Many Republicans have played the “class warfare” card when reacting to President Obama’s plan to reduce the deficit, in part, by returning the top two income tax brackets to where they were under the Clinton administration and instituting the “Buffett rule,” which calls for an end to millionaires dodging taxes. GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was no exception, telling Fox News’ Neil Cavuto that “attacking business like the Democrats want to do, and class warfare like some members of the administration want to do, is simply the wrong way to go.”
Romney may feel that hiking taxes on the rich is class warfare, but he evidently doesn’t feel the same way about increasing taxes on the poor. During a campaign stop in Florida (ahead of tomorrow night’s GOP primary debate), Mitt Romney told a town hall audience that low-income Americans having no income tax liability is “a problem” that will ultimately “kill the country”:
This is a challenge. This is a problem. Ronald Reagan used to say, he was quoting a philosopher but I think it was really his own view as well, he used to say, look, if you get to a point where people recognize that they can vote themselves money from the Treasury, they will do so and ultimately kill the country. And I think it’s a real problem when you have half of Americans, almost half of Americans, that are not paying income tax.
Romney was trying to reference a quote that Reagan employed (which is unverified but often attributed to the Scottish professor Alexander Fraser Tytler) that said “a democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury.” Reagan used to quote to warn against the rise of a dictatorship following poor people voting themselves benefits.
Regardless of the sentiment, the practical upshot of Romney’s pronouncement is that he believes people who earn too little to have any federal income tax liability should have their taxes raised. But leaving aside that these people likely pay a hefty amount in sales and excise taxes, payroll taxes, and state and local taxes, there’s a simple reason that they have no federal income tax bill: they don’t make enough money!
Overall, less than a quarter of the nation’s households don’t contribute to federal tax receipts in some way or another — and the majority of the non-contributors are students, the elderly, or the unemployed. 60 percent of those with no income tax bill make less than $20,000 annually.
Romney, of course, did not express any dismay that there are 1,470 households in the U.S. that reported income of more than $1 million in 2009 but paid zero federal income tax on it.