Sweet, sweet regressivity

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Josh Marshall flags an interesting tax story—no, really—in the Christian Science Monitor. It turns out that America’s “progressive” tax structure really isn’t all that progressive. When you add up federal, state, and local taxes, it turns out that the tax code becomes pretty darn flat. The top 1 percent of the population, with average income $978,000, pays 32.8 percent of its income in taxes. Meanwhile, the middle 20 percent of taxpayers, with average income $34,500, pays 29.8 percent of its income in taxes. This is mostly due to the regressive nature of state and local taxes, along with the payroll tax, but there you go.

Notice what follows. If the country were to move, as many Republicans would like to do, to a flat federal tax on earned income, top 1 percent of earners would end up with a smaller effective tax rate than those in the middle class, after you add up all taxes. In other words, a flat tax wouldn’t just move the system a bit more towards regressivity, it would just make it regressive, period. I’m not aware of any notion of “fairness” that would justify this sort of thing, but perhaps some very clever GOP pollster is out there crafting one right as we speak.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate