Political rhetoric, by its very nature, isn’t strictly factual but is supposed to speak to a broader truth or idea. When rhetoric is used that doesn’t speak to a broader truth, it is nothing but illusions and fiction. It becomes a thing unto itself without actual meaning or moral authority.
Such is the ridiculous leftist phrase “fair share.” Considering the top 1% of income earners pay almost 37% of the entire tax burden and the bottom 50% pay about 2% of federal income taxes, “fairness” isn’t the issue. If we wanted “fairness” everyone would be paying something but far too many people are paying nothing. That is on the federal level, but what about for Minnesota?
This is what prompted my question.
On December 4th, Rep. Ryan Winkler tweeted this comment, “Fair share’ isn’t my slogan. I believe in shared sacrifice – everyone contributes to solve problems.”
Let’s take Winkler at his word. Let’s pretend he believes his rhetoric that everyone must sacrifice and the burden must be shared. That would mean our state budget requires people to give up something towards paying for our government services. I then went to the Minnesota Department of Revenue for the raw data on income taxes paid.
This is what I found. (pdf)
There were 1,981,000 filers in 2009. The bottom half of filers is then about 990,000. According to Table C, that means a little less than half the taxpayers in Minnesota make less than $50,000 per year. Their tax liability was about $710 million. But, that doesn’t include the dependent care, working family and education credits which slice more than $215 million off that liability. So the tax burden on the bottom half of the income tax filers is $495 million. That means on an average, Minnesota’s lowest earning taxpayers pay about $500 per return.
This leaves the top half paying $5.7 billion. Since the marriage credit is only $60 million a year, we’ll ignore that as a rounding error. The top 990,000 income tax filers pay an average of $5758 per year in income taxes to the state. So, the top half of income earning households in this state pay more than ten times the taxes.
I know. The rates are graduated and those making less than $50k are paying more than those making $5k a year and the same is true in reverse for above the halfway mark. My larger point is we already have a wildly disparate income taxing system that punishes those making more than those making less. On the face of it, Winkler’s “shared sacrifice” song and dance is just that, a poorly done off-Broadway musical.
His class warfare rhetoric is supposed to target the “wealthiest” by which he really means the highest income earners. Those making over $500k per year are paying a whopping $84,802 per household. A mere 11,639 Minnesotans are paying more than 15% of the entire income tax liability. The bottom half of the taxpaying households meanwhile have about 11% of the liability even though they are 990,000 of the filers. Keep in mind, they pay much less, a mere 7% after you subtract the credits they receive.
This demonstrates the absurdity of Winkler’s rhetorical device. There is no “shared sacrifice” going on now and his policy positions suggest the burden will be shifted even more dramatically onto the higher income earners. He isn’t interested in “sharing” anything. Winkler’s position is to drain higher income earners’ pockets to give he and the DFL a bigger trough of money to wallow in.
Problem with his “sacrifice” of higher income Minnesotans is it saps the motivation to invest and create more wealth. Once his opening number informs those targeted eleven thousand Minnesotans what key this musical will be played in, they will be heading toward the exits. Then, once they’ve left the theater, we will all suffer from their lack of patronage. His entire production will strip the state of investments, put downward pressure on wages, and kill the golden goose of revenues.
This isn’t a revue I’m interested in seeing play out.