CANTOR: We also know that over 45 percent of the people in this country don’t pay income taxes at all, and we have to question whether that’s fair. And should we broaden the base in a way that we can lower the rates for everybody that pays taxes. […]
KARL: Just wondering, what do you do about that? Are you saying we need to have a tax increase on the 45 percent who right now pay no federal income tax?
CANTOR: I’m saying that, just in a macro way of looking at it, you’ve got to discuss that issue. […] I’ve never believed that you go raise taxes on those that have been successful that are paying in, taking away from them, so that you just hand out and give to someone else.
It’s worth remembering that the reason 45% of people don’t pay federal income taxes (not no income taxes at all) is that they don’t make enough money to owe federal income taxes. What Eric Cantor is asking is whether it’s fair for people to be poor enough not to be paying federal income taxes. As though people would intentionally remain impoverished to avoid paying income taxes.
A professor of mine once said something that really stuck with me: “fair” and “equal” are not the same thing. If everyone had to give a flat 25% of their income to taxes, that would be equal, but for someone making $1,000,000 a year, although paying $250,000 sounds like a lot, it means you have $750,000 left after. Meanwhile, for our poor shlub making minimum, he’s seeing his $15,000 drop to a little over $11,000, which is directly on the poverty line.
Speaking from a personal standpoint, I collected unemployment in the past, and had jobs so low paying that I didn’t pay federal income taxes. Stacked up against making enough money that I owe an appreciable chunk of it to the IRS at the end of the year, I’ll gladly hand some cash over to the guv’mint if it’s because I earn a fair amount that I can afford to kick it back into the pot.
Eric Cantor and his ilk aren’t worried about “fair”, they’re just greedy. They’re looking at their six and seven figure incomes and are incensed that they have to pay such high amounts while some “lucky ducky” doesn’t have to pay anything. Oh sure, after taxes they can still buy Cadillacs and first class plane tickets to Oahu, while the lucky fella paying no federal income taxes has to get his friend to fix the transmission on his 1986 Fiero because he can’t afford to take it to the shop, but still!
The only justification is the troubling possibility that the right genuinely believes that income and work ethic are intrinsically linked. That the reason Person A makes $20,000 a year and person B makes $200,000 a year is that person B works five times as hard. Taken through that lens, of course it’s unfair that Person A pays less. They sit around doin’ nothin’ and then don’t pay taxes? What an outrage! But that objectivist bullshit is… well, it’s been taking the GOP by storm in recent years, so I guess that’s what’s up.