For the record, I’m the effete elite arugula buying variety of liberal, and I pay plenty of taxes on the income that buys that arugula. I’ve paid income taxes every year since graduating from college, both to the Federal government and to California. I’ve paid payroll taxes every year since graduating from college. I pay sales taxes to my state and local governments. And I pay property taxes. Given my income level, my pension, and my 401k, I expect that, more likely than not, I’ll even manage to be in the minority who still pay income taxes after retirement. Consider me well and thoroughly taxed.
Also, for the record, I think the “if I was Mexican” remark bothers me more than the “47 per cent” remark. It feels to me like a play to the white people version of victim mentality. Seriously, get over yourselves. This is not a country in which you have to be black or Mexican to get, well, really anything.
But the story of the “47 per cent” is more interesting, mainly because it’s been all over the place, in blogs and blog comments and Facebook posts, before Mitt Romney ever said the words in the leaked video, the whole “We are the 53% who pay income taxes” meme, and the counter to it, in the form of charts of how much all the non-income-tax-payers are paying in payroll and sales taxes, has also been all over the place. And the “47 per cent” business persists. I’ve even seen people suggest it was dishonest to compare other taxes with income taxes. Why? I’ve paid boatloads of income taxes, and boatloads of payroll taxes, and it always felt to me like pretty much the same process. It’s true that I expect the government to use my payroll taxes to fund Social Security and Medicare, so I can eventually receive them in turn. But the same is true of my income taxes; I pay them with the expectation that the government is at least supposed to then spend them on things that will provide some general benefit, that will make it worth my while to have paid the taxes.
I’ve concluded that the reason the meme persists is that “We are the 53 per cent” makes a neat sound byte to counter Occupy’s “We are the 99 per cent.” There are lots of better arguments you might make, from ones that discuss why taxing the 1%, by itself, has limitations as a budget balancing strategy, to ones that point out that the 1% does actually include some people earning that wealth in worthwhile ways. But they don’t make as easy sound bytes.
And so we have the strange conversion of a portion of the conservative blog world to the notion that there’s something morally bankrupt about being a gainfully employed person who supports a family, pays payroll taxes, perhaps volunteers in the community, and doesn’t quite make enough money to pay income taxes. Because being a moocher, evidently, isn’t about being too dependent on other people, but about not giving enough in precisely the right category to the government.