My tax return showed up in my bank account this weekend, which is always nice (even if it was my money to begin with). It brought to mind a few months back when people were big on the “50% of American households don’t pay any federal income tax” statistic.
Edit: My labels got a little hinky, so assume federal tax = federal income tax and state tax = state income tax. So yes, life would have been a great deal cheaper if I could have avoided federal income tax.
Anyway, I was thinking about this when I stumbled across this chart:
Anyway, what this jogged my memory about was how this statistic got quoted by many at the time. Rick Warren was one of the more notable examples, but many people made the mistake of stating “half of all Americans pay no taxes”. The “Federal Income” part of that phrase makes a huge difference.
I’m certainly not saying that everyone who misquotes a stat does so intentionally. Many times it’s innocent, and thus it’s something to keep in mind when you hear a crazy statistic from anything but the source. Politicians and other public speakers do just flat out miss words sometimes. There are some pretty horrifying stats out there that become much more reasonable when the correct modifiers are put back in their place.