Russ Hughes of Richmond echoed in his letter of Aug. 8 the discredited statement that “the top 1 percent pay 35 percent of all federal taxes, the top 5 percent pay 60 percent and the top 50 percent pay all taxes.”  

The Press Herald performed a disservice by allowing this factually incorrect information to be published.

The statement would be accurate enough if it specified income tax only, but instead it is mired in the misunderstanding that federal income taxes are the only federal taxes.  

Federal excise taxes, including fuel taxes, affect almost everybody.  

Payroll (Social Security) and Medicare taxes affect nearly 85 percent of households.

Further, many of those exempted from certain taxes this year have paid or will pay those taxes far more often than not.

Federal taxes are only part of the tax burden.  

When state and local taxes are added, taxes absorb about 16 percent of income for those in the lowest income quintile. 

For the top income percentile it is about 30 percent of income.  

When the total tax bill is considered, the lowest quintile earns 3.5 percent of total income and pays 2 percent of total taxes. The top percentile earns 20.3 percent of income and pays 21.5 percent of total tax. 

For other income groups, the figures can be projected from the examples given, which are taken from 2010 figures from Citizens for Tax Justice and others.

It is not immediately apparent that the wealthier are paying more than their share. 

Even if we accept the argument that it is poor policy to raise taxes on “job creators,” it would be worse to tax lower-income households more heavily.  

Aside from considerations of fairness, jobs are created in a market economy when there is demand for the goods and services the jobs produce.

Reducing the purchasing power of so many households can only weaken demand.

Anybody is free to argue that lower-income people are not taxed enough, but the argument should be based on facts in context rather than isolated snippets.

Bruce Martel

Saco

I find those who advocate raising taxes on others but not on themselves to be extremely hypocritical.  

In his letter published Aug. 13 (“Tax cuts help other rich folks, not the economy”), Gary McNeill is eager to raise taxes on the “really wealthy, those making over a quarter of a million dollars a year.”  

He indicates that he and his wife are “far from rich” but are “comfortable enough.”  

He further states that any tax cut sent his way would not be spent on Maine goods but would likely be used to buy stocks.

I am happy for him and, if this is the case, he should be more than willing to participate in the tax increase that he advocates for others.

If we need to raise taxes rather than control spending first, then let’s raise taxes on everyone.  

Raising tax rates on those making more than $250,000 will have very little impact on the amount of revenue raised by the Treasury.  

The proposed Obama tax increase is nice political theater but does little to help reduce the deficit. Once everyone has some “skin in the game,” we will be able to have a serious discussion of tax increases.

Jay Haberland

Round Pond

Middle-class families are being deprived of freedom for a decent life.

It’s ironic that the very same politicians and political movements that talk the loudest and longest about liberty and freedom support economic policies that severely restrict the freedoms of average Americans.

By supporting budget policies that continually lavish huge tax cuts on the wealthiest, cuts that in turn necessitate severe reductions in the funding of public services on which the middle class relies, they are not promoting freedom but denying it.

They are depriving the middle class of the freedom to have education, to have health care, to in general lead a decent and satisfying life.

This process has been going on for a long time without much notice.

But thankfully that seems to be changing. Basic questions of what our government should do and who should pay for it are now part of the political debate.

Voters should determine what candidates in this fall’s elections really mean when they talk about expanding freedom and whether their economic policies back up their rhetoric.

Then soon after Election Day, citizens should turn their attention to Washington, where this issue will be worked out in a big way in a year-end session of Congress.

Some trillion dollars in spending and tax policies are all abruptly ending on Jan. 1 and in order to prevent a huge shock to our fragile economic system, our representatives must work out a grand budget bargain.

One key to making it a good bargain is allowing tax cuts on the richest 2 percent of Americans to expire on schedule, thus raising hundreds of billions of dollars, allowing us to pay down debt while continuing to fund essential public investments.

By restoring equitable taxes on those making over a quarter-million dollars a year, we can better ensure all our citizens the liberty and freedom they deserve.

Paul Treacy

Kittery Point

How are low-income elders going to be able to survive?

I am wondering what our state government is thinking when it comes to our most vulnerable residents: the elderly!

My 84-year-old, disabled mother received a notice from the Social Security office saying Maine was no longer going to pay for her Medicare coverage and, therefore, the Social Security Administration will now be deducting a monthly premium from her check.

She will now receive less than $300 monthly. Is there anyone in government who is able to live on that income? If so, please step forward and let me know how that is manageable.

I have contacted several officials and not one of them has had the courtesy to respond. That should tell us all something about how our governor and state government have such a total disregard for our elders.

I understand cutbacks where needed, but this type of disgusting action is reprehensible and I dare anyone in government to provide a logical, reasonable, responsible reply as to how this is a necessary action to an extremely low-income elder.

I live in Portland and am ashamed to let anyone know how my state treats its residents.

Ivy Martin

Portland