When You Think About Oregon’s 42%, Think “Worker”

Chuck Sheketoff

Some (not me) like to divide the country into “makers” and “takers,” portraying those who don’t pay federal income taxes as the latter.

But they’re wrong.

As the following chart based on data from our colleagues at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows, most Oregonians not paying federal income taxes work for a paycheck.

In 2010, workers were the largest category of people who comprised the 42 percent of Oregon households who paid no federal income tax that year. Although these workers have low paying jobs, they do pay federal payroll and excise taxes, on top of state and local taxes.

This is only a one-year snapshot and many have paid federal income taxes in the past or will pay in the future. Analysts point to the Great Recession and sluggish economy to note that the percent of Americans not paying federal income taxes is higher than normal. And they note that tax policies enacted by Republicans and Democrats alike have rightly reduced or eliminated federal income tax liability for the lowest income workers, especially those with children.

Among the rest of the 42 percent are folks who have worked, will work or would like to find work: the retired, students and unemployed workers.

So when you think of about Oregon’s 42 percent, think “worker.”

Oregon Center for Public PolicyChuck Sheketoff is the executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy. You can sign up to receive email notification of OCPP materials at www.ocpp.org.

  • (Show?)

    It would fascinating to see some comparable charts over time of people who don't pay the federal income tax, like perhaps 2006, before the collapse of finance, and during the height of the tech boom under Clinton, and maybe under Reagan, just for fun.

    Many kinds of adversity, such as unemployment and homelessness, tend to be temporary conditions, and I suspect the actual percentage of the "42%" has changed significantly over time.

    The one adverse condition that's always permanent is elderhood, and we leading-edge Boomers are giving that slice of the pie a big boost.

open discussion

connect with blueoregon