Romney’s theory of the “taker class,” and why it matters Part of the reason so many Americans dont pay federal income taxes is that Republicans have passed a series of very large tax cuts that wiped out the income-tax liability for many Americans. Thats why, when you look at graphs of the percent of Americans who dont pay income taxes, you see huge jumps after Ronald Reagans 1986 tax reform and George W. Bushs 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. So whenever you hear that half of Americans dont pay federal income taxes, remember: Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush helped build that. (You also see a jump after the financial crisis begins in 2008, but we can expect that to be mostly temporary.) Some of those tax cuts for the poor were there to make the tax cuts for the rich more politically palatable. Do you think we wanted to include a welfare payment to people who dont pay taxes and call it a tax cut? A top Bush administration official once asked me. No. But thats what we needed to do to get it done. But now that those tax cuts have passed and many fewer Americans are paying federal income taxes and the rich are paying a much higher percentage of federal income taxes, Republicans are arguing that these Americans they have helped free from income taxes have become a dependent and destabilizing taker class who want to hike taxes on the rich in order to purchase more social services for themselves. The antidote, as you can see in both Paul Ryan and Mitt Romneys policy platforms, is to further cut taxes on job creators while cutting the social services that these takers depend on. That way, you roll the takers out of what Ryan calls the hammock of government and you unleash the makers to create jobs and opportunities. So notice what happened here: Republicans have become outraged over the predictable effect of tax cuts they passed and are using that outrage as the justification for an agenda that further cuts taxes on the rich and pays for it by cutting social services for the non-rich. Thats why Romneys theory here is more than merely impolitic. Its actually core to his economic agenda.