welfare payments or raising the minimum wage. The credit was added to the tax code when Gerald Ford was president, and was expanded by Republicans and Democrats, including President Ronald Reagan, who called it “one of the best anti-poverty programs this country has ever seen” in 1986. President George W. Bush, for his part, doubled the child tax credit, and his tax cuts erased the federal income tax liability for millions of households.What we know about the numbers is that nearly a third of those who owe no federal income tax get to that state of affairs because they benefit from deductions like the earned income tax credit (EITC), child care tax credits and standard deductions for children. The EITC was created by Republicans. The child tax credit was doubled by the GOP. These policies were/are the proverbial “hand up” conservatives chat about at cocktail parties and on TV. What’s more, in a nation with a tax code that is a monstrosity of complexity built to benefit corporate interests and the wealthy, deductions like the EITC and the child care credit are small beer compared to corporate loopholes and carried interest. They are also good policy. They keep people working and for many they are a path to upward mobility. It’s not just that Romney says his job isn’t to be concerned with the likes of the working poor. He and Paul Ryan also have plans to scale back the EITC in order to help pay for their budget and tax plan that cuts taxes on the wealthy and would lead to tax increases for the middle class. We outlined in our recent report how it would work in Ohio. President Barack Obama’s Recovery Act contained enhancements to the EITC and the child tax credit. In Ohio, there are 1.6 million families that qualify for the EITC and the expanded refundable portion of the child tax credit. Under Romney-Ryan, we estimate that 500,000 of those families would see their taxes go up $876 per year due to the Republican candidates’ plan to rollback Obama’s improvements. Romney also proposes to cut by 58% the child care tax credit that allows many working families to afford to keep working. 158,000 families in Ohio alone use this credit. With the Romney cut, they would pay $318 more per year per child. Romney’s pronouncements on the relative worth of half of the U.S. aren’t just the talk of a guy who’s never been in touch, they are another sign of the hard right shift of his party. And, if you’ve been thinking that Romney is just pandering to keep his right-wing base in line – read our latest report. He intends to walk the walk.
I don’t know what it is, but I’ve been cutting Mitt Romney some slack. Ever since the circus that was the first half of the Republican primary season, I’ve taken some measure of pity on the man. He just looks so uncomfortable up there at times. It’s not easy to watch someone who’s not comfortable trying their hardest to back slap in Iowa or find their inner Bill Clinton in New Hampshire. The only time he’s looked truly cool on the campaign trail was during the Republican debates when he could just sit back and let the flat earthers and creationists of the GOP have at it. Then I watched the Mother Jones Video. The Romney No Plan for nearly one half of America. I listened too. If you were to just read the transcript of what Romney told a room full of high rollers, it would be bad enough. The message is 47% of Americans are hitching a free ride. They are inferior to all of those gathered in the home of a private equity kingpin in that they believe they are entitled to everything and more from the government. They are leeches and they won’t get anything from Mitt Romney. “[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” Romney said. But I also listened to the man. What I heard was confidence in his voice. I heard a man in his element and relaxed. I heard Mitt Romney how he must have sounded in board rooms past during his high flying days of consulting and pillaging with Bain Capital. I’d never heard Mitt Romney comfortable in his own skin. It was eerie because here he is, at ease, giving us a peek into his character – his true world view – and that view of the world is dismal. Romney’s view of the world is that one half of the people in the United States aren’t worth a damn – and he’ll “go tell that” with smug self-assurance in his voice. So, who are the 47%, these filchers and grubbers? The Tax Policy Center, a think tank devoted to unbiased analyses of tax policy and started by former officials of the Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton Administrations helps to shed some light on the issue. Take a look at the graphic on the left. You’ll see that of those who do not pay income tax, nearly two thirds pay payroll taxes. If you’d like to become better informed than a candidate for president of the United States, check out this post from the Tax Policy Center. In part:
Much has been made of TPC’s estimate that fully 46 percent of Americans will pay no federal individual income tax this year. Commentators have often misinterpreted that percentage as indicating that nearly half of Americans pay no taxes. In fact, however, many of those who don’t pay income tax do pay other taxes—federal payroll and excise taxes as well as state and local income, sales, and property taxes.Finally, here’s a bit more:
- Half of people who don’t pay income tax aren’t non payers due to tax breaks, their incomes are low.
- Half of people who pay no income tax or payroll taxes are elderly. (In many cases Social Security income is not taxed.)
- One third of those who pay neither income nor payroll taxes are not elderly but earn less than $20,000 per year.