Political Correction

Does Sen. Hatch Think It's "Perverse" When Millionaires Don't Pay Taxes?

August 04, 2011 12:12 pm ET - by Jamison Foser

Sen. Orrin Hatch

Last month, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) lashed out at the poor and middle class, saying it is "perverse" that they often pay little or no federal income tax and that they "need to share some of the responsibility." Hatch later explained his controversial statements:

"I don't want to tax the truly poor, those who would help themselves if they could," Hatch said. "But you can't tell me that 51 percent of all households are the truly poor. Really, I don't want to tax them either to be honest with you, but it's apparent we're going to have to find a better way broadening the base of the tax system."

He also criticized outlets like MSNBC and The Huffington Post for reporting that he said the poor should do more, accusing the "liberal blogosphere" of using Democratic talking points.

"I'm not surprised, but this completely misses my point and the point is this: No matter what these Democrats tell you, the wealthy and middle class are already shouldering around 100 percent of the nation's tax burden and 51 percent pay absolutely nothing in income taxes," Hatch fumed before lambasting the entire system.

"Furthermore, because of this perverse distribution of federal income taxes, there is no way to fix our deficit hole and start paying down the debt by increasing taxes only on the so-called rich," he said.

Hatch's fixation on the share of income taxes paid by the rich and the poor without acknowledging that the rich enjoy a dramatically larger share of total income than the poor — and an even greater share of total wealth — is either spectacularly dishonest or spectacularly ignorant:

The richest one percent of Americans earns about 25 percent of total annual income — but that actually understates the gap between the super-rich and the rest of the country. The richest one percent owns as much financial wealth as the bottom 95 percent of Americans — 40 percent of all the wealth in America. Four hundred Americans — the richest 0.0001 percent of the country — have as much wealth as the bottom half of the country combined.

In short, whenever you see a politician ranting about the rich carrying a much larger tax burden than the poor (as if higher taxes are a crushing "burden" to someone with multiple vacation houses) without acknowledging that they enjoy a much higher income and greater wealth, that's your cue to stop taking that politician seriously. Forever.

Still, I can't help wondering what Hatch thinks about this, from Reuters today:

No income tax was paid by 1,470 of the 235,413 taxpayers earning $1 million or more in 2009, compared with the 959 taxpayers with million-dollar-plus incomes who paid no income taxes in 2007.

Nearly 1,500 people who made at least $1 million each in 2009 paid no income taxes on those earnings. And Orrin Hatch spends his time complaining that a single mother working two jobs to feed her kids doesn't pay higher taxes — and voting to maintain billions of dollars in tax breaks for five hugely profitable oil companiesThat's "perverse."

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