Paying the “Fair Share”

Now let me premise this post by saying that I do think there is a bit of an argument to be made about the lack of bonuses to lower level employees that do a great deal of work for companies, or for salary parity.  But this topic gets kicked around quite frequently.

So when we talk about “fair shares” it’s important to analyze just what share everyone is paying.
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Here we see the overall share of the Federal Tax Liability being paid to the government for all taxes (income, payroll, ect.).  These stats are produced by the CBO in it’s analysis of how taxes work in this country.  And most astonishing to me right away is that the bottom 20% of the population pay 0.3% of all Federal taxes.  Even more incredible, the bottom 40% pay about 4% of all the Federal taxes in this country.  That’s nearly half the population paying for 4% while the other half of the population pays for 96% of the Federal Tax Burden.

The top 20% of wage earners in this country pay nearly 70% of all Federal taxes and that number has been rising since the 1970’s.  Fair to address is that the top 20% have also seen an increase in their share of the wealth during that growth period.  That’s not to say that the bottom 50% are “poor” but that through economics the top have sold the bottom a good deal of items and concentrated their wealth (ipads, flat screen tvs, cars, computers, etc.) primarily through investment.

I think it’s important to note that the top 40% of wage earners now pay nearly 90% of the Federal Tax burden for all taxes.  That means the other 60% of lower and middle class earners are left with the remaining 10-15% of the tax burden.  That’s a huge disparity.  I think the issue here is not that top earners aren’t “paying their share” (which I’d conclude they are) but that budgeting and saving even for middle class families seems almost unheard of these days.  Now I understand (as I grew up poor myself) that this doesn’t apply to all families and many are scraping by.  But I think for many middle income families frugal living is a thing of the past.  And now that they face a looming retirement with no savings they feel that retirement is entitled to them.  That somehow they’ll be taken care of, which only has pushed the burden to the younger generation to cover the most costly years of living (65+) when medical treatment becomes a must.

There has been a shift in the American society, which says that middle class families should support kids going to college and traveling and flat screen tvs and two cars.  There’s a “every family deserves this” sort of attitude which assumes that high end products (like cars) should be cheaper.  That tax rates need to reflect this burden on middle class families (buying 2 cars is a must).  I wouldn’t take qualms with the bottom 20% of the population (paying 0.3% of all federal taxes) as they’re the lowest level of earners and surely feel the most burden of providing for their own daily living.  I surely hope they’re not complaining about paying their taxes as they pay very little.  But the middle 20 – 40%, middle income America, certainly should realize that they’re not overburdened with this tax rate either.  That middle 40% of the population pays around 15-20% of the Federal Tax Burden and that’s been declining.  Middle income savings are nearly unheard of.  Yet most middle income homes have luxury items (ipads, ps3’s, 2 cars, flat screen tv’s).  Which I think gets to the problem.  Those without savings are screaming about how unfair their tax burden is, while they refuse to save money and spend what they earn on luxury goods.  Effectively pushing their money to the upper class.
Maybe we need to do a better job teaching budgeting and economics in high school.

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