09/07/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Me-First, Screw-Everyone-Else Crowd

If the hate mail I receive means anything, the anti-health care and anti-tax war that the teabaggers are waging at congressional town hall meetings is bringing out the worst and ugliest impulses among the Me-First, Screw-Everyone-Else Crowd. And as my new newspaper column this week shows, the furor is finally laying bare the greed and selfishness at the heart of the conservative movement.

In my column, I walk through -- and debunk -- the major myths coming from the Right on taxes. I try to provide a step-by-step guide for having a conversation with someone in the Me-First, Screw-Everyone-Else Crowd. I'll let you read the column for that, but just so you have it, here are the links to the most important points:

  • The wealthiest 5 percent of America pays 38.5 percent percent of the total taxes in America precisely because they make almost exactly the same share -- 36.5 percent -- of the total national income. So what the wealthy are really arguing when they claim they are persecuted is that they should actually pay a substantially lower percentage of total taxes than the percentage of total income. That is, they are arguing for a grossly regressive system (thus, for instance, their support for things like a flat tax). And in fact, for the richest of the rich, that's exactly what we have. As a recent IRS report noted, the 400 richest income tax filers paid just 17.2 percent of their adjusted gross income in federal income taxes -- down substantially from just a few years ago.
  • The anti-tax myth of the persecuted fat cat comes from right-wing think tanks like the Tax Foundation, which periodically put out deceptive reports like this most recent one. Notice how the underhanded the deception is: the headline says the "Tax Burden of Top 1% Now Exceeds That of Bottom 95%," and yet the report -- by its own admission -- only refers to "total income taxes."

    Yes, the report deliberately ignores federal payroll taxes, state taxes, county taxes and local taxes -- that is, it ignores precisely the taxes that make our tax system so regressive. When you factor in all the taxes for the total "tax burden," you find that, for example, you start to understand why the 400 richest Americans paid just 17.2 percent of their income in taxes. You start to understand, in other words, exactly what billionaire Warren Buffett has admitted: that the wealthy often pay a lower effective tax rate than their secretaries.

    Read the whole column here for my conclusion as to what is really fueling these anti-tax and anti-health care rallies from the Me-First, Screw-Everyone-Else Crowd.

    The column relies on grassroots support -- and because of that support, it is getting wider and wider circulation (a big thank you to all who have helped with that). So if you'd like to see my column regularly in your local paper, use this directory to find the contact info for your local editorial page editors. Get get in touch with them and point them to my Creators Syndicate site. Thanks, as always, for your ongoing readership and help contacting local editors. This column couldn't be what it is without your help.