The New Republic's Jonathan Chait just keeps being wrong

Earlier today, I responded to the unsupported, and it turns out, false arguments by liberal Jonathan Chait that regulations and big government rarely end up serving big business.

Now I stumble across more wrongness by Chait, this time regarding taxes. I bring this up not just to harp on Chait's tendency to be wrong, but because this is a conflation many on the Left are making — and an imprecision of which many on the Right are guilty.

Let's start with this recent back-and-forth between Chait and libertarian writer Veronique de Rugy.

De Rugy writes this:

In other words, the main reason why rich people were paying a bigger share of the total income tax is that fewer people at the bottom were paying it — the overall number of people paying little or no income tax increased, hence the share of the burden on those paying taxes, especially at the top, grew.

I bolded some words there. You'll see why soon.

Chait responds by linking to this chart, claiming it shows that De Rugy's wrong. But read the footnotes of the chart to see what the chart talks about when it talks about tax burden: “(includes individual and corporate income tax, payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, and the estate tax).”

This is the way liberals get away with claiming the Bush tax cuts were “regressive”: They include in their math the payroll tax — which Congress and Bush didn't cut because it's supposed to fund Medicare and Social Security. When you cut everyone's income taxes, the payroll tax becomes a larger portion of people's total tax bill. Because payroll taxes are regressive, then the federal tax burden as a whole can become slightly less progressive.

But the De Rugy statement Chait claims to battling is that after the Bush tax cuts, “rich people were paying a bigger share of the total income tax.” This is correct, according to this data from the Tax Foundation.

Now, in Chait's defense, De Rugy at times was slightly imprecise, writing at times things like this: “the main impact the rate reduction had in the first place was to make the rich pay an even bigger share of taxes that they paid before.” She should have written “an even bigger share of INCOME taxes.”

But even when she was precise, Chait still changed the topic to be total federal taxes. It's hard to debate a guy who slides to different topics without acknowledging it.

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