Gene Simmons rocks. The front man for glam-band Kiss rocked decades ago, he rocks now, and he will continue to rock into his old age. Few Americans who came of age in the 1970s would contest this assertion.
But Simmons’ views on tax policy are a little more questionable. Earlier this week, Washington Post, fact-checker Glenn Kessler usefully picks apart Simmons’ recent claim that “[t]he 1 percent pays 80 percent of all taxes” and that “[f]ifty percent of the population of the U.S. pays no taxes.”
Simmon’s “50 percent” assertion is apparently a slightly garbled version of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s infamous assertion that 47 percent of Americans pay no federal income taxes. Romney’s claim had the virtue of being narrowly true, although (as we’ve shown) highly misleading: the income tax is only one of the ways in which the federal government collects tax revenue, and when other taxes (especially the payroll tax on workers’ earnings) are included, most of the “47 percent” are paying substantially more than nothing.
But Simmons’ claim isn’t just misleading—it’s ludicrously wrong. As Kessler points out, the best-off 1 percent of Americans don’t pay anywhere near “80 percent of all taxes.” As a CTJ/ITEP report shows, the top 1 percent really pay less than 24 percent of all federal, state and local taxes—and since this group enjoys almost 22 percent of all nationwide income, they’re likely not complaining very much.
Breathing fire was an integral part of Simmons’ stage act during the heyday of Kiss. But in the political arena, this sort of fire-breathing only confuses what should be a fairly straightforward debate over who pays taxes in America.