By DAVID LEONHARDT,
New York Times
This disconnect between what we pay and what we think we pay is nothing less than one of the country’s biggest economic problems.
Since the late 1970s, just before the modern tax-cutting push began, total federal tax rates have fallen for every income group. The payroll tax has risen, but declines in the income tax have more than made up for those increases. Nearly half the population now pays no federal income tax.
All told, most households pay less than 15 percent of their income to the federal government because of tax breaks, like the exclusion for health insurance, and because marginal rates apply to only a small part of a taxpayer’s income. On the first $70,000 of a couple’s taxable income, the total federal income tax rate is only 13.8 percent.
The group for which tax rates have fallen the least is the upper middle class: those households earning between about $75,000 and $300,000 a year. Their tax rates have declined over the past few decades, but only by a couple of percentage points.
What does this combination create? An enormous long-term budget deficit.