According to this The Tax Foundation, more than a third of tax filers had zero or negative tax liability in recent years - significantly higher than the 50 years between 1950 and 2000. I guess the Bush tax cuts went to more than just the rich...
A recent The AP Article reported that almost half of US households had zero or negative tax liability in 2009. Included in the group of non-payers would be a family of four earning $50,000 with the standard deduction and two minor children.
The gripe behind the original Tea Party in Boston was "taxation without representation." Now, some 237 years later, we have the opposite problem - representation without taxation. Almost half of the population doesn't pay federal income taxes but greatly influences how (and how much) tax money is spent.
Without diving into the merits and shortcomings of progressive taxation in general, it is clearly not a good idea to have too many people with no direct interest in fiscal responsibility. Think of it this way: if you go to a restaurant and have to pay for your own meal, you may order the shrimp basket and a glass of water. If the restaurant manager announces that the richest people in the restaurant will be charged for everyone else's meal, you may instead order the lobster feast and a bottle of Dom Parignon.
It is no wonder, then, that non-payers tend to vote for Democrats who support increased handouts and entitlements like Health Care Reform and try to convince voters that tax cuts unfairly benefit the rich.
All is not lost, though. A recent Gallup poll showed that the modern Tea Party is a fairly representative cross section of the citizenry with regard to age, education, employment and other common demographic identifiers.
The stage is set for another ideological battle this November. Will Democrats convince us that HCR won't break the bank; or will the Tea Party's message of limited government and fiscal responsibility sway voters to elect conservatives? This layman is cautiously optimistic that the pendulum will start to swing back to the right.