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Member Questions of the Week of March 8, 2010

Terrell Kennedy from Birmingham, AL asks, Can you give me the breakdown of the income groups, and the portion of federal taxes they pay? OUR ANSWER: The Heritage Foundations 2009 Federal Revenue and Book of Charts includes a graph detailing just how progressive and lopsided our tax system is. As the graph indicates, higher earners pay an enormous amount in federal tax dollars when compared to the diminishing and relatively miniscule amount that lower income earners pay. In 2006, the top 1% of tax earners paid 40% of federal income taxes, the top 5% paid 60% of federal income taxes, and the top 20% of taxpayers paid over 86% of all federal income taxes. Comparatively, the bottom half of the income scale only pays 3% of federal income taxes. Any conversation discussing the supposed income gap in the U.S. should begin with the premise that higher income earners pay an inordinately large share of federal taxes. According to Heritage tax expert Curtis Dubay, President Obamas tax policies are widening the income tax gap by pushing more of the tax burden onto small businesses and higher income earners. Further, as Dubay points out, the Presidents 2011 budget directly contradicts his stated mission of job creation by raising taxes on job creators.

Charles Zawodny from Nottingham, PA asks, What is your recommendation for a book(s) on a good “strict constructionist” interpretation of the Constitution of the United States? OUR ANSWER: While the term strict constructionist has commonly been used by politicians to describe judges who avoid the excesses of liberal judicial activism, legal theorists and judges have made clear that strict constructionism, a rigid form of interpretation not practiced by modern judges, should not be confused with the proper interpretive methods of originalism or textualism. Originalists and textualists look to the text and original public meaning of the Constitution as the authoritative standard when interpreting the Constitution. For an instructive originalist take on the Constitution, we suggest reading The Heritage Guide to the Constitution. The authors, former Attorney General Ed Meese and Dr. Matthew Spalding of The Heritage Foundation along with over 100 of our nations legal experts, offer an in-depth analysis of each provision of the Constitution for anyone – from politicians to every day citizens. We also strongly recommend our nations greatest book on the Constitution, The Federalist.

Stacey Rose from Wixom, MI asks, Aren’t current entitlements (even without any new ones) impossible to maintain on the basis that we do not have the money? In other words, don’t we need to be cutting benefits instead of expanding or adding new ones? OUR ANSWER: Yes, thats correct. If future taxes are held at the historical average, spending on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will consume all tax revenues by 2052. Because entitlement spending is funded on auto-pilot, no revenue will be left to pay for other government spending, including constitutional functions such as defense. Adding another entitlementsuch as national health carewould only make this bad situation worse. Instead, Congress and the President should focus on reducing the costs of entitlements, which will require benefits changes. For instance, benefits are currently paid to any retiree, regardless of income. Instead, Congress could target entitlement spending to those that need it the most, and reduce benefits for the wealthiest retirees.

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