Firstly, the people who are paying a "0%" income tax rate are a separate question. These are a lot of people who are paying no income tax, but that is because they have no income to speak of or so little that they don't make enough money for food, shelter, and medical services. The "negative income tax" is a cheap way of keeping them from starving while we avoid the larger issues of economic inequality: if low-income workers had enough economic and political clout to negotiate a living wage, they could pay some income tax. The new pro-union administration in Washington will be working on that, along with a more plausible minimum wage law.Sareth wrote:As to fairness... The idea that one person is expected to pay out 40% of their income, while another pays 0%, based exclusively off of the size of their paycheck violates my idea that all people are equal. It says it's right and proper to burden one person heavily with the bill of state, while the other person has no such obligation, even though both recieve the protection of the police, the courts, the military...
(There are right-wing pundits and commentators I know of who ramble on about the poor as parasites constantly, the standard line being "half the country is working to support the half that isn't." This is some sort of expansion of an old conservative belief (last voiced to me by my mother a few months ago) that a huge chunk of their hard earned tax money is going to "welfare queens" who have babies just to collect more free money from the government. Out in the real world, the federal government spends a small fraction of 1% of its revenues on anything that might be considered "welfare." It's largest budget items are the military, Medicare, and the interest payments on our national debt. It is state governments who actually handle most traditional "welfare" programs. The amount of money they spend on it is not trivial, but still a very small part of their yearly budget, most of which goes to education, police, road construction, and the other basic services you describe.)
Getting back to the original point, about someone paying a higher percentage rate on their income tax than others, why should the concept of "fairness" even come into the discussion in this context? Taxes are the price we pay for having a civilized government. The money has to come from somewhere, and, as long as the burden isn't directly and deliberately destructive of some element of society or culture, the primary issues are how much money is needed and what is the most efficient way to gather the revenue.
When the federal government was first organized under the constitution, its sole source of revenue for its administration and duties was a small federal tariff. Was it unfair for people importing goods to bear the sole burden of supporting the government? Did the fact they provided the revenue for the maintenance of the government entitle them to any preferential treaty under the law? Neither of these two concepts was even part of the debate back then. Money was needed to run the government: tariffs were a traditional source of revenue for governments and the collection of tariffs was easy to administrate.
(Also, Alexander Hamilton needed to establish the federal government's right to tax the citizens to support itself. Without a revenue source, the constitutional government would have been dependent on the charitable whims of the state governments. It would have failed as miserably as the Articles of Confederation government did before it and the Confederate States of America government did later.)
As conceived by the Founding Fathers, citizenship in the United States of America is not a financial transaction. It is a moral, political, and legal agreement of joint tolerance, responsibility, and decision-making. There isn't any philosophical basis there for the concept that various government services should be provided favorably for those who pay more taxes. Taxes are collected under a set of practical rules to generate revenue efficiently and with the minimal amount of unwanted effect on the overall economic, political, and personal cultural infrastructure of our society. The benefits of citizenship are allocated based on moral and legal traditions. The two issues are not supposed to be connected.