When Barack Obama responded to the Ohio plumber who didn’t want his taxes raised that Obama wanted to “spread the wealth around,” I wanted to tell him to spread his own wealth around. It was in any event a rare moment of candor on the part of Senator Obama.
Obama all but told the plumber that his wealth should be seized in the name of equity. The encounter played out one of the old themes of democratic politics: the appeal to the many to take from the few. It’s traditionally an easy sell in democratic regimes.
Despite Obama’s implication to the contrary, however, It doesn’t represent much in the way of change. According to the most recent (2006) data released by the IRS, the top 1 percent of filers paid nearly 40 percent of all income taxes; the top 5 percent paid 60 percent of all income taxes. The bottom 50 percent paid virtually no income taxes (3 percent of all income taxes paid).
The personal income tax, the federal government’s main source of revenue, is collected overwhelmingly from a relative handful of Americans. The large majority of all Americans pay little or no income tax.