By now most people have at least heard about the statement that Mitt Romney made privately to a group of donors in May pertaining to the 47% of Americans who pay no federal income tax. The statement echoes a popular right-wing screed that many Americans are little more than wards of the state. But who are the 47%?
First, they are the elderly. Individuals that worked a lifetime, paid taxes, raised families, (and are now are too lazy to put down their walkers and hold down a job?)
Also included in this group are the poor. For example, a couple with two children earning less than $26,400 will pay no federal income tax because their $11,600 standard deduction and four exemptions of $3,700 each reduce their taxable income to zero. The basic structure of the income tax simply exempts subsistence levels of income from federal income tax.
These taxpayers do pay payroll taxes and other taxes that contribute to funding the public good such as sales taxes. A small percentage of those who paid zero in federal income taxes were individuals with higher incomes who may have had shrewd accountants.
For a candidate who Haley Barbour called a "wealthy plutocrat married to a known equestrian," this is about as bad as it gets.