StanCollender'sCapitalGainsandGames Washington, Wall Street and Everything in Between

Ignorance Is Bliss for the Tea Party Crowd

20 Mar 2010
Posted by Bruce Bartlett

Back when I used to listen to Rush Limbaugh there was one thing in particular he used to say that I agreed with. Over and over he said that liberals defined themselves largely by the worthiness of their objectives and the sincerity of their motives. The actual results of their policies didn’t matter at all. Thus liberals support the minimum wage because they care about the well being of workers at the bottom of the wage scale. That many of these workers lose their jobs or fail to find jobs because the minimum wage priced them out of the labor market was a matter of no concern to liberals. All that mattered is that they cared.

One of the reasons I became a conservative way back when is because conservatives lived in a world where one’s actions are defined by their consequences, not one’s motives. Conservatives also prided themselves on being reality-based and fact-based in their analyses, while liberals often seemed to live in a dream world disconnected from history, institutions and ideology, among other things.

Today, however, conservatives have largely adopted the liberal operating assumption and now also define themselves by the righteousness of their motives. This fact became very obvious to me this week when I examined the knowledge that tea party demonstrators on Capitol Hill had on the subject of taxation. As I recount in my column below, most of those in the crowd grossly overestimated the level and burden of federal taxes, thinking that they are many times higher than they actually are.

