First of all when we're debating income tax, let's remember this is only one of several taxes people pay in this country. While it is true the very poor pay no income tax, they do pay (relatively) a LOT of regressive taxes. Sales tax, energy taxes (gasoline taxes), taxes to register your car, taxes on telephone bills, etc. etc. hit poor people at a much higher rate than they do the wealthy. Poor people can very easily pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than the wealthy. So, exempting them from income tax is really just a small way of balancing out that inequality.
The question was put to me what is fair? Here is my answer. My friends had referred to the rich as the "evil rich":
It's not about punishing the "evil rich". I wanna be rich. I'd like to get to the point where I have enough money to pay MORE than my fair share. The point is "What is fair for someone to pay in taxes?" Should a guy just scraping by be expected to pay the same amount or even the same rate as a guy who is living with an excess of resources? Personally, I think if one has more money than he (and his children) can spend in a lifetime, he has a MORAL (not legal) obligation to share. Going back as far as Thomas Jefferson, he said it was better for society overall if the very rich were taxed at a geometrically higher rate.
I say, as much as possible, leave people below a certain level of income alone and let them live their lives. Once you have been privileged enough to become "wealthy", you owe something back. None of us makes it on our own. Everyone in America takes advantage of conditions afforded to us by living in the greatest country on earth. The man who thinks he is a self-made man and deserves to keep all the wealth he earned with his own grubby little hands is deluding himself. We take advantage of public education, of an educated work force, of a stable economy, of natural resources, etc. all provided to us by the fact that we live in the United States of America. Man up and pay up.Here's what my great, great, great, great, great grandfather Jefferson said (there was no income tax at the time. This is regarding property tax):
The descent of property of every kind therefore to all the children, or to all the brothers and sisters, or other relations in equal degree is a politic measure, and a practicable one. Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they rise. Whenever there is in any country, uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right. The earth is given as a common stock for man to labour and live on. If, for the encouragement of industry we allow it to be appropriated, we must take care that other employment be furnished to those excluded from the appropriation. If we do not the fundamental right to labour the earth returns to the unemployed. It is too soon yet in our country to say that every man who cannot find employment but who can find uncultivated land, shall be at liberty to cultivate it, paying a moderate rent. But it is not too soon to provide by every possible means that as few as possible shall be without a little portion of land. The small landholders are the most precious part of a state.