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How tax brackets actually work

Show this video to politicians who say Democrats want to take away 70 percent of your income.

A few weeks ago, we published a quick visual explainer on how tax brackets actually work. It was in reaction to this tweet from Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), who implied that Democrats — specifically Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) — want to take away 70 percent of Americans’ income:

Scalise was pushing a common misunderstanding of how tax brackets actually work. But it turns out many prominent conservatives found his argument useful.

Here’s conservative activist Grover Norquist pushing a similar argument:

And here’s Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt putting forward the same error on the president’s favorite morning show:

And finally, here’s former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker saying that even fifth-graders believe it’s unfair, since they wouldn’t want their $10 allowance taxed.

To be clear, Ocasio-Cortez floated the idea of a 70 percent top tax rate on the superwealthy, which is a pretty popular position.

Now, one could argue that a top rate of 70 percent is too high, even for high earners. But that’s not what these conservatives are saying. Rather, they’re saying that raising the top tax rate will actually take money away from “Americans,” or “you.”

This is just not how tax brackets work in America; these political actors are entrenching a common misunderstanding about taxes to further an ideological agenda.

So to make this crystal clear, we used construction paper to explain marginal tax rates in the short video at the top of this post.

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