Jonathan Bernstein suggests that the real loser of last night's debate wasn't Rick Perry or Herman Cain or Mitt Romney. It was CNN's Anderson Cooper:
There are plenty of fact-checkers around, and I don’t really consider it part of my job here to think about where candidates messed up, especially since a lot of their factually incorrect statements are just playing to their audience, and you sort of have to expect a lot of that. But Anderson Cooper, the CNN moderator, has no excuse: his claim that 47% of American pay no taxes was inexcusable. Just terrible. The correct stat is that 47% of US households don’t pay federal income taxes, which is very different. It’s bad when politicians get basic factual stuff wrong; it’s terrible when CNN does. To me at least, the debate had a clear loser, and it was Anderson Cooper and CNN for that question.
Repeat something often enough, and everyone ends up believing it. The tea party should feel proud of its handiwork, and Cooper should be ashamed for getting sucked in by it.
For the record: About 47% of Americans pay no federal income tax. This is generally because they're poor, elderly, or have low incomes and qualify for child tax credits. Details here. But even the poorest still pay plenty of taxes: about 13% of their incomes, according to the conservative Tax Foundation. This is because they pay excise taxes, payroll taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, and various other taxes. Details here.