The tax-cut right, as Bruce Bartlett explains, loves to refer to a “house divided,” in the sense that a large percentage of U.S. citizens pay no federal income tax.
What the Right forgets, of course, is those people are too poor to pay federal income taxes (although, of course, they pay plenty of other taxes, federal payroll as well as state and local taxes). It also overlooks the fact that many wealthy individuals manage to give up a relatively small percentage of their income in taxes.
According to newly released data from the Internal Revenue Service [pdf], among those with an income in 2009 over $200,000, many paid low tax rates: 0. 5 percent paid no federal income taxes, 3.3 percent paid less than 10 percent, 10 percent paid 10 to 15 percent, 37.2 percent paid 15 to 20 percent, 30.4 percent paid 20 to 25 percent, and 16.7 percent paid 25 to 30 percent. Just 2.4 percent paid more than 30 percent.
Indeed, we are a house divided, and the well to do are managing to secede from the tax union.