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On "Injustice" in the Tax Code

Thomas Whitley

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.