You Actually Could Solve the Deficit Problem with Tax Increases

Maybe you heard this recent assertion, which swept through rightwing media outlets: Raising taxes on high income earners can’t solve the federal deficit problem because the deficit is higher than the entire taxable income of Americans who earn more than $100,000. But you likely didn’t hear that it’s not true.

Here’s what the Wall St. Journal said in an editorial, which got the ball rolling.

According to Internal Revenue Service data, the entire taxable income of everyone earning over $100,000 in 2008 was about $1.582 trillion. Even if all these Americans – most of whom are far from wealthy – were taxed at 100%, it wouldn’t cover Mr. Obama’s deficit for this year.

And here’s what the WSJ said when it was pointed out by that they were wrong.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the total taxable income of Americans earning over $100,000 in 2008 was $1.582 trillion. The correct figure is $3.4 trillion.

The projected deficit is $1.645 trillion. You do the math.

But Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Ok.), apparently can’t, because he repeated the false claim on a recent FOX News Sunday segment, with an added twist about the futility of including those who net between $100,00 and $250,000 after deductions. The point was to show that the deficit problem can only be solved by cutting spending, not by also increasing revenues. People who are not mathematically — or ideologically — challenged see that it will take both.

Pres. Obama is proposing $2 trillion in spending cuts and $1 trillion in additional tax revenue over 12 years. Seems reasonable to us.

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