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Who are these “taxpayers”?

March 1, 2011

The right-wing talking point about the Wisconsin showdown and similar issues is that it’s the “public employees vs. the taxpayers”. This is not just a gross oversimplification, it’s wrong on several layers.

It’s a false dichotomy between a minority and an ill-defined group which is (probably falsely) implied to be the majority.

So who are “The Taxpayers”? Well, by one definition, probably not you are I (knowing nothing about you). For several years now almost half of all US households have had no taxable income. Considering the fact that more people are being pushed into poverty with the recession and all, and that the government shows no sign in stopping its campaign to create more gaping loopholes and give more tax cuts to the wealthiest, I’d say it’s probably approaching a point where the “non-taxpayers” are in the majority if we haven’t already surpassed it.

I’ve been below the threshold of taxable income for several years running, even when I had good jobs (by the low standard of our day). I struggle with my finances occasionally but I don’t feel like I’m significantly worse off than most of my peers. There has to be millions of families in this country in the same tax bracket (0%) I am.

But of course this is just talking about federal income tax, not sales tax, not state income tax, not FICA, etc. But then that would mean we’re all taxpayers, wouldn’t it?

Well that implies that public employees and union members are taxpayers, too. Hence, a false dichotomy.

In fact, I’d be willing to bet that they’re more taxpayerish than average, generally speaking. It’s no big secret that union employees are paid better. I’d imagine you’d almost have to be a union employee of some sort to be rich enough to get over the income tax threshold and yet poor enough that you don’t have Uncle Sam falling all over himself to find new ways to let you off the hook.

I use a lot of words like “majority”, “almost have to”, etc. I don’t have any hard evidence. It’s probably out there if I wanted to do the research, but that’s not my point.

What I’m trying to say is this: it’d be pretty hard to find a definition of “taxpayers” which excludes unionized public employees and yet isn’t so narrow that it constitutes a minority which, frankly, shouldn’t expect to have the majority lining up to cover its ass in kisses the way conservative pundits apparently feel it should.

The “public employees vs. the taxpayers” argument is bunk.

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