The Rich Aren’t So Different From You and Me After All

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

Did you know that the richest 1% of Americans pay 21% of all taxes? That’s a lot! But do you know why they pay 21% of all taxes? It’s because they make 21% of all the income.

Suddenly that doesn’t seem all that unfair, does it? In fact, the rich are doing mighty well for themselves if we basically have a flat tax in America. And as it turns out, they are, and we do: the federal tax system is modestly progressive, but state and local taxes are modestly regressive. Add ’em all up and you end up with a pretty flat tax system. Here are the numbers for 2011 from Citizens for Tax Justice:

Click the link for information about tax rates. All told, Americans pay about 28% of their income in taxes.1 The poor and working class pay a bit less, but the entire top half of the income spectrum, from middle class to super rich, pays almost exactly the same rate, around 29-30% of their income. Not a bad deal for the wealthy.

1In case you’re curious, that’s about 24% of GDP. Roughly speaking, we pay about 15% of GDP in federal taxes and 9% of GDP in state and local taxes.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest