For almost a year and a half, furious Tea Party protesters have been chanting "Taxed Enough Already." But as it turns out, "taxed enough" actually means "at the lowest levels since 1950." That's the word from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which found that Americans paid the smallest overall tax bill since Harry Truman was in the White House. Of course, that inconvenient truth for Tea Baggers is tied to another: their plummeting payments are due in part to the tax relief delivered by President Obama.
USA Today summed up the BEA data debunking yet another right-wing myth:
Federal, state and local taxes -- including income, property, sales and other taxes -- consumed 9.2% of all personal income in 2009, the lowest rate since 1950, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports. That rate is far below the historic average of 12% for the last half-century. The overall tax burden hit bottom in December at 8.8% of income before rising slightly in the first three months of 2010.
"The idea that taxes are high right now is pretty much nuts," says Michael Ettlinger, head of economic policy at the liberal Center for American Progress.
That conclusion echoed a similar finding from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities last month. CBPP found
Middle-income Americans are now paying federal taxes at or near historically low levels, according to the latest available data. That's true whether it comes to their federal income taxes or their total federal taxes.
Several factors are fueling the reduced tax bill. For starters, the Bush recession has battered Americans' incomes and slashed sales tax revenue. New and expanded tax credits signed into law by presidents Clinton and Bush also lightened the tax burden for working families. And importantly, the $160 billion in tax cuts delivered by the Obama stimulus program helped refill Americans' bank accounts.
But you'd never know it, judging from the incendiary rhetoric flowing from the Tea Party movement and amplified by its media stenographers.
And in this case, ignorance is not bliss. While over 95% of working Americans received a tax cut thanks to President Obama and Congressional Democrats, a CBS poll found that Tea Party supporters literally didn't believe it:
Of people who support the grassroots, "Tea Party" movement, only 2 percent think taxes have been decreased, 46 percent say taxes are the same, and a whopping 44 percent say they believe taxes have gone up.
It's no wonder that despite their much publicized fury, 52% of Tea Party sympathizers "say their taxes are fair." Of course, when it comes to taxes, what Tea Baggers don't know is a lot.
In March, former Reagan Treasury official Bruce Bartlett quantified the know-nothingness of proud if deluded anti-tax Tea Partiers. Among other findings in a survey of the assembled DC Tea Baggers on March 16:
Tuesday's Tea Party crowd, however, thought that federal taxes were almost three times as high as they actually are. The average response was 42% of GDP and the median 40%. The highest figure recorded in all of American history was half those figures: 20.9% at the peak of World War II in 1944.
"For an antitax group," Bartlett aptly concluded, "they don't know much about taxes."
So the next time the Tea Party Republicans masquerading as independents call Barack Obama a socialist fascist communist or worse, remember the two words they should express to the President.
(This piece also appears at Perrspectives.)