McClaughry: Who pays federal income taxes?

By John McClaughry

Sen. Bernie Sanders has made a career out of claiming that rich people aren’t paying their fair share of income taxes. But I don’t ever recall Bernie actually citing federal income tax data to back up his charges.

Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

Last year the Tax Foundation’s Erica York published some real data from the Internal Revenue Service.

“Since 2001, the share of federal income taxes paid by the top 1 percent increased from 33.2 percent to a new high of 40.1 percent in 2018.”

I can remember explaining 30 years ago that the Reagan tax rate cuts of 1981 that Bernie so despised resulted in the top 10 percent shouldering far more of the income tax burden than it had up to that time.

The Tax Foundation reported that in 2018, the top 50 percent of all taxpayers paid 97.1 percent of all individual income taxes, while the bottom 50 percent paid the remaining 2.9 percent. York didn’t give data for the bottom 40 percent, but I’m willing to bet that they together paid zero percent of federal income taxes.

The top 1 percent of federal income taxpayers paid a greater share of individual income taxes (40.1 percent) than the bottom 90 percent combined (28.6 percent).

You probably won’t remember all those percentages, but take it from me: the rich have paid steadily more of federal income tax revenues over the past 40 years, and the bottom half are now paying almost nothing.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore/Flickr

15 thoughts on “McClaughry: Who pays federal income taxes?




    EXCERPT from:


    BBB Bill is a Trojan Horse

    The BBB bill consists of two parts:

    1) A huge social program bill
    2) An energy/environment/SALT bill

    The total cost of the social programs would be $3.477 trillion, or 3477/4490 = 77.5% of $4.490 trillion

    The social programs would be 3,477/889 = 3.9 times more expensive, if budgeted for 10 years.
    US debt adder would be 160 + 73, interest = $233 billion, with “gimmick” expirations to understate costs.
    US debt adder would be 2,748 + 266, interest = $3.014 trillion, with 10-y expiration dates

    Child Tax Credit (CTC)

    A CTC was enacted as part of COVID relief. It was meant to be temporary, from Jul. 2020 to Dec. 2020
    During that time, the US treasure sent more than $80 billion, in direct deposits, to every household with children, $300/child/mo.

    Household with incomes up to $150,000 qualified for the full $300/child; if greater household income, the CTC would decrease to as low as $166/child/mo.

    CBO estimated extending CTC for 2022 at $185 billion, and $1,597 billion for 10 years
    CBO estimated Expanded Child Care and Pre-school at $752 billion for 10 years. See table 4

    Sanders has been advocating both programs for decades, because that was done in the more Socialist countries of Europe. He does not mention, rich Europe spends about 1% of GDP on defense, whereas the US spends about 4.5%, about $780 billion/y, plus $50 billion/y for intelligence.

    Democrats Ignoring Precarious Financial Condition of Medicare

    “The Medicare Trustees Report estimated that Medicare’s hospital insurance trust fund will be insolvent in 2026. At that point, the fund will have to rely on incoming revenues, essentially operating on a cash-flow basis—and there won’t be enough cash.”

  2. In defense of Bernie’s genius if not his sincerity, he has tapped into the ugly truth that there will always be people who follow a false god who promises them the spoils of others. He is a genius in leveraging selfishness, greed and envy to his benefit. I regret being so judgmental, but whenever I see one of his bumper stickers, I think there goes another subpar intellect who has allowed this charlatan to convince them they are a victim.

  3. Bernie Sanders came to Vermont during the Back-to-theEarth movement in the late 60’s when the interstates opened up. He rode up the super slab with his fellow hippies in the VW bus brigade, joined the commune at Packers Corners, and proceeded to do what he does best: NOTHING.

    Bernie was told to leave the commune because he wasn’t doing his fair share. So off to Burlington goes Bernie, bullgrunts his way into the mayor’s office, and, yup, does nothing. I met Bernie at a football game at Windsor in 1980, where he filled me chock full of the same socialist claptrap he’s been spouting ever since. Word for word, b’god.

