Mitt Romney is in a bit of hot water for comments he made during a closed-door fundraiser about the 47% of Americans who don’t pay federal income taxes.
I’m generally pretty sympathetic to people saying stupid things in closed-door fundraisers, but the whole flap raises an interesting question: Is it really true that 47% of Americans pay no federal income tax? And who are these people? And do they believe that they are victims entitled to health care and housing?
How many people don’t pay federal income tax in the US?
Lots of people. The 47% stat is accurate, as long as you only count federal income taxes. (More than 85% of Americans under 65 pay either income tax, federal payroll tax, or both—and almost all Americans who own land and/or buy things pay state and local taxes.)
Who are these people?
Many elderly people who live off social security pay no income tax (social security benefits are only taxable if your total income is over $25,000 a year). Only about 25% of Americans over the age of 75 pay federal income tax, but it’s important to remember that most of them did pay federal income tax when they were working.
Also, many young adults pay no income taxes, because they are full-time students or have very low incomes. You can see a chart here that shows that about 30% of 18-year-olds pay federal income tax, while over 65% of people in their 40s do.
People living in poverty are also unlikely to pay federal income taxes. A married couple filing jointly making under $18,700 annually pays no income taxes. But it’s worth noting that in 1996, 99.5% of all nontaxable returns came from people making less than $30,000 a year. Today, that number is closer to 76%.
The fastest growing segment of Americans who pay no tax are those who earn between $75,000 and $100,000 each year. As explained here, there’s been a 12,000% increase in nontaxable returns in this income category thanks to middle income tax cuts and tax credits introduced by both George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Romney’s central mistake is imagining the data as static. In 2000, for instance, I paid no federal income tax. This doesn’t mean that I am a drain on the system: In fact, I have paid lots of federal income tax in other years. 2000 just happened to be a weird year, because I had a lot of health care expenses and not very much income.
This is the case for most Americans: Romney’s comments implied that the same 47% of Americans pay no federal income taxes every year. In fact, the members of that 47% are constantly changing as people age into and out of the work force.
Do these people believe that they are victims entitled to health care and housing?
The most incendiary remark Governor Romney made was, “There are 47% who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care of them, who believe that they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”
In fact, the number of Americans who feel the government should provide health care and food to those in need is much higher than 47%. 76% of Americans (including a majority of Republicans) favor medicaid, the program that offers health care to the poor. A majority of Americans also believe medicare, the program that offers health care to the elderly, is worth its cost. And more than three quarters of Americans support the federal food stamp program that provides food to low-income and elderly people.
“As long as I’m President of the United States, I will never allow Medicare to be turned into a voucher that would end the program as we know it. We will not go back to the days when our citizens spent their golden years at the mercy of private insurance companies. We will reform Medicare — not by shifting the cost of care to seniors, but by reducing the spending that isn’t making people healthier. That’s what’s at stake in this election…
On issue after issue, we can’t afford to spend the next four years going backward. America doesn’t need to refight the battles we just had over Wall Street reform and health care reform. On health care reform, here is what I know: Allowing 2.5 million young people to stay on their parents’ health insurance plan — that was the right thing to do. Cutting prescription drug costs for seniors — that was the right thing to do. I will not go back to the days when insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy, or deny you coverage, or charge women differently from men. We’re not going back there. We’re going forward.
We don’t need another political fight about ending a woman’s right to choose, or getting rid of Planned Parenthood — or taking away access to affordable birth control. I want women to control their own health choices, just like I want my daughters to have the same opportunities as your sons. We are not turning back the clock. We are moving forward.”
“Unlike President Obama, you don’t have to wait until after the election to find out what I believe in — or what my plans are.” — Mitt Romney’s biggest lie so far
Mitt Romney says he wants to talk about issues but he refuses to talk about the following:
Romney is constantly attempting to change the conversation from Bain or his tax returns (or anything else he doesn’t want to talk about) with “issues,” as in, “we need to talk about the real issues!” But paraphrasing Romney’s own campaign advisers, who revealed their strategy recently: details and specifics are for losers. So how exactly can you debate issues without specifics or details?
You don’t. You can’t. It’s obvious the Romney campaign isn’t trying to sway voters with Mitt’s ideas or plans — or even with Mitt himself as a “person.” They’re running a ‘just trust me’ campaign, as Greg Sargent explains:
Romney advisers are explicitly confirming that all of this is part of a grand strategy to only signal general direction to the American people. It’s a guiding idea that specifics are a political peril to be avoided. The campaign thinks sharing details about what he’d actually do as president would be politically suicidal. As Steve Benen asks: “what does it say about the merit of Romney’s policy agenda if voters are likely to recoil if they heard the whole truth?” And this is coming after the campaign touted the selection of Paul Ryan as proof that the GOP ticket is deeply serious about policy and committed to making the tough decisions Democrats won’t.
Just trust Mitt Romney — you’ll find out why after he wins the election. Really.
This comes from blue aardvark at Daily Kos, who summarizes:
“Bain invests in a company. Mitt gets personally involved with managing said company. Company profits are significantly based upon Medicare Fraud. Bain & Romney never uncover the fraud in 4 years, Corning uncovers it immediately upon buying Damon. Despite the fraud, Bain triples its investment, and Romney’s share of that profit is a cool half a million.
