November 25, 2003 – The article
on his website starts with the outraged exclamation, "Only The Rich
Pay Taxes - Top 50% Of Wage Earners Pay 96.03% Of Taxes." (see
The Rich Pay Taxes")
Ok, I have to
be fair. I've never done Oxycontin, so I'm not sure if it's
what made Rush so hyped up with stupidity that he put numbers on his
website that flat out disprove the argument he is trying to make.
But I suspect there must be something
either in either sucking down Oxycontin or sucking on right-wing
bunghole that made the King Of All Bloated People, Rush Limbaugh,
declare that these numbers that clearly show he is full of it will,
on this website forever," because he is so proud how they make
his dishonest case backing up the above headline. In reality,
by "forever," he surely means for a while until he realizes
how the numbers prove he is asinine and full of it, which I guess
will be forever now that I think about it.
So now for the numbers. Look at
the chart below for a second, taken directly from Rush's site:
"Think of it this way: less than four dollars out of every $100 paid
in income taxes in the United States is paid by someone in the
bottom 50% of wage earners. Are the top half millionaires? Noooo,
more like "thousandaires." The top 50% were those individuals or
couples filing jointly who earned $26,000 and up in 1999. (The top
1% earned $293,000-plus.) Americans who want to are continuing to
improve their lives - and those who don't want to, aren't. Here are
the wage earners in each category and the percentages they pay:
Top 5% pay 53.25% of all income taxes (Down from 2000 figure:
56.47%). The top 10% pay 64.89% (Down from 2000 figure: 67.33%). The
top 25% pay 82.9% (Down from 2000 figure: 84.01%). The top 50% pay
96.03% (Down from 2000 figure: 96.09%). The bottom 50%? They pay a
paltry 3.97% of all income taxes. The
top 1% is paying more than ten times the federal income taxes than
the bottom 50%! And who earns what? The top 1% earns
17.53 (2000: 20.81%) of all income. The top 5% earns 31.99 (2000:
35.30%). The top 10% earns 43.11% (2000: 46.01%); the top 25% earns
65.23% (2000: 67.15%), and the top 50% earns 86.19% (2000: 87.01%)
of all the income."
Ok, so there it is. Notice
anything? If you are looking at the numbers I am looking at,
you will notice a few things.
For starters, look at what percentage of
the income 50% of Americans combined earn: 13.81%.
Where is that number on the chart?
He didn't put it there directly, but do the math: if the top
50% earned 86.19% of the income, that means that the other half of
Americans - not a small group, we are talking half of us combined -
earned only 13.81% of all the income in the nation. That is
criminal. Half the nation is being made to work as slave
laborers to support the other half.
Right, they don't pay much in taxes, but
that is because they DON'T EARN ANYTHING. Look again at Rush's
numbers. 1 out of 2 American tax filers takes home less than a
pathetic $26,000 a year. And no, that is not even per
person. Rush says plainly,
"The top 50% were those individuals or couples
filing jointly who earned $26,000 and up in 1999."
That means the bottom 50% of us - including couples filing jointly -
made $25,999 or less per household.
Again, this is HALF
OF US COMBINED making less than 14% of all the income, half of our
households earning less than $26,000 each.
Now let me point out
here that to begin with Rush only talks about "wage earners."
Yes, for the sake of this analysis, he is not covering corporate
taxes or income at all. He's not covering one of the biggest
scams the Republicans run, slashing corporate taxes, increasing the
burden on individuals. Nope, that's scam number one in his
numbers. But let's not start pointing out that his numbers are
entirely misleading, as one would expect from him, just yet.
Let's just continue to show that even when he was trying to make his
distorted, misleading point, the numbers he chose to give show his
points to be completely inaccurate.
Ok, so using Rush's
numbers again, what do the other half of us make? Yes, the
other half of the nation makes not 2, not 3 times as much as the
rest of us, no not 4, not even 5, but over 6 times as much as the
other half of us combined. This is what Rush wants to brag
about? One half of the nation is making over 6 times as much
as the other half? Right, there is inequity proven here Rush,
but not in the tax code, it is in the wage distribution. But
wait, we see something even worse if we keep looking at his numbers.
Let's use his 2000
figures just for fun (why he gives 1999 and then 2000 in parenthesis
is, I guess, to prove he can be asinine with two consecutive years
worth of outdated data, so let's indulge him.)
The top 25% of us
made over 2/3 of all the money (67.15% he tells us) - yes, that
means 75% of us combined don't earn 1/3 (32.85%) of what the top 25% of us
Now let me ask you a
question: looking at the sentence above, tell me how much more, on average, does someone in the top
25% earn than one of the other 75% of us?
Careful now, Rush is
playing a game to make things seem not so uneven. He is
comparing a small group - the top 25% percent - with a group 3 times
its size - the other 75%. This is a game the right often uses to make the
disparity not seem so bad. If you just look as it is
presented, it seems like the people in the top 25% only make 33
percent more than the rest of us: they have 67% of the money, we
have 33%, so they only have 33 % more, right? Wrong.
Allow me to sound like your fifth grade math teacher for a second:
if 1/4 of the people have 2/3 of the money, and 3/4 of the people
have only 1/3 of the money, how much more does each person in the
top 1/4 have than the rest of the people?
Yes, Rush is
counting on you having skipped math class that day. The main
difference between Bush/Limbaughians and the rest of us is that we
deal with facts and truth, they count on the fact you are too busy
to look into things or question if
they are accurate.
Ok, so let us solve
this grade school math equation for you and give you a useful,
accurate answer. The real amount the average person in the top
25% of earners makes is over 6 times what the other 75% percent of
us make on average. (For those of you who want to refresh your
math skills, they have 2 times as much money, multiply by the fact
we are 3 times as many people as them - fun, isn't it? Maybe
not, but at least you get a useful answer.)
Ok, still just using
his numbers, the top 10 percent earn almost half (46.01%) of all the
money. Yes, if 9 out of 10 of us put all the money we made in
a pot, it would about equal what just this 10% made. But no,
don't get confused and think that means the top 10% just earns a
little over 2 times as much as the rest of us. That is the
small group vs. the larger group illusion again. On a per
person basis, the top 10 percent earn almost 8 times as much as the
other 90 percent of us. How much more do they earn then the
first half of us - the 1 out of 2 of us Rush wrote his article to
bag on? The people in this top 10% each make 17 times
as much as half of us do - and remember, we are talking per
household (including "couples filing jointly.")
Wait, this is just
how bad it is using Rush's numbers. The reality is actually
even worse - and yes, his complaints about the tax burden falling
unfairly on the "top 50%" turns out to be based entirely on bogus
numbers as well. But let's just finish off with his numbers as
he presents them before showing the even grislier reality.
According to the
numbers Rush Limbaugh will run "forever" on his website, proclaiming
they show tax cuts for the rich are not only "fair", but required to
"balance things out," as he and his buddies regularly claim, the top
1% of us made 20.81 percent of the money. Now compare that to
what the first 50% of wage earners make: 12.99 percent for the
Notice anything? Notice that half of us
combined, half of the nation working for the whole year, not only
doesn't make as much as this top 1% of us, they make barely half?
Remember, this includes "households filing jointly." Half of
the households in this nation, working for a year, don't make
combined what just 1 percent of us makes.
So say the number of
wage earners is 131 million (the actual number from 2002.) If
there are 131 million households, like there were last year, then
that would mean 65.5 million our families combined don't make as
much total as 1.3 million of us.
Yes, again when you
first look at the numbers as Rush presents them it merely looks
really bad - that the top 1% makes almost double what the lower 50%
does combined - but again, remember, this does not mean that on
average they just make 2 times as much as half of us. Ah, the
perspective distorting games of the lying right. The reality,
once you compare on a per person basis, is that the top 1% of is
making over 80 times as much on average as half of our households.
Now remember, we are
not saying they are making 80 times more than a couple lazy, dirty
poor people, as Rush tries to make it seem when he says, "Americans
who want to are continuing to improve their lives - and those who
don't want to, aren't."
We are talking about 1 out of 2 of us who earn money.
He is flat out saying that 1 out of 2 of us "don't want to" "improve
their lives." Now, these divide and conquer hate tactics can
be useful for amoral scum like Rush, but half the nation? Half
of us are lazy scum who don't want to or aren't improving our lives?
But yes, the way he
presents the numbers makes it seem like one small group against
another. He purposefully breaks it into the "top 50%" and
"bottom 50%" of wage earners. Why? Ah, now we get to the
misleading part of Rush's numbers.
Let's start by
sending you back up to his chart. Scroll back up for a second
and look at the chart from his site that we pasted above.
Compare the top tax group he uses with the top income group.
Notice anything? That's right, for showing how much each group
pays in taxes, he uses the "top 5%" of tax payers, while for income
he uses only the "top 1%."
Yes, the top 1% pay
so little in taxes Rush was too embarrassed to put the number.