This column has gotten more than the usual amount of hostile reaction from those on the right. I won’t link to the comments; they are easily found with a Google search. But I want to respond to two points that have been made over and over again.
First is that a survey of 57 people is an invalid way of determining the views of tea party members. I would just note that if we take this view seriously then the whole science of public opinion polling goes out the window. A typical national poll only has about 1,000 responses. The survey of Tuesday’s crowd of between 300 and 600 people thus represents between 10% and 20% of the group—a very large sample by polling standards.
While it is conceivable that those who went to the trouble to come to Washington are more ignorant than the typical tea party member, it would seem much more likely that the opposite is the case. Insofar as one can define a group’s knowledge and understanding, it is reasonable to assume that its activists and leaders attending a high-profile demonstration in our Nation’s capital, where they have gone to persuade members of Congress, would be among the best-informed members of that group.
The second criticism I have heard time and again is that Americans in general are probably equally ignorant of facts such as federal taxation as a share of GDP. This is undoubtedly true. But the average American is not attending tea party demonstrations or proclaiming intense anger at the level of taxation. I don’t think it is unreasonable that those protesting a specific thing at least have some idea of the factual basis of their protest. And it’s not the fact that protesters were mostly wrong about the burden of taxation, it’s that they weren’t even in the ballpark of being right. Their beliefs are off by orders of magnitude, not by a few percentage points. I think this is revealing. Others can draw their own conclusions.
Note: Tom Schaller comments here.
The Misinformed Tea Party Movement
For an anti-tax group they don't know much about taxes
On March 16 the tea party crowd showed up for yet another demonstration on Capitol Hill in Washington. Curious about the factual knowledge that these people have regarding the issues they are protesting, my friend David Frum enlisted some interns to interview as many tea partiers as possible on a couple of basic questions. They got 57 responses--a pretty good sized sample from a crowd that numbered between 300 and 500 people. (Survey results are here.)
The first question that was asked concerned the size of government. Tea partiers were asked how much the federal government gets in taxes as a percentage of the gross domestic product. According to Congressional Budget Office data, acceptable answers would be 6.4%, which is the percentage for federal income taxes; 12.7%, which would be for both income taxes and Social Security payroll taxes; or 14.8%, which would represent all federal taxes as a share of GDP in 2009.
Not everyone follows these numbers closely and tea partiers may have been thinking of figures from a few years ago, before the recession when taxes were higher. According to the CBO, the highest figure for all federal taxes since 1970 came in the year 2000, when they reached 20.6% of GDP. As we know, after that George W. Bush and Republicans in Congress cut federal taxes and they fell to 18.5% of GDP in 2007, before the recession hit, and 17.5% in 2008.
Tuesday's tea party crowd, however, thought that federal taxes were almost three times higher than they actually are. The average response was 42% of GDP and the median was 40%. The highest figure recorded in all of American history was half those figures: 20.9% at the peak of World War II in 1944.
To follow up, tea partiers were asked how much they think a typical family making $50,000 per year pays in federal income taxes. The average response was $12,710 and the median was $10,000. In percentage terms, this means a tax burden of between 20% and 25% of income.
Of course, it's hard to know what any particular individual or family pays in taxes, but according to the IRS tax tables, a single person with $50,000 in taxable income last year would owe $8,694 in federal income taxes, and a married couple filing jointly would owe $6,669.
But these numbers are high because to have a taxable income of $50,000, one's gross income would be higher by at least the personal exemption, which is $3,650, and the standard deduction, which is $5,700 for single people and $11,400 for married couples. Owning a home or having children would reduce one's tax burden further.
According to calculations by the Joint Committee on Taxation, a congressional committee, tax filers with adjusted gross incomes between $40,000 and $50,000 have an average federal income tax burden of just 1.7%. Those with adjusted gross incomes between $50,000 and $75,000 have an average burden of 4.2%.
Even though the tea partiers were specifically asked about federal income taxes, it's possible that they were thinking about other federal taxes as well, such as payroll and excise taxes. According to the JCT, when all federal taxes are included, those earning between $40,000 and $50,000 have an average tax rate of 12.3%, and those earning between $50,000 and $75,000 pay a rate of 14.5%.
In short, no matter how one slices the data, the tea party crowd appear to believe that federal taxes are very considerably higher than they actually are, whether referring to total taxes as a share of GDP or in terms of the taxes paid by a typical family.
Tea party goers also seem to have a very distorted view of the direction of federal taxes. They were asked whether they are higher, lower or the same as when Barack Obama was inaugurated last year. More than two-thirds thought that taxes are higher today and only 4% thought they were lower; the rest said they are the same.
As noted earlier, federal taxes are very considerably lower by every measure since Obama became president. And given the economic circumstances, it's hard to imagine that a tax increase would have been enacted last year. In fact, 40% of Obama's stimulus package involved tax cuts. These include the Making Work Pay Credit, which reduces federal taxes for all taxpayers with incomes below $75,000 by between $400 and $800.
According to the JCT, last year's $787 billion stimulus bill, enacted with no Republican support, reduced federal taxes by almost $100 billion in 2009 and another $222 billion this year. The Tax Policy Center, a private research group, estimates that close to 90% of all taxpayers got a tax cut last year and almost 100% of those in the $50,000 income range. For those making between $40,000 and $50,000, the average tax cut was $472; for those making between $50,000 and $75,000, the tax cut averaged $522. No taxpayer anywhere in the country had his or her taxes increased as a consequence of Obama's policies.
It's hard to explain this divergence between perception and reality. Perhaps these people haven't calculated their tax returns for 2009 yet and simply don't know what they owe. Or perhaps they just assume that because a Democrat is president that taxes must have gone up, because that's what Republicans say that Democrats always do. In fact, there hasn't been a federal tax increase of any significance in this country since 1993.
One other possibility is that taxpayers are operating on the basis of a sophisticated economic theory called "Ricardian Equivalence." According to this theory, budget deficits have no stimulative effect on the economy because taxpayers implicitly discount the future tax increase that will be necessary to pay off the additional debt. People increase their saving now, so the theory posits, in order to prepare for this future tax increase, thus offsetting all of the stimulative effect of the deficits with an equal and contractionary increase in saving.
While Ricardian Equivalence is a legitimate economic theory that economists continue to debate, one often hears a variation of it on talk radio shows and such, where it is said that deficits are a tax on the economy. The problem is that many people conclude from this arguably true statement that raising taxes to reduce the deficit would in effect constitute a double tax. We're being taxed once by the deficit, people think, so why should they have their taxes raised to reduce it?
Of course, this is a non sequitur. People can't be taxed twice by the expectation of a tax and again by the actual tax itself. But more importantly, the underlying assumption of Ricardian Equivalence--that taxes will eventually rise to pay off the debt--is now seriously in doubt. Perhaps once it was true when people genuinely cared about a balanced budget. But today's Republicans and tea party members oppose all tax increases for any reason, no matter how big the deficit is. I really believe that many would rather default on the debt than raise taxes by a single penny. If this is true, then Ricardian Equivalence is a dead letter--to the extent that it ever existed at all.
Probably the simplest motivation the tea partiers have is the one that Howard Beale (actor Peter Finch) gave in the 1976 movie Network. "I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it any more!" he said to cheering crowds. In other words, tea parties just represent unfocused anger at current economic conditions. Those who feel this way have latched on to the tea party movement not because they really believe that their taxes are too high, that taxes are rising or that taxes are at the root of our economic problem. Rather, they have joined because it's the only game in town; the only organized force with at least the potential of bringing about change that might make things better.
In this sense, the tea parties are simply the latest manifestation of populism, which has arisen periodically throughout American history. In the 19th century populist anger was based in rural America and directed at the banks and railroads as well as government. Populists thought that free coinage of silver, an inflationary policy that would have raised prices for farm commodities, was the solution to their problems in the same way that today's tea party crowd think that the Federal Reserve, bailouts to big businesses and a looming government takeover of the health industry are at the root of our economic malaise. Tax cuts are like free silver--a one-size-fits-all policy response.
Unfortunately for the tea party populists, there is no evidence in American history that populism has ever had a meaningful effect on policy. Even when the movement had a charismatic and articulate leader in William Jennings Bryan, the populists only elected a handful of members to Congress and never achieved the presidency. One reason is that the major parties co-opted populist issues and leaders, which bought time until the populist impulse burned itself out like a brush fire.
Whatever the future of the tea party movement in American politics, it's a bad idea for so many participants to operate on the basis of false notions about the burden of federal taxation. It only takes a little bit of time to look at one's tax return to see what one is actually paying the Treasury, calculate the percentage of one's income that goes to taxes, and compare it to what was paid last year and the year before. People may then discover that their anger is misplaced and channel it into areas where it is more likely to bring about positive change.

