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:
Republicans: Let Americans keep more of their own hard-earned money— Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) January 5, 2019
Democrats: Take away 70% of your income and give it to leftist fantasy programs https://t.co/NxJPSCqvrt
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:
Slavery is when your owner takes 100% of your production.— Grover Norquist (@GroverNorquist) January 5, 2019
Democrat congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez wants 70% (according to CNN)
What is the word for 70% expropriation?
And here’s Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt putting forward the same error on the president’s favorite morning show:
Ainsley Earhardt falsely claims that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants to “tax 70 percent of your paycheck” pic.twitter.com/Cko4ctP0BM— Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) January 14, 2019
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.
Explaining tax rates before Reagan to 5th graders: “Imagine if you did chores for your grandma and she gave you $10. When you got home, your parents took $7 from you.” The students said: “That’s not fair!” Even 5th graders get it.— Scott Walker (@ScottWalker) January 15, 2019
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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