The Taker/Maker Misunderstanding

Wednesday, September 26, 2012 at 2:03 AM by

CBPP Analysis Describes the Makers among the So-called “Takers”

There’s been a lot written over the past week or so about Mitt Romney’s comments about the 47% of Americans who in a typical year don’t pay federal income taxes.  I’ve been meaning to weigh in on the topic, but I can’t improve on the many other columns and blog posts that have challenged the misconceptions about “the 47 percent” and the characterization of America as a nation that is about evenly divided between “takers” and “makers.”

There was a particularly good blog post on the issue today by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. It challenges the taker/maker dichotomy by taking a closer look at the portion of the 47% who have low-paying jobs, so they don’t pay federal income taxes, but they do pay payroll taxes (as well as state and local taxes). These workers make up about three-fifths of the group that some fiscal conservatives have characterized as the “takers;” however, the CBPP analysis of Census data puts them in a very different light:

  • 4.5 million work in retail stores. 
  • 3.5 million work in the restaurant and food service industry. 
  • 2.7 million help care for patients in hospitals and doctors’ offices and assist elderly people in nursing homes. 
  • 2.1 million are construction workers. 
  • 2.1 million work in factories and other manufacturing jobs. 
  • 2.0 million clean and maintain offices and other buildings. 

As Chuck Marr says about these workers in today’s CBPP blog post: “They deserve respect, not scorn. They’re makers.”  In addition, he notes that it is important to keep in mind that many of these workers have paid federal income taxes in the past or will pay them in the future.   Another recent CBPP blog post does a great job of illustrating that point.

If you haven’t already seen it, another good critique, “Five Myths About the 47 Percent,” presents a factual and objective rebuttal to these five misconceptions:

  1. Forty-seven percent of Americans don’t pay taxes. 
  2. Members of the 47 percent will never pay federal income taxes. 
  3. Many high-income people game the system to pay no income tax. 
  4. The 47 percent vote Democratic. 
  5. Tax increases are the only way to bring more of these households onto the tax rolls. 

I hope next month to take a look at who is in the 47 percent in Wisconsin and to compare their state and local taxes with those of the much more affluent residents of our state.

Jon Peacock

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