Fox's Stuart Varney hid the fact that the relative tax burden of the richest Americans has decreased as their wealth has skyrocketed to label AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka a “turkey” for saying the wealthy need to start paying their fair share in taxes.
In recent remarks regarding the 2012 presidential election, Trumka said that the election showed that voters sent a message that “we should start making the wealthy” pay their fair share in taxes. Varney responded by saying Trumka deserved to be called a turkey because the union leader supposedly ignored the fact that “the top 1 percent pays 40 percent of all income taxes.”
In fact, the wealthiest Americans have seen their wealth skyrocket in recent years while their tax burden has declined.
According to the Congressional Research Service, over the last 4 decades the share of the national income for the top fifth of income earners climbed nearly 8 percent to more than 50 percent of all income earned while the middle class received an increasingly “smaller share of the economic pie.” As Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has explained that this trend means that, “the rich are paying more taxes because they're much richer than they used to be,” but this does not mean they are shouldering a historically high tax burden.
Indeed, at the same time that the richest Americans' are growing increasingly wealthy, their tax rates are falling. The Congressional Budget Office found that the average tax rate paid by the top fifth of income earners “reached a low point in 2009, about 4 percentage points below its 1979 level.” For the top one percent of income earners, the average tax rate has been in decline for roughly a 15 year period ending in 2009.
A White House report similarly found that in 2010, the average rate of federal income and payroll taxes paid wealthiest 0.1 percent of Americans had dropped to its lowest level in 50 years. Furthermore, over those 50 years, the rate had dropped by 50 percent. Meanwhile, the average tax rate for the middle 20 percent of Americans has slightly increased over the same period.
An Economic Policy Institute post depicted the decline of the tax burden on the wealthy:
Simply put, contrary to Varney's claim that only a “turkey” would argue that the rich aren't paying their fair share, income has been piling up on the plates of the wealthy while their tax burden has been carved down to the bone.