    So he got elected to the US House largely because his predecessor, Peter Smith, had sold the gun lobby down the river, alienating hunters and other gun users. I asked my gun buddies how they could unseat an otherwise unobjectable representative and replace him with a bleeding, cardcarrying Commie. I never got a satisfacory answer.

    And then on to the Senate where the big money was, thus the houses, the Audis and the exposure to his crockery. Lotsa luck, Bernie. Enjoy your rebuilding of America. It ain’t gonna happen. The Vermont right-wing, and the patriots from middle America will see to that.

  4. Its a matter of who ‘feels’ it the most – based on human principles of the strong taking care of the weak.
    But we don’t think like that anymore: we just think like: I fought, scammed, cheated my way to a big bank account, acted like a slave my whole life, and I’m mad because I made more as a slave than the other slaves, and while I don’t feel it like those who are at the bottom of the pile, the THOUGHT of THEM not paying as much as me…makes me hate them.”
    Yeah…the divide and conquer commie plot of focusing on greed, lack, want, and the worst in humanity.
    Lets BE that.

  5. I agree with all the comments here. Ol’ Bernie the crook who has 5 homes, a bank fraud wife ( who stole and closed a Vermont college, is a bank fraud himself. He’s a liar and a thief. a draft dodger and a bum. and I’m being nice.
    He’s never helped Vermont or it’s citizens. He only helps himself. He bashes Rich people but excuse me old Bernie.. Your butt is rich, 5 homes, summer place, private plane, new cars, boat,
    Would love to see your real tax form. He has lived off the state for yrs, then he joined the government and has lived off the government tit for yrs and yrs..
    He’s nothing but a socialist commie..

    • I couldn’t love your comment anymore if I tried! I hate that old geezer; he is such a waste of oxygen. We should have term limits and age restrictions on serving in government.

  6. For years Bernie ranted and vilified the millionaires. Now that he is a millionaire, have you noticed that he now rants against billionaires. Apparently millionaires are now off limits to pick on!

  7. Vermont’s Socialist Senator is always looking for more tax dollars in the coffers,
    that way he can waste more on his socialist agenda…….

    I can’t believe this is the best Vermont can come up for a Senator, a NY carpetbagger, so
    maybe people are correct, Vermonter’s must be stupid, for electing this barking buffoon, yes
    we should hang our heads in shame !!

  8. Bernie isn’t paying the 50% or 90% tax himself, only wants everyone else to pay. Like a true socialist, some people are more equal than others.

  9. Thank you John on reminding taxpayers of the truth. Adding to your treatise, according to multiple recent media reports, 61% of US taxpayers did not pay any (net) income taxes in 2020 as a result of the injection of Covid relief funds. So it isn’t until the 62 percentile where taxpayers actually pay taxes into the Treasury. But then some of those remaining 39% are paying for the excess largess granted to the 61%.

    So ABOUT 1/3 OF “TAXPAYERS” is the answer as to who is actually paying for US interest, defense, government agencies, etc.

    As has been the case forever, the Senator is misinformed.

  10. Big mouth Bernie says whatever he can to get attention. What has this career politician ever done for this State or nation.
    That’s all he’s good at is running his mouth. I’d like to see his taxes. He’s never held a real job in his life but yet he’s a millionaire with all being acquired in politics. What does that tell you about this useless screamer.
    When is this State going to wake up and get rid of him once and for all. Completely useless..

    • RPB,

      Bernie does not have to do anything, except waving arms and making faces.

      His BBB bill, a wealth transfer mechanism that aims to screw the hard-working US entrepreneurs, is totally dead, thanks to national hero Manchin, who saved the US from an impoverishing left turn.

      The US Treasury would have been showering federal checks on tens of millions of voting sick/lame/lazy pretenders, whose needs for government freebies are infinite

      Bernie bills himself as “independent”, on the far-beyond-infra-red side of the spectrum, i.e., way out, very close to an all-swallowing Socialist black hole.

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