There's always that moment of total cognitive dissonance that happens when people who happen to live in the real world, and not that right-wing ideological bubble we sometime call Planet Bizarro, listen in on the conversation as conservative True Believers like Mitt Romney babble their Fox-brewed talking points among each other. That's the component that makes Mitt's revealed videos of his "47 percent" rant to fellow Republicans so special.
The dissonance is different for different people. For me, it lay in this: I pay federal taxes. Lots of them. I have every year of my adult life. Moreover, I have never taken a dime of government largesse and am not in any sense dependent on it. And I would never vote for Mitt Romney or the Republicans or their whole every-dog-for-himself philosophy. Nor am I alone. Like millions of other smart Americans, I want a strong and complete social safety net, because I'm smart enough to understand that making sure everyone is cared for appropriately makes the whole of society better for everyone, me included. I might add, for the privileged particularly -- even though they're too stupid and selfish to get that.
But that's only a small component of the bigger picture here, which is pretty stark when viewed in perspective, namely: The conservative worldview is increasingly built on a foundation of complete and utter falsehoods, laughably provable, and irredeemably vicious in nature.
The Foxheads and their right-wing enablers have now closed ranks to proclaim, once again, that "Romney was right!" Which is pretty funny, when you think about it: After all, it was clearly Romney regurgitating an oft-repeated Fox News falsehood, as Media Matters lays out in detail, that we saw on that video.
You can see the epistemological loop closing in on itself, so that they now are just talking among themselves on their own planet, believing only their own lies as a bizarre version of fabricated reality.
And it creates a quasi-eliminationist mentality among these True Believers. Romney and his fellow Republicans not only really believe that these people's views should be dismissed, but that their views should not count at all.
My favorite iteration came when Steve Doocy not only claimed that 47 percent of the American public pays no taxes at all, but suggested that this status might be reasonable cause for them to lose the right to vote.
I'm sure, however, that Doocy would make an exception for the 7,000 millionaires who paid no taxes at all.
The best part of all this, though, is that the whole "47 percent pay no taxes" meme is a lie. David Leonhardt at the New York Times demolished it two yeas ago:
The 47 percent number is not wrong. The stimulus programs of the last two years — the first one signed by President George W. Bush, the second and larger one by President Obama — have increased the number of households that receive enough of a tax credit to wipe out their federal income tax liability.
But the modifiers here — federal and income — are important. Income taxes aren’t the only kind of federal taxes that people pay. There are also payroll taxes and investment taxes, among others. And, of course, people pay state and local taxes, too.
Even if the discussion is restricted to federal taxes (for which the statistics are better), a vast majority of households end up paying federal taxes. Congressional Budget Office data suggests that, at most, about 10 percent of all households pay no net federal taxes. The number 10 is obviously a lot smaller than 47.
Moreover, that doesn't even include the bigger picture, which includes a wide range of non-federal taxes:
State and local taxes, meanwhile, may actually be regressive. That is, middle-class and poor families may face higher tax rates than the wealthy. As Kim Rueben of the Tax Policy Center notes, state and local income taxes and property taxes are less progressive than federal taxes, while sales taxes end up being regressive. The typical family pays a lot of state and local taxes, too — almost half as much as in federal taxes.
There is no question that the wealthy pay a higher overall tax rate than any other group. That is an American tradition. But there is also no question that their tax rates have fallen more than any other group’s over the last three decades. The only reason they are paying more taxes than in the past is that their pretax incomes have risen so rapidly — which hardly seems a great rationale for a further tax cut.
The nonpartisan and highly respected Tax Policy Center derived the 47 percent number – it is actually 46 percent, as of 2011 – and published an excellent analysis of it last summer.
It found that about half of the households that do not pay federal income tax do not pay it because they are simply too poor. The Tax Policy Center gives as an example a couple with two children earning less than $26,400 a year: The household would pay no federal income tax because its standard deduction and other exemptions would simply erase its liability.
The other half, the Tax Policy Center found, consists of households taking advantage of tax credits and other provisions, mostly support for senior citizens and low-income working families.
Put bluntly, these are not households shirking their tax liabilities. The pool consists mostly of the poor, of relatively low-income working families and of old people. The tax code is specifically designed to reduce the burden on them.
Indeed, the recession and its aftermath have left tens of millions of workers out of a job or underemployed, removing more households from payment of federal income taxes. Moreover, the Bush tax cuts – the signature Republican economic policy of the 2000s, which doubled the child tax credit, increased a number of other deductions and exemptions, and lowered marginal tax rates – erased millions of families’ federal income tax liabilities.
It is also worth noting that though tens of millions of families do not pay federal income taxes, there are virtually no families that do not pay any taxes – between payroll taxes, sales taxes, state and local taxes, and on and on.
Perhaps even more amusing is that, if reality were known to Mitt Romney, then he would know that he's actually attacking his own base, since the states where 47 percent of the population pay no federal income taxes are deep red states, mostly in the South, and its Northwestern counterpart, Idaho:
But as Derek Thompson observed in delving these numbers deeper:
The 47% aren't lucky ducks cheating the system. They're mostly poor working families getting pilloried by the political party that wrote the rules they're following. If the 47% are the monster here, then Republicans helped play the role of Dr. Frankenstein. "Non-payers" have grown in the last 30 years because of marginal tax rate cuts and credits like the EITC passed under Republican presidents and continued by both parties in Congress.
And what's truly sad is that many of those people will actually be gulled into voting for Mitt Romney, because Fox News tells them he's on their side.