Repost: Two Nice Items on Romney on “the 47%”

by Chris Sturr | September 19, 2012

Item 1:  Hat-tip to Peter W.: From the blog Squashed, a great riposte to Romney’s claim that if your income isn’t high enough to pay federal income taxes, you are irresponsible.  The blogger looks at how many hours a day you’d have to work if you were paid the minimum wage to make enough so that under current tax law you’d pay income taxes. Here are the basics, but the whole post is worth reading:

How long a work day would you need to put in at a minimum wage job to pay federal income taxes? Because it’s Romney’s comment, let’s use his family profile. We’ll have two parents, one of whom works.1 And let’s limit it to two children rather than Romney’s five to avoid an unseemly number of exemptions.

So we have four exemptions at $3,700 each plus the standard deduction of $11,600. So even without tax credits, you would need $26,400.

Because one spouse isn’t working, there is no child care tax credit. There could be up to $2,500 in education credits per child—but let’s say the kids are younger and go with the lower $1,000 child tax credit for both of them. So that’s a $2,000 credit. To owe taxes at this point, you’d need $19,000 in taxable income—or $45,400 in total income. This still a hair below the EIC phaseout in this case. So to hit zero exactly you would need a few more dollars to bring your annual income to $45,750.

In a given year, you have about 260 work days. Let’s say you work a full day on all of them. This means that any vacation, sick days, or holidays you want had better be paid. To make your $45,750, you need to bring in $174.62 a day. Let’s round that down to $174 to make the math work out more smoothly.

You’re earning the federal minimum wage: $7.25 an hour. To get to $174 a day, you’ll need to work for … 24 hours. Congratulations. You can sleep on the weekends. If you want to get down to an 8 hour day, you’ll need to earn at least $21.75. (You still have to work every day.) Good luck finding an early-career job that pays that well.

If you’re having trouble doing this, I’m sorry. But Mitt Romney isn’t. He thinks you need to take some personal responsibility and care for your life.

One of the things I like about this analysis is that it delves into tax realities for people at the other end of the income spectrum from Romney, and thereby throws into relief the utter hypocrisy of someone like Romney, who defends his own low tax rate as justified because his tax havens and shelters are legal. Yet the person trying to scrape by on minimum wage (whose wage is low, by the way, because of low-wage “job-creators” like Romney), is the one who is irresponsible?

Read the whole post.

Item #2: Hat-tip to Alejandro R.: from John Cassidy’s blog at the New Yorker, Romney’s Flawed Lesson in Political Economy. Again, the whole post is worth reading, but the core part I liked was his account of how Republicans were behind the features of the tax code that make it so that some 47% of people don’t pay federal income taxes:

Over the past twenty years, governments of both parties have adopted policies that raised the income threshold at which households start paying income tax. Thanks to the child tax credit (enacted by Gerald Ford and expanded by George W. Bush) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (also enacted by Ford and expanded significantly by George H. W. Bush), a typical family of four can now make about forty-five thousand dollars a year before being subject to income tax. In New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, an annual income of forty-five thousand dollars isn’t much, but on a national basis it isn’t much below the median household income, which in 2011 was about fifty thousand dollars.

Read the whole post.

Then someone (one of theNew Yorker bloggers, I think) pointed out that at his impromptu press conference to respond to the whole 47% debacle, Romney’s hair was, for once, messed up.  A sign that he’s blown it?

–Chris Sturr

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