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Myths From D.C. Part 2: 'The Rich Need to Pay Their Fair Share


The wealthiest 10% of individuals in the United States pay 70% of the nation’s income taxes.

President Barack Obama presenst a 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Warren Buffett, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Barack Obama, Warren Buffett (AP)

From Barack Obama to Elizabeth Warren to Warren Buffett, we have been barraged over the past year with the outlandish claim that, “the rich need to pay their fair share.” The problem? The rich already pay much higher shares of taxes than anyone else. The evidence is simply overwhelming on this issue.

Perhaps the most recent research that has been done from the Tax Foundation. In a chartbook entitled, “Putting a Face on America’s Tax Returns,” the Tax Foundation shows that the wealthiest 10% of individuals in the United States pay 70% of the nation’s income taxes. That means the rest of American citizens only combine for 30% of all income taxes paid.

The Congressional Budget Office, an entity with no pretenses of free market analysis whatsoever, confirms the fact that the rich already pay a substantial majority of taxes. In fact, according to the CBO’s numbers, the wealthiest 1% of Americans paid 22% of all taxes in 2009. Meanwhile, the bottom 20% of Americans only paid 0.3% in all federal taxes.

The point of this is not to say that the poor should pay more taxes–nobody’s taxes should be raised. Rather, the point is to demonstrate that political rhetoric which encourages us to make the rich pay their “fair share” is completely unsupported by relevant evidence on taxes. If there is really a magical concept of “fair share” in regard to taxes, the rich already pay way more than that.

Unfortunately, this anti-wealth mantra has proven pretty successful with politicians. John Boehner has already admitted that “the rich will pay more in taxes” once a fiscal cliff deal goes through. It’s a shame that such false and deceptive rhetoric has become the basis of a major policy negotiation.

Jason Hughey is a policy analyst for Americans for Prosperity.




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