Topic: Media Research Center
You know what passes for "research" at the Media Research Center. It has produced yet another example.
Eager to defend Mitt Romney from his nasty attack on Obama supporters as freeloaders who don't pay taxes, Brent Baker repeated that summary of Romney's remarks in his Sept. 17 NewsBusters post, then asked: "And the inaccuracy is?"
Well, gee, Mr. Baker, you're the MRC's vice president for research and publications. Can we presume that you would research if there are any actual inaccuracies in Romney's claim before you drop a glib, snide statement like that?
Apparently, we can't.
As numerous websites that, unlike Baker and the MRC, actually are capable of reseraching basic facts point out, it's absurd -- and utterly false -- to portray every one of the 47 percent of Americans who pay no income taxes as deadbeats and freeloaders or even Obama supporters, as Romney did.
Only 18 percent of tax filers did not have to pay either income tax or payroll taxes.
Nearly all of the people who did not pay either type of tax were elderly – 10.3 percent of total tax filers - or had incomes less than $20,000 – 6.9 percent.
But it's not just low-income people who get out of paying income taxes. About 1 percent of the top 1 percent of income earners, those making about $533,000 or more, did not pay income taxes. That's roughly 13,000 tax filers.
Of the 47 percent of Americans who pay no federal income tax, two-thirds pay federal payroll tax. Most of them aren’t making a lot of money; a couple with two children has to earn less than $26,400 to pay no income tax. Altogether, only a tenth of Americans pay no federal tax, and most who pay neither income nor payroll tax are retirees.
According to 2011 data from the Tax Policy Center, more than half of the filing units not paying income taxes are those with incomes less than $16,812 per year. Nearly a third - 29.2 percent - of those paying no income taxes are tax filers earning between $16,812 and $33,542, and 12.8 percent are those with incomes between $33,542 and $59,486. In other words, the poor are least likely to pay federal income taxes, but many middle-class families are also exempt. Smaller but significant numbers of the higher-income earners are also exempt: The same data shows that in 2011, 78,000 tax filers with incomes between $211,000 and $533,000 paid no income taxes; 24,000 households with incomes of $533,000 to $2.2 million paid no income taxes, and 3,000 tax filers with incomes above $2.2 million paid no income taxes.
Overall, according to the Tax Policy Center, "of the 38 million tax units made nontaxable by the addition of tax expenditures, 44 percent are moved off the tax rolls by elderly tax benefits and another 30 percent by credits for children and the working poor."
According to one analysis, only the very broadest definition of Americans "who are dependent upon government" yields a number approaching 47 percent.
If Romney is including anyone who receives Social Security and Medicare – both considered an earned entitlement since Americans pay for them – the percentage of Americans receiving money from the government hits 37 percent.
It’s safe to say that most of the 46.4 percent referred to by Romney are in the lower income brackets. According to the most recent Gallup polls of registered voters, 37 percent of those making less than $36,000 a year indicate they plan to vote for Romney. Moreover, as we noted earlier, a sizable chunk of 46.4 percenters are retirees, and among those 65 and older, Romney leads Obama by nine points, 52 percent to 43 percent. According to a Rasmussen Reports poll of likely voters between Sept. 10 and 16, 40 percent of those making less than $20,000 said they plan to vote for Romney; 50 percent of those making between $20,000 and $40,000 said they supported Romney. The Pew Research Center similarly found in its latest poll that 32 percent of those making less than $30,000 and 42 percent of those making between $30,000 and $50,000 support Romney — as do a plurality of seniors.
Baker seems to believe that the MRC's name has changed to the Media Snark Center. That's probably just as well -- Baker and his subordinates substituted actual research for lazy partisan attacks a long time ago.