By Christopher B. Daly
In the coverage of the political debate over who pays taxes in this country, most journalists seem to be overlooking some critical distinctions. Mitt Romney (and most conservatives) focus on the federal income tax. But that is only one tax among many. In the case of many wealthy people, it’s the primary tax they pay, and it is really a tax on the performance of the capital they control.
normal typical Americans earn wages or salaries, on which they pay the payroll tax. Most of them pay it willingly. They do not mope around complaining that that damn payroll tax is sapping them of their will to work harder. Most people accept and just wish their pay was higher (even though that would mean paying more tax; most people “get” this).
When Mitt Romney released his 2011 tax return, it showed — no real surprise here — that his income from wages was zero. Therefore, he did not owe or pay any payroll tax in 2011. That does not make him a deadbeat, just someone who is lucky to live off his investments.
[Another difference between the payroll tax and the income tax: the payroll tax is usually withheld by the employer and never seen by the worker. The income tax often falls on unearned income (from investments, for example), which is not withheld. As a result, rich people often have to write a check to the government for large amounts of money that they once had in their hands. This contributes mightily to the feeling they seem to have that it's "their" money and the government should keep its hands off.]
One more thing: The payroll tax is not the only tax Romney does not pay. He is not pulling his weight with the alcohol tax or the tobacco tax either!