By now, I’m sure you’ve all seen the video of Romney, thinking he’s speaking with like-minded rich people in private, telling them that 47% of Americans are “dependent” because they—as he’s tried and for all we know succeeded to do in the past—don’t pay income taxes. The obvious inference from this canard, which was a favorite amongst Tea Partiers, is that half the country works and the other half of the country sits around eating bon bons paid for by welfare. That we don’t really have welfare in this country in the sense they’re imagining does nothing to dissuade pampered conservatives of this belief.
Beyond just echoing Tea Party implications that half the country lives on welfare, this claim is a lie. It is true that nearly 47% of Americans don’t pay income taxes, but pretty much all of them pay taxes: sales taxes, property taxes, payroll taxes, etc. And the reason so many people don’t pay income taxes is because assholes like Romney and his buddies have worked so hard to keep average workers toiling for peanuts.
Firstly, some of those people who did not pay income tax, still paid payroll taxes, for social security and Medicare, so that it was only 18.1% of households that did not pay any income or payroll taxes.
In other words, most of these people work for a living, but make so little money they don’t pay income taxes. Remember, this was a room full of rich people burning with resentment. Frankly, if they think it’s so great working your ass off for below a living wage, I welcome them to trade places with any random member of the working poor.
Of the 18.1% paying no income or payroll taxes, more than half (10.3% of all households) were elderly, so retired people who may well have paid income and payroll taxes, as well as others, during their working lives. Of the remainder, 6.9% of all households did not pay income or payroll taxes, essentially because they were poor, leaving 1% of “others” who did not pay either of these two types of taxes. Presumably, within the “others” category would fall the likes of six of the 400 US tax filers in 2009 with the highest adjusted gross income (at least $77m), who, according to Internal Revenue Service studies, paid no US income tax, and the 19,551 US households with income above $200,000 who owed no US or foreign income tax.
So those are the fact, and they have nothing to do with this right wing fantasy of half of Americans paying taxes so the other half can live on welfare.
There’s a tendency on the left, though it’s thankfully fading, to believe that the right wing propaganda machine that pumps out horseshit is run by a bunch of cynical rich people who know that this stuff isn’t true, but are trying to dupe the masses into believing it and voting against their own interests. And most of that image is true. They are cynical. They do finance unbelievable amounts of propaganda. They are exploiting people’s bigotries in order to get them to vote against their own interests.
But what I hope people realize watching this video is that rich right wingers are true believers. Their fancy educations and their access to the world hasn’t done a damn thing to make them more aware of the world. On the contrary, they’re aggressively ignorant. But for whoever leaked this video, that room was eating up these blatantly obvious lies. These folks live on a cloud of wealth that separates them from reality so much that they can convince themselves that, say, a huge chunk of Americans don’t work out of laziness. Which is a belief that anyone who has had to sit in traffic without a driver to handle that for you can tell you is nonsense. The propaganda they push out to the masses is a reflection of their true delusions.
And they think that you have it too easy.