Poverty is the fault of...poor people! If they weren't so, well, poor. And in order to fix this economy, they need to pull their weight and pay their taxes!
Who says? I'll give you a hint...yep, you guessed it.
When I started working for CitySquare (then Central Dallas Ministries), I expected to have to educate people on the plight of the poor. What has admittedly caught me by surprise is the antipathy toward poor people that I've seen. It's gotten worse since the great recession.
In fact, initially, there were those who laid the cause of the recession - the one in 2008 that sent Iceland into bankruptcy, at the feet of the poor! If they only weren't buying houses that they couldn't afford, it was said. Hardly a word about the unscrupulous people in the finance industry who were literally targeting minority and poor people with sub-prime loans. Not Wall Street greed (someone actually said, 'Corporations can't be greedy.' How does that square with Mitt Romney's 'Corporations are people my friend'?!).
It wasn't Bernie Madoff's fault, even though his scam wiped out the personal fortunes of more people than you can shake a stick at and cratered some philanthropic organizations - it was the poor.
An now, according to GOP candidates, enough with this raise the taxes on the rich business - these poor people need to ante up!
Rick Perry: “We’re dismayed at the injustice that nearly half of all Americans don’t even pay any income tax.”
Senator Marco Rubio: "we don't have enough people paying taxes in this country."
Even John Huntsman, pragmatic by 21st century Republican standards agreed that, "the half of American households no longer paying income tax—mainly working poor families and seniors—should be brought onto the income tax rolls."
And of course Michelle Bachmann: "Part of the problem is today, only 53 percent pay any federal income tax at all; 47 percent pay nothing," said Bachmann. "We need to broaden the base so that everybody pays something, even if it's a dollar. Everyone should pay something, because we all benefit."
Does anyone play this stuff back for them after these people say this stuff?!
First of all, its not true that working class people don't pay taxes.
This is interesting, because according to Slate Magazine, "Republican politicians didn't make this argument—until the Obama era. What changed?For decades, the "lucky ducky" number, the percentage of Americans that pay no taxes, never rose above 30 percent. The Bush tax cuts pushed it over 30 percent, but not too far over. Then, in 2008 and 2009, the economy collapsed. The government responded with, among other things, new tax deductions."
"The result: The percentage of people paying no income taxes spiked up to 47 percent and stayed there. When the Tea Party started rallying in 2009, it wasn't protesting higher taxes, because federal income taxes were lower, with more loopholes. It was protesting the perception that productive Americans were shelling out for an ever-expanding class of moochers. And Republicans have taken the Tea Party's lead."
Still not convinced? Working class and low income Americans do pay taxes. What kind? "The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that 46.4 percent of households will pay no federal income tax in 2011. This is, for the most part, not because people have chosen to loaf. It’s because they are working but simply don’t earn enough to owe income taxes, based on the progressive structure of the tax code and provisions designed to help the working poor and lower-income seniors.""
"...Roberton Williams has explained, “a couple with two children earning less than $26,400 will pay no federal income tax this year because their $11,600 standard deduction and four exemptions of $3,700 each reduce their taxable income to zero. The basic structure of the income tax simply exempts subsistence levels of income from tax.”"
Poor and working class Americanspay — "...state and local sales, income and property taxes — federal gasoline and other excise taxes and, most significantly, payroll taxes on every dollar they earn. These taxes are regressive. Everyone pays the same share, regardless of income, so they hit the poor hardest, and they counterbalance the progressivity of the income tax code."
"And, of course, they pay other taxes. An analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, taking into account all federal taxes, found that in 2007 even the poorest one-fifth of households, with average income (including government benefits) of $18,400, paid 4 percent of their income in federal taxes. By contrast, the middle fifth (average income $64,500) paid 14 percent of income and the top fifth (average income $264,700) 25 percent."
Now, Governor Perry, that is an injustice!
Think for a minute (those of you who get an income tax refund) - what do you do with yours? A few of us save it. But most of us spend it. When we spend it, we pay sales tax. Or we pay a bill, which pays the salary of someone who buys something. Or we pay rent, which helps pay the salaries of several people who eventually buy something who pay sales tax. Even if those dollars are deposited, in a savings account, or buys an IRA, it supports an industry that pays the salary of someone who buys something and pays taxes. There is no such thing as static money. In fact, because the working class and poor tend to be the largest consumers, they pay taxes more often.
If this is the vision for America that is going to shape the national conversation that will result in the election of the next President, it represents a frightful picture. It is a picture in which nearly every safety net is shrunk or eliminated. One in which those who are harmed by the greed of 'people Corporations' though they be too poor to own stock, or much property, are to be abandoned to the charitable donations of people who essentially don't think they matter! They are to be governed by people who think government should be 'inconsequential' (of course it will not be inconsequential to them if they were to become President - no one's giving up Air Force One, for instance).
So why this hatred of the poor? Why are they being portrayed as drags on the economy? My favorite columnist, Leonard Pitts expresses my own dismay in terms that are at least printable....
"There are people in this country — working people — who must routinely choose between rent and groceries, prescription drugs and electric lights. But we are encouraged by some on the political right to regard them with contempt and save our empathy for the fabulously wealthy."
"You’ll have to go some to find a starker example of how morally blinkered this country has become.".
"Even if you put morality aside, there is still the question of enlightened self interest. If you are white, you may scorn black people and be reasonably certain you will never become one. If you are straight, you may scorn gay people and be reasonably certain you will never become one."
"But any of us can become poor. Ann Coulter could become poor. How do you scorn what you might someday be?"
Maybe that's it...the fabulously wealthy hate what they fear becoming.
Or maybe its just a new style of patriotism...