Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

Four freeloader fabrications poisoning our perceptions of public policy

If “the line is a dot to you”, this is going to be a difficult conversation.

In the “makers vs. takers” debate, the line between truth and opinion is just a dot to some. That might win a debate, but it’s not a good way to run a democracy. So here’s a handy summary of what’s fake and what’s fact, to help square those pesky (mis)perceptions with reality:

  • Fake: Nearly half of all Americans don’t pay taxes.
    Fact: 86 percent of Americans pay taxes in the form of payroll taxes, as well as state and local taxes. Bonus fact: 37 percent of Americans are not in the labor force because they are retired, students, or unemployed. Nobody expects them to be paying taxes.
  • Fake: More Americans are becoming dependent on government benefits.
    Fact: Less than 10 percent of all government assistance goes to non-working adults in their prime years, and much of it is in the form of emergency assistance to people who have lost their jobs.
  • Fake: Americans have more of an “entitlement mindset” these days.
    : Work is still a core value for Americans. Millions of eligible Americans don’t use programs like food stamps, welfare, Medicaid, and so on – even though they qualify. Bonus fact: You think having a full stomach on food stamps is easy? Try it sometime.
  • Fake: Poor people are the biggest freeloaders.
    Fact: The three biggest tax breaks on the books in 2014 are: employer-provided health insurance ($164 billion); retirement savings – mainly 401ks ($162 billion); and the home mortgage interest deduction ($99.8 billion). Bonus fact: Many Fortune 500 corporations have been able to reduce their federal and state income tax bills to zero (or less!), even in years when they were quite profitable.

For a compete mythbusting of the conservative “Makers & Takers” ideology, check out Demos Senior Fellow David Callahan’ Freeloader Fabrications.

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