I was once one of those 47 percent of Americans who paid no federal income tax. Yes, I was one of those lazy, shiftless individuals who wouldn’t take personal responsibility, part of this entitlement society depending on government handouts.
Um, really? I don’t think so.
Here’s how it happened: This was back right after the century started. I found myself as a single parent – this wasn’t my idea, but it happened – and I was raising three small children on my own. To make ends meet, I was working two jobs.
One was as the editor of a small, weekly newspaper. It didn’t pay much, and it folded eventually, but I did a good enough job that it got me hired as a reporter for the Morning Sun. I’m now the online editor, a position I’d like to believe I earned on my merits.
The other job was a part-time adjunct instructor at Central Michigan University. In those days, there was no union for temporary instructors. One had to prove one’s merit in the classroom to get a new contract. That sounds like a pretty solidly Republican idea to me. I’ve had consistent contract renewals for well over a decade now, so it would seem that I’ve proven my merit in that position, too.
But in the early days of those two jobs, there wasn’t a lot of money coming into the house. Interestingly, however, the Republicans had pushed through something called the child tax credit. This is a direct offset of taxes that otherwise would be owed. The idea was to allow me to keep more of what I earned, and allow me to spend it on my children the way I saw fit without having to filter it through the government.
That sounds incredibly Republican to me.
The more kids you have, the bigger the tax credit. In my case, the tax credit and other breaks for which an ordinary working guy like me qualified pushed my income tax liability to zero for a couple of years.
The first time that happened, my jaw dropped. Wow. Zero. During several more years, I paid a rate of about 3 percent after the credits and deductions.
Did I feel like a freeloader? Heck, no. I still was paying Social Security and Medicare taxes, as were my employers. I still paid state income taxes, federal and state gasoline taxes, state sales tax, state property tax, local property tax, federal telephone tax … I’m leaving out a lot. But I was grateful for the break the feds gave me. I didn’t have to ask for assistance. I could build a strong family. I was an ordinary guy, working hard and keeping more of what I earned instead of paying some bureaucrat to filter a little of it back to me.
This is a freeloader?
I no longer qualify for the child tax credit. All those kids are in college now and have jobs, showing me a terrific work ethic. I pay a lot more in taxes now. I don’t like it, of course, but it’s a lot more affordable now than it was back then when I was part of the 47 percent.
Yeah, tax the poor. Tax the workers raising their children without help. That’s the ticket to victory, Mr. Romney.