Do you know that from 2007 to

Do you know that from 2007 to 2009 when the minimum wage rose 25% that teen age minimum wage employment rose 119%.

While lots of people don't

While lots of people don't like looking at their tax forms, they do like looking at their paychecks. I have little enough sympathy for the Tea Party movement, but I can understand the misperception on this issue. People who are lucky enough to get a pay raise often find 40-50% taken out for taxes of various kinds. This mistake, taking marginal rates for overall rates, is extremely widespread in my experience.

Wait, ya' mean that angry

Wait, ya' mean that angry mobs -- a.k.a. "populists" such as the tea partiers -- sometimes don't have their facts straight, don't put things in proper perspective, are driven by emotion rather than reason, and advocate solutions that are not rational or sensible? Impossible!

what my pay stub tells me

Mr. Bartlett,

With all due respect, your entire premise is wrong. It matters to me very little what slice of the GDP the federal government takes. I care what percentage of my paycheck is devoured by compulsory governmental mandates.

I have in front of me my husband's pay stub. He's a teacher in Texas. When I add up the money taken from his check that I can't do a thing about (I'm not including medical premiums, etc.), plus the property taxes we pay in Texas (that we can't deduct one penny from), we lose 23.7 percent of our annual income. Am I allowed to be angry about that? Or do you still disapprove? Can I add in the 8.25 percent sales tax on everything but food? Because that's very close to becoming one-third of our income. Is that gripe-worthy, or am I still misinformed?


Re: What my pay stub tells me

I suppose you're allowed to be angry, but I think Bartlett's point is to wonder whether or not that anger is based on reason. It's hard to take the overheated rhetoric of the tea party movement seriously in light of the facts. I think Barlett pretty clearly shows how our tax burden hasn't significantly changed from Bush to Obama. Wherefore the charges of socialism from the tea party, then?
It's fair to have a reasonable debate about taxes and spending, but I don't think the tea party movement wants to be a part of that debate.

Isn't it also fair to consider what you, your community, and the country gets in return for those taxes?

Robyn, While you are angry

While you are angry that ~24% of your husband's check is taken away at every payday, what about me? I loose a little over 40% of every paycheck. Unlike you in Texas, I also have some of the highest property and sales taxes in the country (Chicago).

I also have had the opportunity to live overseas and realize exactly what our taxes get us and where there is room for REAL improvement not the raucous noise of the Tea Party.

Finally, unlike you, I also loose all semblance of my civil liberties every time I walk into an airport.

Therefore, please stop complaining about how much you are taxed and how unfair it is, there are others who pay quite a bit more and get quite a bit less back.

You're misinformed. A), sales

You're misinformed. A), sales tax is collected by the state, and has no bearing on Washington at all. B), Fiddle with your W4 form to reduce your withholdings. Keep in mind this will reduce your tax refund as well, because your refund is just EXTRA money that was withheld.

