The Romney campaign is in damage control mode today, trying to explain Romney telling wealthy donors in a private meeting that “there are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”
“These are people who pay no income tax,” Romney continued, in a video posted by Mother Jones. “My job is is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” But who are the 47 percent of Americans who currently have no federal income tax liability?
Mostly, they are either too poor to qualify for even the lowest tax bracket (but still pay federal payroll tax, and state or local sales taxes, gas taxes, and excise taxes), or they benefit from tax credits for the working poor, the elderly, or students, as these charts from the Tax Policy Center show. Only 7 percent of the country is non-elderly and has no federal tax liability, and most of them make less than $20,000:
Here are the reasons for those who paid no federal income tax reaching that point:
In 2011, payroll tax receipts totaled $818 billion, only $200 billion less than was brought in by the federal income tax. Those Americans who paid payroll taxes, but had no income tax liability, still pay about 15 percent of their income, higher than the 13 percent Romney pays.
As ThinkProgress has explained, more and more income has become concentrated at the top of the income scale in the last few decades, so the wealthy have paid a larger share of federal taxes, because they have a larger share of the income.
Romney is hardly alone in his contempt for those who don’t have any federal income tax liability (even though people who fall into that category disproportionately live in Republican states). Over the last few years, many Republicans have explicitly called for finding a way to make the poor pay more, so that the number of federal income tax payers rises.