When Texas Gov. Rick Perry kicked off his Republican presidential campaign yesterday, his speech buried the needle on the Cliche-O-Meter, offering up one generic, predictable GOP theme after another. There was, however, one line in particular that stood out as interesting.
“We’re dismayed at the injustice that nearly half of all Americans don’t even pay any income tax. And you know the liberals out there are saying that we need to pay more.”
In this context, “we” refers to Perry and everyone who shares his worldview.
The oddity, of course, is that the governor seems to be arguing that Americans don’t pay enough in income taxes. Or more accurately, it’s unjust that more Americans aren’t paying income taxes.
This is an increasingly popular argument in right-wing circles — Michele Bachmann, one of Perry’s presidential rivals, has pushed the same line — though it’s entirely counter-intuitive. The argument isn’t even subtle: far-right Republicans are annoyed that many Americans don’t make enough money to be eligible to pay income taxes, so they believe it’s important to get more of these lower- and middle-income Americans paying more to the government.
In case anyone’s forgotten, the relevant details matters here: millions of Americans may be exempt from income taxes, but they still pay sales taxes, state taxes, local taxes, Social Security taxes, Medicare/Medicaid taxes, and in many instances, property taxes.
It’s not as if these folks are getting away with something — the existing tax structure leaves them out of the income tax system because they don’t make enough money to qualify.
Perry considers this an “injustice,” one which he apparently intends to fix, and which he feels strongly enough about to include in his closely-watched kick-off speech.
This should make for quite a 2012 debate, shouldn’t it? Some of the most far-right candidates want Americans with less to pay more in taxes. Seriously.