Robyn, I find it a bit ironic


I find it a bit ironic that you say your husband is a teacher and than go on to complain of certain state and local taxes such as sales and property taxes. If your husband is a public school teacher, than don't some of these taxes go to pay his salary? I moan and grumble too when I get my property tax bill each year. But than I remember our teachers and librarians, our police officers and firefighters risking their lives each day, our trash collectors and road maintenance crews...and these are just some of the more obvious beneficiaries of our state and local taxes.

Having said that,I'll admit that 33 percent is a pretty hefty sum you are paying in total taxes and I can see why you are angry. Holy Mackerel! We're only human and I'm sure I'd be pretty angry as well if I had to pay over 30 percent of my income in taxes, unless I was bringing in some really serious cash each year. We made about $65,000 total last year and having two kids and my wife in college we paid Zero federal income taxes, about $1800 in property tax and I estimate between $3000 and $3500 in sales tax. That's less than 10 percent, I believe. But I think that one of the points being made is this: You are still in all probability paying less in federal taxes as a precentage of your income than ever before. Many in the tea party movement don't seem to realize this. You'd think they would be marching in favor of Obama for being the greatest tax cutter in recent history and to keep up the good work. The whole movement just seems very misguided and contradictory to me.

I don't know any tea

I don't know any tea partiers, but I do know quite a few people who believe that working extra hours for overtime pay will increase their taxes so much that all the extra money will go to the government.

I have yet to discover a way to convince them otherwise.

bogus methodology and conclusion

All your peculiar study shows is that random people on the street aren't able to recite wonkish numbers you pulled from Google. The same would probably be true for professional economists. Without a baseline score, it's impossible to indict anyone as "ignorant."

It is undeniable that Obama and his Democrats have dramatically increased the weight of government, and along with it the real debt burden of Americans. Your cherrypicked tax cuts contradict this, and many of them are just tax-and-spend subsidies with a different name.

You are the one being

You are the one being ignorant Bruce. The Tea Partiers have a correct assessment of taxes. I show this in details here:

Tea Party Ignorance

Good article and research by you and Mr. Frum. To those saying taxes as a percentage of GDP don't matter, they are wrong. Economic statistics matter in debates about economic policy and Americans should spend more time learning about important matters and figures and less about March Madness scores. They are getting the government ignorant lazy voters deserve but instead of educating themselves, they rant and rave and spout unfounded and erroneous rhetoric. Proving they are not only selfish and ignorant, but also stupid.

Do Not Argue Statistics

Mr. Bartlett,

Your sample is completely meaningless. And, before you parrot your prior response, this does not mean all statistical sampling is meaningless.

Actual statisticians running scientific polls expend a great deal of effort in designing their sample so that reasonable conclusions about the population as a whole can be drawn. This effort involves avoiding "samples of convenience" such as talking to 57 nearby people in a crowd who happen to show up at one particular event.

The reason that you see 1000 (or better yet 1500) cited in the polls is that a sample of that size is statistically meaningful, regardless of the size of the whole population. It has nothing to do with being 20% of the population or 5% of the population or anything of the sort.

As for the central point of your article regarding taxes, your premise is fundamentally wrong. Although the acronym (T)axed (E)nough (A)lready was associated with the Tea Party at its inception, the Tea Party today is not primarily concerned with taxes anymore than the Tea Party of 1775 was. Both tea parties were concerned about the federal government's relationship to its citizens.

The Tea Party is about the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. I suggest your next contribution involve quizzing 57 members of Congress on these documents -- if you wish to write of truly dismal displays of knowledge.

"The Tea Party is about the

"The Tea Party is about the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. I suggest your next contribution involve quizzing 57 members of Congress on these documents -- if you wish to write of truly dismal displays of knowledge."

I would wager that the Tea Partier's sampled by Frum would similarly be ignorant of these items as well. Nothing about the Tea Party group indicates that it or its members are the least bit interested in history, facts or knowledge, but rather relies on internal prejudices and misinformation for its gusto and statements.

Moreover, the fact that you'd measure the Tea Party's worth by comparing it to another group is just a dodge mechanism for ignoring the fact that your group fails to understand the basic concepts behind the items it frequently derides or claims to support.

