Photo by Elizabeth Goolian

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The 47%. Who are these people who aren't paying income tax?

As the almost pathetically awkward and incompetent GOP presidential nominee pointed out to his friends in Boca--at the private event that's now famous because it was filmed--about 47% of adult Americans do not pay income taxes.  Well,  Romney, who is almost allergic to saying anything that's absolutely true, said they don't pay "taxes," which is wrong.  They do pay payroll and property and sales taxes.  But they don't pay income taxes.

That was news to a lot of Americans, including me.  I knew there were people who didn't shell out on April 15 or thereabouts.  I knew that there were people who didn't earn enough money to have their income taxed--the families who are just scraping by, the people who lost their jobs in the Bush recession, the working poor, the just-plain poor, the elderly without enough savings to tax.  Who would insist that those people "pay their fair share?"  Aside from Mitt Romney and his bazillionaire friends, I mean.

But let's not overlook the fact that that 47% includes people other than those Romney said in the now-famous film he could not possibly redeem, could never make them "become responsible" enough to make a lot of money, pay income tax, and not vote Democratic. 

I happen to know one of those people.  And guess what.  He's rich.

He's always cared a lot about money and been very good with it.  He started off as solidly middle-class, with parents who also cared a lot about money and made sure their children would do well financially.  (His mother was an accountant.)  So when he moved to a major city after college, he didn't rent a low-rent apartment shared with roommates--his parents made a substantial down payment on a condo, which he was then able to pay off easily.  And sell for a big profit later.  When he wanted to start his own business, his parents fronted him the money.  Remember when Mitt answered a question about how a young person could become an entrepreneur by saying he should ask his parents to cough up the money to start a business?  Voila.

Over the years, the business did well, and this guy made it his business to learn about investments and finance.  Between investing his business profits wisely, and not being the kind of person to spend money ostentatiously (he drives a 10-year-old Honda)--he amassed quite a nice nest egg for his retirement.  By then he had bought a home in one of the city's best neighborhoods, lived in it for a dozen years, sold it for a big profit. 

So when he was getting ready to retire, he was looking at a very comfortable financial pad.  And good for him, right?

But that's not how he became rich.  He became rich when a bunch of relatives died and left him several million dollars--not to mention major jewelry and real estate.  With some of the money, he bought more real estate.  The rest he invested conservatively, in financial products that are paying him a hefty interest rate.

And last year, he did not pay one cent in income tax.  How is that possible?  Simple, he told me--he has a great accountant, who managed to work the interest income he earned through the tax loopholes and deductions so that the bottom line showed a four-figure income.  Well below the reach of the IRS.

He's not alone, you know.  So let's not forget that the 47% include not only the elderly, the disabled, the poor and working poor, the unemployed and the underemployed.  It also includes rich people.  Rich people with clever accountants.  Romney conveniently overlooked those guys. 

And who is he voting for in November?  Well, he used to be a Democrat, but what he believes he needs now is more tax breaks.  So he can continue paying no income tax.  So he's voting for the GOP--Greedy Old People.

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