“You didn’t build that…”

by Sonny Bunch on July 18, 2012

…but you did pay for it.

So, a few people are really upset that some people are kinda-sorta taking Barack Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comment slightly out of context. I think it’s clear that he was saying those who start businesses owe their success to the people who came before and built/maintained the infrastructure, but we can quibble over what debt Obama thinks these entrepreneurs owe the government for its beneficence.

What Obama and his supporters seem to be ignoring, however, is that the top 20 percent who didn’t build the massive government works we should all credit for everyone’s success actually paid for the construction of those massive government works:

It follows that the share of income taxes paid by top earners has increased as well.  As Figure 2 shows, in 2009 the share paid by the top 20 percent of households was 94.1 percent, just shy of the record high of 94.6 percent in 2008.  This is up from 64.7 percent in 1979.

Likewise, the share of taxes paid by the top 1 percent has increased from 18.4 percent in 1979 to 38.7 percent in 2009.  In contrast, the share of income taxes paid by the bottom four quintiles has decreased since 1979, particularly since 2007.

Now, look: I tend not to like the “poor people pay no taxes argument” because FICA and the rest are substantial taxes that take a big chunk out of people’s paychecks each and every week. But it’s simply undeniably true that when it comes to income taxes—the taxes that pay for the infrastructure that Barack Obama thinks we all need to be extremely thankful for, as if some sort of benevolent god-government came down and granted them to us for being good citizens who shut up and gladly give the government whatever it asks—the wealthy and the business-owning amongst us funded their construction and their maintenance. And they are funding/maintaining them to a higher degree than ever before. They are providing at least their fair share, if not far more than their fair share.

Which brings me to my new favorite Tumblr: You didn’t build that. A taste:

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