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Tax shavings: the “fallacy of the beard” in political discourse

Friday, October 14, 2016 8:27
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Political speech can be filled with Continuum Fallacies, often leading to abuses of words like “rich,” “poor,” “middle class,” and many others. By way of example, the U. S. Census Bureau defines the poverty level (2007) of a couple with one child as having an income of $14,291 per year or less.[1] But politicians rarely refer to official definitions when they base their stump speeches on casually thrown out terms such as “rich” versus “poor.” Especially in times of economic downturn, most people can identify with the “poor” when trying to maintain their lifestyle. Pundits and activists easily persuade millions by demonizing things like “tax cuts for the rich.” After all, who would consider it fair to decrease the taxes of “rich” people while not doing so for “poor” people who can barely get by? Further, politicians and bureaucrats can easily manipulate tax brackets in order to extract more taxes from those deemed “rich” or “able to pay.” They do so by simply pushing the dividing lines a little further: either by increasing taxes a few percentage points here or there on certain groups, or by sliding the line a little further between “rich” and “middle class,” etc. “Just a little more won’t hurt,” reveals the politician’s (and many voters’) addiction to tax revenues.

What often happens in political discourse is that “rich” is quietly defined as something like “making more than $250,000 per year” and “poor” is left undefined, and not much is said of the vast group of people who fall in between. Since so few people fall into this “rich” category, not many object to taxing the “rich” more and more. The problem, however, is that the top 5% of earners in the U. S. (averaging $153,542 per year) already pay a whopping 61% of the tax burden.[2] The top 1% ($388,806/year) pay almost 40% of the taxes. In contrast, the bottom 50% (a full half of U. S. income earners!) pay an insignificant 2.99% of the tax burden. This group includes those making $31,987 per year and less. In other words, even those making more than twice the official poverty level pay hardly any taxes in this country. In fact, almost 33% of all tax returns end up paying no tax at all.[3]

The facts, therefore, create a vastly different picture of U. S. tax policy. The “poor” already pay little to no taxes, so talking about “tax relief for the poor” misapplies the word “poor” for political gain. The truly “rich” already pay an overwhelmingly unfair proportion of the taxes—far more than most other groups combined. Tax cuts for the “rich” in this case are hardly “unjust” as many politicians would have us believe. “Just” and “fair” would be for all groups to pay an equal percent- age, and thus tax cuts for the “rich” would likely be the fairest thing to do at this point.

[Find much more practical application of critical thinking in Biblical Logic: In Theory and Practice.]


[1] The figure changes based on the number of children and people living together in a household.

[2] National Tax Payers Union, “Who Pays Taxes? See Who Pays What,”; available at, accessed December 5, 2008.

[3] National Tax Payers Union, “Who Doesn’t Pay Taxes?”; available at, accessed December 5, 2008.

American Vision’s mission is to Restore America to its Biblical Foundation—from Genesis to Revelation. American Vision (AV) has been at the heart of worldview study since 1978, providing resources to exhort Christian families and individuals to live by a Biblically based worldview. Visit for more information, content and resources


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