You are blissful in your

You are blissful in your ignorance, shown by your reference to polling as a science. Ask your scam artist friend Shrum what population is represented by the 57 who were questioned and how he ensured randomness(the attendees are certainly NOT a random subset of a population of 'tea party members'). Those who garner an income from polling are not much different from B. Madoff.

"In fact, there hasn't been a

"In fact, there hasn't been a federal tax increase of any significance in this country since 1993."

Bruce, you just don't get it.

This health care fix is insidious. The savings are not there; savings appear only through accounting tricks.

Why omit the doctor’s fix from this bill? We know the fix is coming. It’s because the CBO would score the bill lower.

Here is one thing everyone should know about CBO numbers: When they estimate the budget impact of a bill, CBO will assume the path of GDP will remain unchanged.

This bill raises taxes.  Some of these tax hikes are the explicit tax increases on capital income to pay for the insurance subsidies.  Some of these tax hikes are the implicit marginal rate increases from the phase-out of the insurance subsidies as a person's income rises.

Sorry to say but these tax changes could impact GDP.  Bruce, maybe it is your position that taxes have a small impact on GDP maybe you’re right. I think that increased taxes (just look at the impact on entrepreneurs in California after this bill is signed) reduces work effort.

Bruce, do you really want to help? Then in the short term explain to people why the CBO assumes no change in GDP. Explain to people what impact unchecked spending has on our future.

As for your issue with the Tea Party movement it’s not the debt it’s the spending. Spending is the problem; so it is logical that the resources used to promote spending are to be targeted.

What we leave the next generation is equal to what we, on the whole, produce minus what we use up. When the government commissions someone to build a highway, a rainforest (think earmark) or a new health care entitlement using millions of dollars’ worth of resources, those resources are subtracted from the next generation’s inheritance. This subtraction of resources negatively affects the wages of the next generation.

The point to be made is that it is government spending, not government debt that has the potential to impoverish our children.

I’ll say it again: debt is not the issue. To see that all one has to do is raise taxes to a level that eliminates debt immediately. What impact does this have on the next generation? Though the tax removes the tax burden it also cuts inheritance by that very same amount.

It’s foolish to say this administration has saved the next generation X amount of dollars of debt and debt interest because in the same breath this administration has also robbed the next generation of inheritance and interest on that inheritance.

I'm not an economist, I'm

I'm not an economist, I'm just a dumb physician, but it seems to me that the "doc fix" comes up every year, there's a brief freak out about it, and the "fix" gets passed for another year. This will happen again this year whether or not the HCR bill is passed today.

We're already spending the money on health care, just inefficiently and cruelly. We're already "impoverishing our children" while enriching a small circle of people. The current path is unsustainable.

The real tax take of the US/State governments.

You have forgotten the hidden taxs on everything and the state taxes. The first tea party was over 7% tax on tea. The government should be able to get by on 1.5% of the GNP that is right one and one half percent. Taxes are not the only thing that the government does that is dangerous . The really bad control s the government has over industry and farmers cost everyone, The government has way to much interferance in our life. Intrest and inflation are taxs theirself.
Republicans are fascists and Democrats are communists they are both way out on the left.
The truth is that the tea baggers are more correct than the author. You are woefully ignorant of the real tax rate.

No, you just proved the

No, you just proved the author correct.

The GDP of the United States is $13.84T. (

1.5 percent of that is $207.6B (

Or about one-third of what we spend just on the military.

Really looking forward to the teabaggers advocating a 66% real cut (not the Washington definition where reducing the amount the spending is growing by is called a cut) in the military, on top of eliminating Grandma's Social Security and Medicare. Oh, and defaulting on the debt, since we wouldn't have the money to pay the interest anymore. But I suppose that's to be expected with the teabaggers and their allies casually suggesting we just cancel the debt.

(interest payments on the federal debt was $253B in FY '08:

I know ya'll would rather rely on truthiness instead of science and technology, but you do know that the Internet allows us to look up basic stuff like this, yes?

Tea Partiers are lied to constantly

by their own leadership. No wonder they are confused about the facts. My own rep -- and tea party darling -- just admitted to spreading another lie:

Impressed by the following passage

"One of the reasons I became a conservative way back when is because conservatives lived in a world where one’s actions are defined by their consequences, not one’s motives. Conservatives also prided themselves on being reality-based and fact-based in their analyses, while liberals often seemed to live in a dream world disconnected from history, institutions and ideology, among other things."

