September 20, 2011 11:02 am ET - by Kate Conway
Yesterday, Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) became the latest wealthy member of Congress to whine about the financial hardships he faces. Fleming's case was even more cringeworthy than most, since by his own casual estimate he's spending about $200,000 just to "feed my family" — and he saw fit to complain about the $400,000 in take-home money he's left with after that.
After the criticism Fleming got from those incensed by such an out-of-touch statement, a more astute person might sheepishly avoid the topic of his personal wealth for awhile. But that very evening, Fleming appeared on Fox Business to further discuss his outrage at the idea that the wealthy might be asked to pay more in taxes.
FLEMING: Small businesses — and I own small businesses — we file through LLCs and S corps, flow to our personal tax returns, and what we don't feed our families on we have left over for capital, which we reinvest to create jobs. You take that capital away, no more jobs, Eric.
Fleming wasn't done decrying the plight of the wealthy. As he plowed ahead with the interview, he managed to weave his favorite motif into the conversation again, complaining that the tax burden "is being pushed more and more on the earners, the producers, and less and less on others":
ERIC BOLLING (HOST): By the way, what is it, 47 percent of all American households don't pay any federal income tax?
FLEMING: That's true, and back in the '80s it was 17 percent, so you see that the burden is being pushed more and more on the earners, the producers, and less and less on others.
Of course, many of those who didn't pay income taxes last year weren't obliged to do so because they didn't make very much money, either because they're elderly or students or because the economy is still reeling from the recession. And, although Fleming ignores this, those people still bear the burden of other taxes; all told, the bottom fifth of American households still paid an average of 16 percent of their income in taxes in 2010 — not an insignificant "burden" for those that make nowhere near the comfy half-million Fleming nets. Moreover, the shifting income tax obligations since the 1980s have gone hand-in-hand with ever-increasing income inequality.
Listening to Fleming, it's clear that he would push the tax burden right back onto those at the bottom — people who make, on average, somewhere in the neighborhood of one-eighteenth what Fleming purportedly needs just to feed his family.
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