Barely Progressive

Gover Norquist Taxpayer Protection Pledge

This is a copy of Gover Norquist’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge. I had never looked at it until today when it was mentioned on Up with Chris Hayes. Check out the text: this is all about income taxes.

The reason this is interesting is that poor people don’t pay much in the way of income taxes. Poor people pay lots of payroll taxes and lots of state and local taxes. What’s the difference? Well, federal income taxes are about the only taxes in our country that are progressive. State and local taxes are generally pretty flat and payroll taxes are extremely regressive. In total, the American tax system is barely progressive. Here is the data of how much each quintile pays in total taxes from the Center for Tax Justice. One thing you won’t see on this graph is that as you go up in the top quintile, your taxes go down. So the people in the top 1% pay less in taxes than the people in the top 10%. And it goes on like that, as we saw with Mitt Romney’s taxes during the campaign.

Total Taxes Paid by Income Quintile

What this all means is that the whole conservative movement’s obsession about federal income taxes just comes down to their hatred of the working classes. The federal level is the only place where we can make the tax system equitable, because it is too easy for the rich to move from state to state. Thus conservative attempts to enact a federal income flat tax is just an attempt to make the entire tax system regressive. And that brings us to Grover Norquist.

His tax pledge says nothing about state and local taxes. It says nothing about the terribly unfair payroll tax. In fact, during the Fiscal Cliff negotiations, he was fine with letting the payroll tax holiday end. He claimed that that was because it was intended to be a temporary tax cut. But so too were the Bush tax cuts. What’s more: look at the pledge. I think it says it all. The one place in the tax code that is progressive, Norquist wants to make less so. Look at it this way: if the federal income tax were abolished, the American tax system would be ridiculously regressive instead of just barely progressive.

I fear that most people don’t even know this. They think that the rich pay a great deal more taxes than the poor. They don’t. We need to start talking about it. We need to do something about this.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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