Liberals recently had some fun at the expense of the a new conservative site, the “We are the 53 percent” tumble, which in turn is a response to the popular “We are the 99 percent” site. Here’s Brad DeLong, taking shots at site founder Erick Erickson, and Suzy Khimm made the excellent point that the main reason so many households don’t pay income tax is because of Republican policies, from Reagan to George W. Bush.

All that is true, but the other story in the “53 percent” group is that I’m pretty confident that a substantial portion of them…don’t actually pay income taxes, and therefore are not, in fact, part of the 53 percent of households who do. For example, this citizen claims to be a college senior working “30+ hours a week making just barely over minimum wage.” Which is great and all, but if that’s all he’s got he’s not paying any income tax. Just as a guess, I’d be surprised if any fewer than 10 percent of the posters are actually income-tax free, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s about 50/50.

What I’d be curious about is what some of these folks would say if they realized that they’re not actually part of “the 53 percent.” Of course, to be fair they all do pay taxes; they just — perhaps — don’t pay income taxes.

Hey, reporters! As this “53 percent” thing grows as a conservative talking point, there’s a serious article to be written involving interviews with folks who mistakenly believe that they’re in the half of Americans who pay taxes (and, what’s more, they may also mistakenly believe that they’re in the group that does not receive any government benefits).

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.