“Damon laid off workers despite Mitt Romney serving on the board and the strategic planning committee. Despite the failure of the business model to generate new jobs, Bain Capital tripled its investment, and Romney himself made nearly half a million dollars. Rampant fraud was supporting earnings, yet Romney was not able to notice.”
Where did the information come from? “From the delightful gift that is John McCain’s opposition research on Mitt (courtesy of namelessgenxer).”
Why is this important? For several reasons, primarily that which is the “business experience” Mitt Romney would like to say he has in “creating jobs” and successfully running businesses. Except that when we scratch the surface, his actual hands-on experience with businesses, via Bain Capital, usually results in stories of laid-off workers, companies shuttered, and Mitt and his buddies at Bain walking away from the flaming wreckage with millions of dollars for themselves.
ABLC reminds us that it’s also important for this very reason:
He also keeps saying that the $716 billion are cuts to Medicare services and benefits.
Both statements are flat-out lies.
So who actually “robbed” Medicare here?
Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan plan to end Medicare as we know it
I BLAME FOX NEWS: The latest Pew poll shows Mitt Romney leading President Obama by a full six points — 50% to 44% — among senior citizens. Ingrates.The president is saving Medicare recipients billions of dollars by closing the Medicare Part-D donut hole, and yet they’re leaning Romney. A new HHS report indicates that 3.6 million Medicare enrollees saved a total of $2.1 billion in 2011 thanks to these ACA provisions. And since the discounts are phased in slowly between 2010 and 2020, the savings will only increase in the future. Old people should be at the top of the pro-Obama roster because of this. After all, if Romney is elected, he’ll repeal the ACA and the donut hole will open up again, meaning senior citizens will have to pay for life-saving prescriptions out of their own fixed-income pockets for a period time every single year. [Bob Cesca]
Martin Sheen: Stand Up for Medicare (by DCCCVideo2012)
Paul Ryan’s budget hurts the poor - After recalling his family’s immigration from Ireland generations ago, and his belief in the virtue of people who “pull themselves up by the bootstraps,” Ryan warned that a generous safety net “lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency, which drains them of their very will and incentive to make the most of their lives. It’s demeaning.” How very kind: To protect poor Americans from being demeaned, Ryan is cutting their anti-poverty programs and using the proceeds to give the wealthiest Americans a six-figure tax cut.
Do You Favor Phasing Out Medicare? - Not sure this is going to get the level of attention it deserves or that most political reporters will call it what it is: Paul Ryan today unveiled the new House Budget, which doubles down on Ryan’s previously announced plan to end Medicare as a source of guaranteed health care benefits for the elderly. It’ll still be called Medicare, but it will be Medicare in name only. We’ve covered this ad nauseam, but it hasn’t really penetrated elite consciousness, let alone broader public awareness. (Incredibly obtuse fact-checking on the issue has compounded the problem.) But here we sit less than eight months before the election, with Republicans firmly and irrevocably on record as planning to dismantle Medicare. No guaranteed benefits. Period. End of sentence. […] No candidate for federal office should be able to dodge this question. It’s that simple.
Dems To GOP: No Cover From Us On Medicare Privatization Plan - When House Republicans unveil[ed] their 2012 budget on Tuesday, they are expected to include a Medicare privatization plan endorsed by one Democrat — Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). That, Republicans will claim, proves their controversial overhaul proposal has bipartisan support. Leading Democrats say they won’t let the GOP get away with it. “We don’t see a difference in principle between the original Ryan plan and the so-called Wyden-Ryan plan,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) a party surrogate on health care issues, told reporters on a conference call Monday morning. “It’s equally bad or only marginally different but still would end Medicare as we know it.”
The White House issued this statementresponding to the House Republican budget released today by Rep. Paul Ryan – The House budget once again fails the test of balance, fairness, and shared responsibility. It would shower the wealthiest few Americans with an average tax cut of at least $150,000, while preserving taxpayer giveaways to oil companies and breaks for Wall Street hedge fund managers. What’s worse is that all of these tax breaks would be paid for by undermining Medicare and the very things we need to grow our economy and the middle class – things like education, basic research, and new sources of energy. And instead of strengthening Medicare, the House budget would end Medicare as we know it, turning the guarantee of retirement security into a voucher that will shift higher and higher costs to seniors over time.
Medicare fight is not over yet – Rep. Steve Israel - This Republican Congress of Chronic Chaos is dusting off last year’s same failed playbook — where seniors would lose their Medicare while Republicans give more tax breaks to millionaires and Big Oil companies. I have one response: Bring it on. Tone-deaf House Republicans are preparing a budget that will — again — protect millionaires over Medicare. As with their last budget, House Republicans are giving Americans a window into their souls. And the American people don’t like what they’re seeing: Republicans’ relentless, reckless promise to protect the ultrawealthy at the expense of the middle class and seniors. Republicans might stand for those failed priorities, but middle-class families and seniors won’t. Medicare is a sacred bond with seniors that cannot be broken.