one of the sad constants that American political debate is that, at any time the tax rate on the wealthy is to it is in either increased or lowered, Republicans will certainly repeat a certain statistic. To wit, “The Stat” is that the highest-earning one percent of taxpayers pay 40 percent of all earnings taxes. Conservatives take into consideration this reality a dispositive justification either versus any proposal to rise taxes top top the rich, or in favor of any kind of plan to mitigate it. Over simply the previous day, I have seen it circulating — here, here, here, everywhere.

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It is a figure that has actually been repeated a million times on Fox News diatribes and also in college Republican lectures funded by aging billionaires. It is one of the handful of debate-enders, prefer “Ronald Reagan beat communism” or “gun controls don’t prevent crime,” that any an excellent Republican apparatchik has at his fingertips.

The Stat is literally true. However it is deep misleading — therefore misleading, in fact, the it consistently fools even the civilization who room citing it into thinking it shows something other than what it actually means.

The first problem v The Stat is that it renders no referral to the ratio of income the rich earn. The juxtaposition in between one percent and 40 percent is meant to convey the idea that a small number of people space carrying a gigantic and disproportionate burden, yet the number lacks any context as soon as it omits exactly how much money they knife in the very first place.

Indeed, it turns the fact that rich human being account for a substantial share that the earnings pool into a factor to check out them as mistreated. One usual move because that polemicists brandishing this figure is to note that the re-publishing of taxes paid by the well-off is “up sharply” end the past pair decades — which it is, top top account the rich human being claiming a bigger share of the national income. The logic implied by The Stat is the the enlarge the proportion of revenue earned through the wealthiest one percent, the more imperative that is to alleviate their tax rates, so the they don’t pay as well high a share of the tax burden.

Second, and worse still, The Stat ignores the reality that revenue taxes are just one component of the federal tax system, and federal taxes are simply one ingredient of the total tax system. The federal tax device is far an ext progressive than state and local taxes, i m sorry rely greatly on regressive burdens choose sales taxes. (It’s harder come impose progressives taxes at the state or neighborhood level, due to the fact that rich human being moving to a various town or state is reasonably easy, when leaving the nation is much more burdensome.)

What’s more, even within the federal tax system, earnings taxes are simply one, fairly progressive, component. For many workers, the best tax they pay isn’t income tax yet payroll tax, the line significant “FICA” on her pay stub, i m sorry finances social Security and most the Medicare. That taxes is regressive and also primarily uses to the first $142,800 of wages.*

The trick of describing only the share of earnings taxes payment by the richest one percent is to make civilization think it method all taxes. Also professional activity conservatives make this mistake. This is Jay Nordlinger:

All mine life, I've heard, "Tax the rich!" Some human being even put it on dresses. Follow to the latest data, the optimal 1 percent of earners in America salary 40.1 percent of commonwealth taxes; the bottom 90 percent salary 28.6 percent. Come on. If friend want much more revenue -- look come the "middle."

— Jay Nordlinger (
jaynordlinger) September 14, 2021

Another right-wing obelisk published the various other day provides the very same error, first using the “income tax” qualifier, then slipping out of it come assert, falsely, “the optimal 1% paid much more in taxes in 2018 보다 the bottom 90%” — really common error by conservatives.

Republican politicians, including George W. Bush, have made the exact same error. The Stat is technically minimal to income taxes because that a factor — that describing a narrow group of taxation that is specifically progressive. But it just works since it renders the listener think it defines all taxes. The trick functions so well it fools the people repeating the stat.

The actual truth around the American tax system is the it is slightly progressive. The richest one percent earn around 21 percent of the income and also pay 24 percent of the taxes:


Nordlinger helpfully summarizes the conservative notion that the rich space taxed to the limit and also cannot pay any more. Of course, we have plenty of current experience with taxing rich people at greater levels. Restoring the Clinton-era height tax rate of 39.6 percent obviously go not avoid the rapid growth seen under Clinton. The Trump tax cuts for service owners and also heirs to big fortunes were claimed to encourage an ext business invest but clearly failed to do so. There space gaping loopholes in the tax code because that the affluent that permit massive fortunes to escape any type of taxation at all.

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A good deal of evidence supports the notion that the taxes system could increase the load on the really rich with small or no financial drag. That idea also happens to be extremely popular. Due to the fact that it is popular, conservatives feel unique urgency to urge it cannot be done. But it can.