One third of those filing tax returns in 2007 paid zero income tax, while about half of those received money from the government. Since 15 million workers did not earn enough to be required to file a return, almost 62 million workers paid zero income tax in 2007. In rough terms, almost 45% of the those who worked in 2007 paid zero income tax, and one third of those paying zero tax ended up receiving substantial money from the government (in the form of earned income tax credit and other subsidies).
Here's a chart of the data:
Note the dramatic and unprecedented increase during the Bush II years in the percentage of workers who pay no tax. To make matters worse, consider this comment from The Tax Foundation:
"The number of 'nonpayers' can be expected to soar due to programs such as President Obama's 'Making Work Pay' tax credit," Tax Foundation President Scott Hodge said. "We now have an enormous class of Americans who are disconnected from the cost of government and have no skin in the game, and that is not good for democracy."
Nuni, a very good friend of mine, made a similar comment to me this morning:
If we talk about the unfairness of those making a lot of money and not sharing enough with those who don't make a lot of money, how about the unfairness of those who don't pay any taxes asking to increase taxes on the rich? The fair thing to do would be to say that only those who pay taxes should be able to give an opinion about raising taxes. The rest are just going along for a free ride. And that's definitively unfair.