In fact, he was so embarrassed that his argument was destroyed right
from the get go that he risked using the obvious tactic of avoiding
to mention how little the top 1% pays at all - even though the whole
point of what he's saying is how much each group pays in taxes
compared to what they earn. Risky, but the facts he wanted to
hide so instantly shot down his argument that he had to do
So, he decided to
sneak in up front a bait and switch to the top 5% of taxpayers, not
the top 1% he shows the income of. It is the first group he
lists for a reason: he hopes people will blow right by without
noticing. Oops, busted red-handed, without possible
justification, Rush. You just shot down the integrity of your
chart - your "forever" chart - in its first statistic.
We will get back to
this in a second, but let's just first look at the general picture
he tries to paint.
Rush wants to make
it seem - as the Bush Republicans do - that when the Democrats
complain about "tax cuts for the rich," they don't just mean the
rich, they mean you - yes you, average American. You, earning
just $26,000 or over. Because you, person earning $26,000 or
over, are part of the group paying 96% of the taxes.
Now, that is a lie
directly, since the Democrats clearly state they are talking about
the part of the tax cuts that affect the top 1% only, i.e. people
who earn over $293,913.
But Rush and the
Bush/Limbaugh Republicans somehow try to make it sound like us
average Americans are paying all the taxes while the other half of
the nation is just socking it away and not being made to pay their
Now, here are the real facts
that show why his numbers are completely bogus to begin with.
Do you know what the
top 10% of us earn as opposed to the bottom 10%? Oops, Rush
left that number out. We won't bother with tricky percentages
or different size groups or anything. Here are the simple
numbers for this past year: The top 10% make $92,754 or more,
the bottom 10% make $5,121 or less. Let's make sure this is
clear. The first 10% of us earn less than $5,121 - not even
$5,121 on average, $5,121 is the max cut off point for the first 10
percent. So the first 13 million of us hard American workers
earn... between $1 and $5,121. Now, do you see some reason
whey the first 10% percent of us would not be paying any taxes?
Right, BECAUSE THESE ARE NOT ACTUAL WORKERS MAKING ANY MONEY, RUSH YOU
IDIOT! I'm sorry, but even our paltry minimum wage brings
people in far above $5,121 a year.
So when Rush makes
the statement that is the headline of the article that carries his
"forever" chart, saying, "Only The Rich Pay Taxes - Top 50% Of Wage
Earners Pay 96.03% Of Taxes," he is including all "wage earners,"
which basically means anyone who earned a couple dollars the
previous year. For example, a kid gets a job at Christmas
working part time in a record store for a week or two. That is
one of the people Rush counts. Yes, all of the part-time
teenage help - all of the week-or-two-at-Christmas workers, all of
the kids who earn a few bucks over the summer when school is out -
Rush is pretending these people are the same as regular, full-time
workers. Yes, he insults them as people who, "don't want to
improve themselves." A college kid who works during his or her
vacations doesn't want to improve themselves. AND, they
somehow should be included when comparing how much the first 50% of
us pay in taxes as opposed to the rest.
Remember, his whole
argument is a complaint about the first 50% of tax filers. He
is using the millions of people who work a short bit here to run up
the numbers, so he can reach that first 50% by using all sorts of
people who aren't really part of the actual, full-time work force.
And he doesn't just
use these part-time workers. Anyone who is unemployed but
collected at least one unemployment check has to file a return.
Guess what, Rush counts you as the bottom 50% of wage earners.
Guess who else?
Grandma who got a little bit of retirement cash or a few hundred
dollars interest from a savings account. Yep, Rush is
counting her among that lazy, non-self respecting first 50%.
As you can see, Rush
uses the term "wage earners" to try and make it seem he is talking
only about real workers. The first clue to any thinking person
would be the fact that he says that by the top 50% he means anyone who
earns just $26,000 or more. That amount is so low it should
ring a bell for any thinking person. But we know Bush/Limbaughians just want
to hear what allows them to keep their right-wing views and not what
is useful or accurate.
So, included in this
first 50% are lots of people who owe nothing after the standard
deduction. That, Rush, drives the average way down and, as you
know, completely distorts what percentage we average American
workers actually pay in taxes compared to the rich.
What are the actual
numbers like? I thought you'd never ask. I'll use the
same year Rush has there just for kicks, 2000.
Let's first say the simple fact that makes clear how stupid and dishonest Rush's
statement is: of all people who filed returns (all wage
earners, as Rush used,) the top 50% of wage earners made about 95
percent of taxable income.
You see, Rush used
the adjusted gross income to lower that percentage to 87%, but even
so, look at the big furious premise - people who earned 87% of the
money paid 96% of the taxes. Hey, if you put it that way,
doesn't sound so bad, right? But of course he didn't, he said,
"Top 50% of wage earners pay 96% of taxes."
