Stand up for facts and support PolitiFact.
Now is your chance to go on the record as supporting trusted, factual information by joining PolitiFact’s Truth Squad. Contributions or gifts to PolitiFact, which is part of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Poynter Institute, are tax deductible.
I would like to contribute
Pro-business pundits are pushing back against progressive politicians who argue that, given America’s wealth inequality, the U.S. tax code should not allow billionaires to exist.
Fox Business Network host Maria Bartiromo fired back at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who said it’s morally wrong that billionaires can coexist alongside people living in extreme poverty. Ocasio-Cortez has discussed a 70 percent marginal tax rate on income that exceeds $10 million a year.
Bartiromo called this view "quite naive," saying high earners already pay their fair share. Besides, they would have less incentive to work hard if a larger portion of their income went to fund the government, she argued.
"What is it going to do to the economy if you make it so economically difficult for the highest earners?" Bartiromo said on Fox News, via satellite from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "According to the Tax Foundation, the top 10 percent of earners already pay almost 80 percent of all taxes. So you already have the highest earners paying their fair share."
We’ll leave it to others to debate whether taxes on the wealthy should stay flat or go up. Here, we wanted to know if the numbers Bartiromo cited reflect the proportion of taxes paid by the rich. Turns out, they’re pretty far off.
Bartiromo did not reply to our request for comment. But a post on Fox News’ website about her response to Ocasio-Cortez cited the pro-business Tax Foundation.
We reached out to the Tax Foundation, which pointed us to a recent study that summarized the latest federal income and tax data from the Congressional Budget Office's "Distribution of Household Income, 2015," including individual and corporate income tax, payroll and excise taxes. The numbers were not as high as what Bartiromo said.
The following chart shows the share of the aforementioned federal taxes paid by America’s top earners. The three bars on the left give a granular view of the top 10 percent of earners’ tax burden. The blue bar on the right shows the top decile’s overall share.
According to the latest federal data, which a Tax Foundation analyst confirmed, the top 10 percent of earners paid around 55 percent of all federal taxes — not almost 80 percent, as Bartiromo said.
She would have been closer to the mark if she’d limited her claim to income tax, of which the top 10 percent accounted for around 74 percent. However, Bartiromo’s statement referred to "all taxes."
Bartiromo said, "According to the Tax Foundation, the top 10 percent of earners already pay almost 80 percent of all taxes."
The latest federal data shows the top 10 percent of earners paid around 55 percent of all federal taxes. Her point that the wealthy pay a lot of taxes was right, but her number was significantly off.
We rate this Mostly False.
Fox News, "Bartiromo Calls Out Ocasio-Cortez's Comments on Billionaires: 'Quite Naive,' " Jan. 22, 2019
Congressional Budget Office, "The Distribution of Household Income, 2015," Nov. 2018
PolitiFact, "Explaining Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's 70 percent marginal tax rate idea," Jan. 8, 2019
Washington Post, "Billionaires in Davos hate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 70% tax on the rich," Jan. 23, 2019
Tax Foundation, "Summary of the Latest Federal Income Tax Data, 2017 Update," Jan. 17, 2018
Tax Foundation, "America Already Has a Progressive Tax System," Jan. 11, 2019
Email interview with John Buhl, media relations manager at the Tax Foundation, Jan. 23-24, 2019
Read About Our Process
In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.