House Republicans Revive Lie That Richest One Percent Of Taxpayers Pay 40 Percent Of All Taxes

Rep. James Lankford (R-OK)

During his budget speech last week, President Obama revived his proposal to allow the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Americans to expire, prompting a predictable backlash from Republican members of Congress. But some House Republicans, in an effort to justify extending tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans, have resurrected a lie about the amount of taxes paid by the wealthy. These Republicans have been falsely claiming that the richest one percent of Americans pay 40 percent of all federal taxes:

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN): Well, remember, again, already the top 1 percent of income earners pay about 40 percent of all taxes into the federal government.

REP. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): They are saying our budget is completely imbalanced because we don’t tax major corporations more and we don’t tax wealthy individuals more. I’m thinking the top 1 percent already pays 40 percent of the taxes in America.

While the richest one percent of Americans do pay about 40 percent of the total federal income taxes paid in the country, that’s a far cry from 40 percent of overall taxes. Even those working Americans who don’t make enough money to have federal income tax liability pay federal payroll and excise taxes, which fall much harder on the middle-class and low-income individuals than those at the upper end of the income scale.

Once all taxes are taken into account, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the richest one percent of Americans pay about 28 percent of total federal taxes, which is right in line with their 25 percent share of total income. And therein lies the real story: the richest one percent of Americans pay such a large share of federal income taxes because they make such a large share of the overall income:

Income inequality in the U.S. is currently the worst its been since the 1920s. Just the richest 400 Americans hold more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of Americans combined, and the richest 10 percent of Americans control two-thirds of the country’s net worth.

To House Republicans, though, this wealth concentration is a reason not to raise taxes on the very rich. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll out today shows that 72 percent of Americans support Obama’s proposal to raise taxes on the richest Americans to reduce the deficit, while large majorities oppose the GOP’s proposals to cut Medicare and Medicaid.