Columnist: “Who are the 47 percent?” • Celia Murray
Video tape recently surfaced of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaking at a closed-door, $50,000-a-plate fundraiser last May. Romney attacked “the 47 percent of people” (actually 46.4 percent of Americans) who pay no income tax. These are people who, he says, “believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
So who exactly are these people who, according to Romney, “believe the government has a responsibility to care for them?”
Most are taxpayers. Two-thirds of households that pay no income tax still pay payroll taxes, according to the Washington Post. Many actually pay federal taxes at higher rates than does Romney, who paid less than 14 percent on more than $20 million dollars of income.
Many are elderly. Over 10 percent of those paying no federal income tax are retired or elderly, according to the Tax Policy Center. Social Security benefits aren’t considered taxable income, so if most or all of an elderly person’s income is from Social Security, he or she has no income tax to pay. By his comments, Romney denigrates the elderly who voted heavily Republican in the 2010 elections.
Many are poor. About 10 percent of households that pay no income tax are the very poor, earning less than $20,000 each year. The households of the working poor pay no income tax through a combination of tax credits–specifically the earned income tax credit and the child credit - that reduce their taxable income to zero, according to Tax Policy Center. A few are rich. More than 4,000 people who earned more than $1 million in 2011 paid no federal income tax by using loopholes and tax gimmicks.
Many serve in the U.S. military. Troops deployed to war zones are exempt from paying federal taxes on their military income. There are approximately 90,000 U.S. troops currently deployed to Afghanistan, and the U.S. has deployed more than two million troops to Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001, including nearly 800,000 who have been deployed more than once, so it’s not an inconsequential number of households.
Many are from conservative states. Of the 10 states with the highest percentage of people who pay no income tax, nine are red states.
Many are future tax payers. In addition to most of the 47 percenters paying sales tax, property tax, and payroll tax, most of them also will begin paying income tax within two years. That’s because the 47 percent figure wrongly includes younger individuals in their late teens and early 20s, many of whom are either presently unemployed or in school, and therefore have no tax liability.
Look around–you almost certainly know many in Romney’s 47 percent and would never consider them deadbeats or moochers as he does.
Celia Murray is a member of the Morgan County Democratic Committee.
Printed in the September 27, 2012 edition