I dont identify myself as purely liberal or conservative. I am a pragmatist who believe change (including progress) is the true constant in our lives.

I have not finished reading the article yet but this passage caught my eye. It is sad that I have to turn to a comedian on comedy central to process what is going on search real hard to find a civil argument/discussion from a conservative who does not speak "talking point".

I truly believe history rhymes in mysterious ways. We will see liberals drooling over Obama's greatness in 20 years similar to how conservatives drool over Reagan's name for the sake of drooling and idoltry.

It will be helpful if

It will be helpful if you change from thinking of the world in binary terms, conservative and liberal, and be more pluralisitic in how you define it. If we had a third party of centrists, it would make a world of difference.

Third party of centrists

The idea of carving out a third party of the folks in the middle is nonsensical. For third party to be viable it must be formed around a unifying position. There are no specific policy positions that centrists uniformly agree on. Republicans who call themselves moderates or centrists usually agree with the party platform on most issues. However, the area of disagreement is not the same for all of them. Some disagree about social issues while others may disagree about economic issues. Same thing for Democrats. A centrist Dem may want some social programs but blanches at the thought of outright communism. Other Dem centrists may be for socialism but still pretend to favor a strong military.

I don't think the Tea Party will become an actual party competitive on the national level. However, one thing in its favor is the fact that their primary motivation is concern over government spending and waste. The main problem for them is in most races if they run a candidate it would likely split the Republican vote and lead to continued Dem miss-rule

I'm not sure that I'm buying

I'm not sure that I'm buying the 1.7% and 4.2% numbers for income tax. I pored through the link from the JCT, and didn't find those numbers calculated anywhere, unless he simply divided the revenues by the returns. I hope not - that would be a completely different number than the one Frum asked for. For one thing, the income brackets in the JCT report include health benefits, employer's FICA contribution, and worker's comp.

If you simply go to TurboTax and plug in an income of $60,000 and a taxable income of $50000, you find a family tax rate of 11.2%. If you put in $50,000 for income and $40,000 for taxable income, the tax rate is 10.4%.

Noting also that the marginal tax rate above $34K is 25%, the estimates of the crowd don't seem to be nearly as flawed as Bartlett has made them out to be. Certainly their estimate is much more realistic than "1.7%."

a nit to pick: you say "Their

a nit to pick: you say "Their beliefs are off by orders of magnitude, not by a few percentage points."

An order of magnitude is a factor of ten. You suggest they were off by a factor of two. I guess the teabaggers aren't the only ones who have a hard time with math.

While it is conceivable that

While it is conceivable that those who went to the trouble to come to Washington are more ignorant than the typical tea party member, it would seem much more likely that the opposite is the case.

That's possible, but I can think of a theory of why the opposite would be the case: Those who took the trouble and expense to come to Washington clearly are among the most motivated (which, in the teabagger universe, typically means most enraged) members of the movement.

Given their intense emotional devotion to the "cause" (liberty, lower marginal tax rates, spitting on black people, whatever) they may have a higher propensity for convincing themselves that what they believe to be true, what they want to be true, is in fact true.

They may also be more likely to watch Glen Beck, which amounts to much the same thing -- plus it lowers your IQ by 40 or 50 points.

Not claiming this is so, but it's worth considering.


Jason sez:

I think Barlett pretty clearly shows how our tax burden hasn't significantly changed from Bush to Obama. Wherefore the charges of socialism from the tea party, then?
It's fair to have a reasonable debate about taxes and spending, but I don't think the tea party movement wants to be a part of that debate.

Isn't it also fair to consider what you, your community, and the country gets in return for those taxes?

I've seen a lot of articles and comments setting up straw men about what the tea party is about and why it's wrong. One thing Bartlett points out and I will grant him is that a significantly large percentage of Tea Partiers (and that's what most of us call ourselves, thank you, not "Tea Baggers") are not well read and do not have a grasp on the details as far as exactly how much of their income goes to taxes. Most of them have jobs, and those jobs are mostly outside of the punditry and think-tank industry.

However, what they generally are is believers in free-markets and limited government and liberty. They believe in the right things, and they know that those things have been compromised by the growth and direction of government.