But in all honesty,
the number he uses - 87% - is bunk. Adjusted gross income is
the number before you get your standard deduction - you know, that
measely $6,000 or so they allow you to deduct for expenses.
Everyone gets to deduct that, but for the people who shouldn't be
included at all - the people earning just a couple hundred at
Christmas or a little over the summer - that helps take them out of
So, you get to
people who earned something that is taxable. (This is
misleading, too, but more on that in a second.) Of the taxable
income, the top 50% of wage earners makes right about 95% of it.
And what percent do they pay in taxes? Right, right about that
96.4% figure Rush uses.
So, folks, here is
the massive inequity Rush is so fired up about that he will leave up
on his sight "forever": People who earn 95% of the taxable
income pay 96.4% of the taxes. Hey, that's sound pretty fair,
But wait, what about
that horrible, lazy, unambitious 50% of "wage earners" who are
taking advantage of the rest of us?
Yes, while Rush
switches numbers to try and make it seem one group of us is unfairly
keeping our money while the other pays all of the taxes, in reality
Rush just changes from comparing apples to oranges, as usual, to
create this illusion.
Yes, about 50% of
the nation pays only about 4% of the taxes, but, Rush, they make
only about 5% of the taxable money.
50% of the nation
makes only 5% of the taxable income. What a headline that could
be! Half the nation completely used and abused as virtual
slaves by the other half. If rush were a lying liberal instead
of lying right-winger he could make that case, which would be no
But instead, Rush
tries to bury this 50% of the nation that, combined, makes less than
5% of the taxable money, saying they
only pay 4% of the taxes even though they are 50% of the people
numbers-wise. He knows he is misleading, and now you know
he is lying, and now everyone knows why you are either with the
Bush/Limbaughians or against them: because if you don't
question what they say, their dishonest chop logic and comparing
apples to oranges, you think they are always right; if you do look
into things and get at the truth and facts, you see they are
pathetic lying scum who craft dishonest propaganda to get you to
somehow support things that are in your worst interest.
The reality, folks,
is even these numbers - corrected by us so they follow the tax stats
accurately - don't show anything at all. Because all these
stats use to start with is "adjusted gross income." Note the
word "adjusted." Yes, all of those income adjusting deductions
worked into the tax return reduce the amount shown here to begin
with. So, none of these numbers have anything to do with how
much people are actually earning - it only has to do with how much
is left after they have exploited all the tax loopholes.
So even though it
all sounds pretty fair once we get past Rush's lies and see that
people who earn 95% of the money pay about 96% of the taxes, this
actually is not the case. Because the investor class - the
richest among us - get all sorts of deductions before we start to
figure who has what percentage of the income. Yes, the biggest
tax cuts for the wealthy take their wealth off of the table even
before it gets to these stats, making it all seem nicer on paper.
And don't forget, corporate and business tax cuts are not included
in this at all.
In addition - and
this is the really juicy part that is used endlessly by the right
wing and the left - the measurements of "top 10%" and such are
For example, we told
you before, in straightening out Rush's numbers, that the top 10% of
tax filers earn $92,754 or more. We always hear talk like
that. The top 1% earn $292,913 or more. These are, in
fact, the numbers run on the IRS' website. BUT, as Rush did,
these numbers include all those part time kids filers and what not -
the top 10% means only the top 10% of returns filed, regardless of
whether those returns had any taxable income or not. The
figure means nothing.
What it pretends to
mean - and makes most of us think it means - is by "top 10%" we mean people who earn 10% of the money in the nation. That is
what we all assume they are saying. But, that is not the case.
They tell us the people in the top 10% of wage earners are those who
make $92,754 or more. The reality is that the top 10 percent of
the wealth is earned by people who make right about $2,000,000 or more.
Note all of the zeros.
Yes, 10% of the cash
each year is made by people earning over $2 mil. That "top
10%" stat on the IRS's or Rush's website simply counts numbers of pieces of paper
filed. For example, if 100 people filed, the 10 highest
returns would be the "top 10%." If the top 9 people earned $10 million each, but that tenth person earned only $5,000,
the stat would read, "top 10%" of filers earned $5,000 or more.
The stat means nothing, and has nothing at all to do with who earns
10% of the money in the nation.
No, 10% of the money
is earned by people with AGI's over $2 mil. 25% of the money
is made by people who earn about $200,000 or more. (Remember,
AGI is even a lowered measure that counts money after deductions, but go
with it for Rush's sake anyway.)
