Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Only if you’re paying them

Jerry Stratton, May 11, 2010

1920 tax filers: People fill out tax forms in 1920.; taxes; IRS; Internal Revenue Service

“The idea that taxes are high right now is pretty much nuts. They’re only high if you’re paying them.”

That isn’t exactly what Dennis Cauchon said in USA Today, but it’s the only interpretation that makes sense. He’s claiming that federal, state, and local taxes were only 9.2% in 2009. That’s literally impossible. As one of the commenters at JammieWearingFool points out, Social Security taxes alone are higher than that. They’re currently at 15.3%. You pay 7.65%, and your employer pays 7.65%—money they would otherwise have either paid to you or used to make your job more secure.

And making your job more secure is important. Julia A. Seymour writes that one of the reasons USA Today can say taxes went down is the recession.

USA Today also buried important reasons for the drop in tax payments. One reason was that the recession cut incomes, but they didn’t mention that until the ninth paragraph. Lower income means taxpayers paid at a lower rate because of the progressive income tax structure. In addition, unemployment in 2009 reached levels not seen for roughly 25 years. The recession also caused “sharp” cuts in consumer spending, resulting in much lower sales tax payments.

In other words, tax rates fell for some people because they made less money last year (falling into lower tax brackets) and spent less money (paying less in sales taxes). But allowing Dennis Cauchon and USA Today off that easily is too kind, because they either had to be completely ignoring social security taxes that, alone, are higher than 9.2%; or they had to average out with people who aren’t paying taxes at all.

USA Today is telling the “Tea Party” that they shouldn’t complain because the average of their taxes and that of people who don’t pay taxes is lower than it’s been in years. That’s shameless.

I can say for certain that my taxes were well above 9.2%. According to H&R Block’s tax software, I owed 22% in just state and federal taxes; that doesn’t include any sales taxes or other fees paid to the state to, for example, register my twenty-six-year-old car with the hole in its roof.1 It also doesn’t include social security taxes: that’s not part of “federal taxes”, according to the tax forms. Add Social Security and Medicare in and it’s 30%. And that’s not counting the hidden taxes my employer paid on my behalf. Hurray for low taxes.

Imagine, if you will, the same news in 2006. Tax revenues are lower than they’ve ever been because people are losing jobs and don’t have as much money to spend. Would the headlines be “lowest tax rates since the fifties”? Or would they be “economic meltdown”? We saw back then what a biased media looked like when they didn’t like the party in power. This is what a biased media looks like when they support the current power. “Americans’ tax bills in 2009 hit lowest level since 1950” because they’re out of a job? There’s no way someone could write that headline without consciously looking for ways to spin this news in favor of “their guys”2. It wouldn’t take much rewording to put that article on a satirical web site.

  1. Fortunately, the rainy season only lasts a few hours.

  2. Would they still spin it this positively if it were their taxes that were lower because they lost their job?

  1. <- Regulations make the rich richer
  2. The Wisdom of Partisan ->