In their view, and in the veiw of the founders, "what you, your community, and the country gets in return for those taxes" is irrelevant. The focus is on what the role of government is. Spending is a measure of that, and taxes are they symptom.

Critics also tend to believe that since most Tea Partiers supported Bush over Kerry and Gore, and probably McCain over Obama -- that this is about Obama. Or about Democrats only. It is not, and this goes back far before GW Bush, or Reagan, or Carter, or Ford or Nixon or Johnson or Kennedy ... this has been building for a long time, incrementally like the proverbial frog in a slowly heated pan of water who doesn't notice the incremental increase in temperature and ends up getting cooked.

Any cursory and honest look at Obama's life shows that at the very least he was heavily influenced by people who professed to be socialists, or professed socialist views but called it something different. He's been in office a year and some change with the stated intent of "Fundamentally Transforming" the United States of America. But Obama is not the problem. Obama is the latest symptom of the problem, and he is the face and current executor of the agenda for the Center for American Progress, Apollo Alliance, and TIDES. He is surrounded in his cabinet, the think tanks he goes to, and in Congress with progressives -- some explicitly socialist, some not.

To conclude that he's "not a socialist" because, "hey, taxes haven't gone up" in the 14 months he's been in office is nonsense.

And you're very wrong about the tea partiers not wanting to have a reasonable debate about taxes and spending. That is exactly the debate they would like to have (though as Bartlett points out, many wouldn't be very good at it, just as many socialism supporters wouldn't be very good at arguing for socialism).

The problem is that if the Big Government side of the equation gets to decide what is "reasonable" and what can be dismissed as a bunch of ignorant, racist, redneck "Tea Baggers" -- a meaningful debate will never happen.

No one has answered the question.

Still no conservative on here has answered the question about just what we get from these taxes. Whether the marginal rate, after every level of government is added in, is 40% or 50%, can you not see what that money goes to?

When did you last go to a park, or flush your toilet? Do you put a dollar in the till every time you pull your vehicle onto the highway? Did you inspect the restaurant kitchen you ate in last week, or the food you bought at the supermarket this afternoon?

How much does an aircraft carrier cost these days? Or the evacuation of flood refugees? Who paid for your grandmother's surgery, or makes certain your uncle can make his rent this winter?

It is $1 million per mile to build new highway, and $1 million per year to keep a soldier in a war zone.

Did you have to pay for your kid to go to grade school last year? Wouldn't you like your future workers to be educated as well, since you intend to do all this hiring with your tax cut?

When H1N1 came out, who developed the vaccine, before giving it to private industry to not produce it fast enough? Who is funding the basic tech research at universities, not to mention subsidizing state students to go there and get the educations of tomorrow? (Not to mention your March Madness teams...)

Do the firemen send a bill when you call them? Or the cops? Why should the ambulance?

You have to use TurboTax correctly or not lie about the results

Geoff and people like him claiming that Bartletts's tax percentages are way off and that they pay huge taxes need to read their tax instructions more carefully (or tell the whole truth about their calculations) I just did my taxes in TurboTax. My family's adjusted gross income (earnings minus tax exempt contributions to IRA/401k adn tax advantaged health savings) is about $125k. There are 4 in the family, giving 4 exemptions, and mortage/property tax deductions over and above the standard deduction, so that our final taxable income is just under 90K. The federal income tax on that is about 15K, which is 16% of taxable income, but only 12% of adjusted gross income and 10% of gross income. Furthermmore, we get a tax credit of 2500 for college tuition. Our final federal tax of 13K is notably less than it was the last two years on the same or slightly less income, proving that indeed, the Obama administration has CUT my taxes, not increased them. The bottom line--which is clearly printed out by TurboTax on the first page, is that my federal taxes are 10% of my adjusted gross income, which is (thanks to the sweetheart tax treatment of 401K and health care savings accounts) only 8.6% of my gross income. With a lower salary that percentage would drop rapidly toward the numbers cited by Mr Bartlett above. I pay 9K in Soc Sec and Medicare taxes, so the absolute total of all my federal taxes comes to under 15% of my gross income or 26% of my taxable income. My conclusion: Bruce Bartlett is correct, US federal taxes are low, and have generally been decreasing. Those howling that they are not are either pig ignorant, or liars of convenience.

Recent comments


Order from Amazon


Creative Commons LicenseThe content of is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Need permissions beyond the scope of this license? Please submit a request here.