So why do people use
that "top 10%" "bottom 10%" lingo? Because it makes it easy to
mislead people for the sake of making a point.
Which leads us to
grand finale. Remember the point Rush was trying to make?
He was trying to make it seem that people who earn half the money
are the people who earn $26,000 or more and pay 96.4% of the taxes. Remember, the "top
50% of wage earners pay 96.4% of the taxes." He, of course, used the bogus statistic
that counts pieces of tax return paper but means nothing in terms of
who earns what percentage of the wealth.
No, Rush, 50% of the
money is not earned by people making $26,000 or more. Even if
you go by AGI, which already allows for people to make it seem like
they earned less than they did, you have to get up to people who
earn about... ready?... $90,000 to get to who earns half of the
money each year. That's right, it is not people earning over
$26,000 who earn 50% of the money (and yet are unfairly hit with
96.4% of the taxes, as Rush cried.) Nope, 50% of the money in
the 2000 year Rush used was made by people who earned $90,000 or
more. I guess Rush didn't really mean "thousandaires" but "hundredthousandaires."
Just to keep you
from getting confused, remember, Rush used a cumulative number and
compared apples to oranges.
He made sure to
never mention actual numbers except the one he used to try and
make it seem like he was talking for all of us, that $26,000 figure
that was the mid-point for filers. He chose that point because it
was the most misleading, as most of the money earned, due to heavy
top end skewing, lies above that point, and so the total for the top
50% of filers seems much bigger for those at the bottom of that half
because the very top runs up the numbers so high.
unloading this meaningless, misleading $26,000 number, he
immediately bounced back to using numberless percentages (i.e. 50%
of people, 96.4% of taxes, top 25% earn 67%.) He left out the
actual figures of who the top 25% who earned 2/3 of the money last
year are, etc.
His overall goal was
to create the illusion that people who did only half the earning
paid 96% of the taxes. In reality, he simply showed - in a
misleading way - that people who earned 95% of the taxable money
paid 96% of the taxes. Furthermore, he accidentally showed
that 50% of the nation's tax filers make less than 5% of the
And now we have filled
in the actual facts for you and taught you how to not be misled by
IRS-speak about "top 10%" or "bottom 25%" anymore. The reality
is that 33% of the money in 2000 was made by
people who each took in - after adjustments which reduced their
reportable income - over $200,000. And people who made over
$2,000,000 a piece accounted for 10% of the money. 50% of the
money was made... by people who earned over $90,000 - not people who
made over $26,000.
In fact, people who
Rush tried to lump in - you know, the average folk that earned
between $25,000 and $50,000 that year - only made 18% of the money -
even though they were 25% of the people who filed taxes. That
doesn't sound horribly fair, does it?
So by Rush's
numbers, this middle 18% of wage earners made only 16% of the money,
while the lower fifty percent of "wage earners" (i.e. anyone who
filed a tax return) took in only 5% of the nation's taxable income.
People making $50,000 or less - 68% of the nation - seem to be
getting screwed, only making 21% of the money. If you want to
play games with numbers, that is.
Now, Rush, feel free
to keep that story posted on your website "forever," as you said you
would. It will live as a testament to your permanent
dishonesty, a state apparently even rehab couldn't fix.
And don't bother
trying to run stories using those IRS statistics again to try and
show how your "millionaires" made only 13% of the income but paid
19% of the taxes - we all know that the 13% you are talking about is
"adjusted gross income" and doesn't measure actual intake of money.
The only number that is inescapably accurate is that 100% of The
Moderate Independent readers know you are completely full of it.
stats for the year 2000
article: here is a an added guide to the silly charts at the top of
the site below, if you choose to go to it:
First, he has a
circular graph that says, "top 5 percent" of wage earners pay 53.25%
of the taxes. Of course he is using the misleading "top 5
percent" and pretending it means people who earned 5% of the money
are paying 53.25% of the taxes. That we covered, but the funny
part is to watch the income curve of the three graphs. The
first has the top 5% paying 53% of the taxes (because they earn
about that percent of the money, which he leaves out.) But
notice that when he next goes onto the "top 10% of wage earners" and
the total percent of tax paid barely changes, just to 64.89%, he is
showing that it really is just a handful of millionaires at the top
who make all the money - the first 5% had to pay 53% of the taxes
because they made about that percent of the money, while the poor
second 5% - the people who he adds to make his second chart - only
change things by about 11%. As you good students know, this is
because they only make about 11% of the money. Look how
quickly income earned drops off: first 5% make about 50% of
money, next 5% make about 10%. This he had to highlight right
up top. Brilliant! (the article: "Only
The Rich Pay Taxes"