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Jewish World Review April 19, 2002/ 8 Iyar, 5762

Larry Elder

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Consumer Reports

Pass the Advil on taxes | The Associated Press ran a rare article explaining exactly who pays the federal income taxes. They state that the top 5 percent of income earners pay more than 55 percent of the total federal income taxes. (To be eligible for the top 5 percent, one must have an annual income above $120,846.) For people who believe the "rich" hire fancy accountants and lawyers to avoid paying taxes, this news comes as quite a shock.

Three years ago, Investor's Business Daily ran a similar article about the top 10 percent of taxpayers - those earning above $74,981 - who received 41.6 percent of the nation's income and paid 62.4 percent of the taxes, thus paying a tax share 50 percent greater than their income share.

Do people know the top 10 percent pay more than 62 percent of the federal income taxes? Three years ago, I put this question to my radio listeners.

Here's what they said: "The top wage earners, what they pay in taxes is only about 3 percent." "I'm gonna say the top 10 percent pay between 2 and 4 percent." "I would say 2 to 3 percent." "I would say 1 percent."

The Associated Press also noted that the top 1 percent of wage earners pay over one-third of the federal income taxes, while taking in 19 percent of the nation's income. To qualify for the 1 percent, one must make a minimum of $293,415. What do people generally think qualifies one for admission into the top 1 percent? Again, three years ago, I posed the question to my radio listeners:

How much must one make in order to qualify for "the rich," the top 1 percent?

Here's what they said: "Probably $1-$2 million." "At a minimum, I would say $800,000." "$100 million, around there." "Let's just give it $25 million." "Somewhere in the neighborhood of $400-500 million a year."

Wrong. Really wrong.

Why the ignorance?

In his book, Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News, Bernard Goldberg explains that mainstream media find certain issues of interest while ignoring others. When, for example, negative studies on day care appeared, Goldberg wrote that these studies made uncomfortable the male and female journalists who placed their kids in day care centers.

"On network TV," wrote Goldberg, "given the prevailing sensibilities that reign there, voices that argue for policies that would make it easier for moms to drop their kids off at day care are considered thoughtful, compassionate and reasonable. But voices that argue for less day care, because day care is bad for kids - frankly, I don't think the media elites even know such voices exist."

Similarly, many members of the mainstream media seem indifferent to or actually approve of the disproportionate percentage of federal income taxes paid by "the rich." Many go into journalism to right the wrongs, believing the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and that the rich "fail to pay their fair share of taxes."

Perhaps this explains why print and television newspeople rarely refer to taxpayer or taxpayer dollars and instead use terms like "federal expenditures," "federal dollars," "federal outlays," "government aid," "government investments" or "federal grant." It is, of course, our money, but the lexicon used by mainstream media suggests otherwise.

Congressman Brad Sherman, D-Calif., in a recent mailer to his constituents, asks the following question:

I strongly believe that the federal government should spend more money on which of these? (Check those that you feel strongly about):

a. Federal aid to public schools

b. Provide a pharmaceutical benefit under Medicare

c. Environmental protection

d. National defense

e. Tax cuts for middle-class families

f. Homeland security

g. Transportation

h. Consumer protection

i. Don't spend - pay off the national debt

Note e: "Tax cuts for middle-class families"! How does a middle-class tax cut become something "government should spend more money on"? Only on the Potomac does a return of taxpayers' money become a federal spending program.

This brings us to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. The National Taxpayers Union said that Clinton voted for more spending bills than did any of her 99 other colleagues. In fact, according to the NTU, Clinton set a record for the lowest score (voting for more spending measures) than any other freshman senator in the some 25 years they've tracked this. The Los Angeles Times once described House Majority Leader Dick Armey, based on his voting record, as a "hardline conservative." Will the media, based on Clinton's voting record, call her a "hardline liberal," or an "extremist" or "leftist"? Don't hold your breath.

Quite simply, we are overtaxed Americans. According to the Tax Foundation, Tax Freedom Day is now April 27, 2002. But don't expect much relief soon. The American Enterprise Institute's Kevin Hassett chastises both parties for their spending addictions. "It is really obvious," said Hassett, "that when there is money around, they will spend it, even if they are Republicans."

Pass the Advil.

JWR contributor Larry Elder is the author of the newly released, The Ten Things You Can't Say in America. (Proceeds from sales help fund JWR) Let him know what you think of his column by clicking here.

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© 2002, Creators Syndicate