Last week, Rick Santorum become the latest prominent Republican to complain that poor people weren't paying enough taxes. Following in the footsteps of Michele Bachmann, the 53 Percent movement, and Fox News, he said that the most important class distinction was between "anybody that makes money and pays taxes and everybody who doesn't. That's the 99 [percent]."
The real stat he's looking for is more like 50 percent. That's the share of U.S. households that owe no federal income tax, which accounts for less than half of total federal taxes.
Who are the 50 percent? They are the bottom 50 percent. More than half of the folks who pay no federal income tax make less than $20,000 last year. Nearly 80 percent of the group made less than $30,000.The piechart below, made with data from the Tax Policy Center, breaks down the households that don't pay federal income tax. All numbers are in thousands of dollars (i.e.: the "20-30" slice represents all households making $20,000 to $30,000).
Half the country being spared from federal income taxes might be fair, it might be unfair, but it is certainly deliberate. Republicans and Democrats spent the last three decades cutting tax rates and adding deductions for the explicit purpose of kicking the poor off of federal income tax rolls. For leading Republicans to complain about the development today -- even as the party unites around more tax cuts for the richest -- demonstrates a selective amnesia about recent GOP tax policy.