‘Skin in the game’

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If there’s one unshakable, unwavering rule in American politics in the 21st century, it’s this: Republicans oppose any tax increases on anyone by any amount for any reason, no matter the consequences. Full stop.

There is, however, a pesky little asterisk tied to this rule that often goes overlooked: a whole lot of Republicans support tax hikes on the poor. Indeed, the House Republican budget plan, as written by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), actually increases the tax burden on those at the very bottom of the income scale.

ThinkProgress’ Scott Keyes asked Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, about this yesterday. Tiberi stressed the need for low-income families, many of whom have no federal income tax burden at all, to have some “skin in the game.”

This is a surprisingly common sentiment in GOP circles. Indeed, none other than Mitt Romney told voters in Florida last year, “I think it’s a real problem when you have half of Americans, almost half of Americans, that are not paying [federal] income tax.”

Got that? Millions of struggling Americans are not currently required to pay federal income taxes, and the presumptive Republican nominee considers that “a real problem,” which presumably he would try to fix if elected.

When Democrats want millionaires to pay a little more, it’s socialism. When Republicans want the poor to pay a little more, it’s just helping these low-income Americans have some “skin in the game.”

Welcome to class warfare, Republican style.

In case anyone’s forgotten, the relevant details matter here: millions of Americans may be exempt from income taxes, but they still pay sales taxes, state taxes, local taxes, Social Security taxes, Medicare/Medicaid taxes, and in many instances, property taxes. It’s not as if these folks are getting away with something – the existing tax structure leaves them out of the income tax system because they don’t make enough money to qualify. Indeed, many are retirees who can’t earn an income because they’re no longer in the workforce.

But for many Republicans, including the party’s presidential candidate, it’s “a real problem” that these folks aren’t also paying federal income taxes – and the only way to correct this problem is by increasing the tax burdens of those least able to afford it.

'Skin in the game'

Updated