In the debate about raising the debt ceiling, the reality is often lost that the top 10 percent of income earners—those making more than $113,799 in 2008 (the latest year available from the IRS)—already pay 69.9 percent of the income taxes. The same top 10 percent, however, earn only 45.8 percent of the income.
The IRS also reports that in 2008, the top 25 percent of income earners—those earning $67,280 or more—pay 86.34 percent of the income taxes, yet earn only 67.38 percent of all income in the U.S. (See chart below)
In addition to their large and some would say “unfair” share of income taxes paid, the “rich” also are scheduled to pay more taxes starting in 2013 as a result of changes to Medicare made in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). This change will add an additional .9 percent tax on incomes above $200,000 for an unmarried person and $250,000 for a couple. People making under those limits already pay 1.45 percent of their wages for the Medicare tax, and their employers pay another 1.45 percent, which in effect is a tax on their income of 2.9 percent for Medicare. Those who have to pay the added .9 percent of income tax will be paying 3.8 percent of their income for Medicare beginning in 2013.
So taxes on the “rich” are already scheduled to go up under PPACA in 2013, which translates into less money available for new hires and less business growth. Those are businesses that would make investments in capital and people, likely boosting economic performance and helping everyone.
The bottom line is that the next time President Obama or someone in Washington says, “We just want the rich to pay their fair share,” he should think about how much the top 25 percent of income earners already pay. Making them pay more to increase the debt ceiling won’t control Washington’s spending problem, but it will translate into fewer jobs, lower wages, and diminished opportunities for all.