As noted earlier today on Newsbusters by Matthew Balan, Michael Moore appeared on CNN's "Larry King Live" last evening. I caught a good portion of the "interview" (if King's constant agreement and sucking up qualify as an interview) and one little segment in particular got my attention. The subject was taxes:
MOORE: You were asking me a serious question. I'm sorry. Actually, you know what I would do is I would get -- I would try to lower Americans' taxes to the rate that the French pay. The French pay less taxes than we do, less.
KING: Socialist country?
MOORE: That's right, most of Europe pays less than we do. That's not the way we're told in this country. We're told, oh, they pay all these horrible taxes; 40 percent of their income goes to income taxes. Actually, the French federal income tax is around 10 percent. That 10 percent covers everything, the road, the cops, the military.
What they do is they have these other taxes. Here's your tax for your health care. Here's your tax for education. Here's your tax -- it's listed on your payroll stub, where it pays for these things.
KING: What's the total?
MOORE: Hear this out. In France, you have free health care, free college, and free or near free day care. The average America, if they don't have their health care covered, it's 12,000 dollars a year out of their pocket. That's a tax. If they're paying day care, 200 bucks a week, a month, whatever. That's a few thousands a year. College loans, people are paying their college loans at 40 years old, thousands of dollars in college that you don't pay in France.
If you added up tonight what every American, what you're paying right now out of your pocket for your college education, for day care, for health care, add that on to the taxes you pay, you're paying a lot more than what you're paying in France.
We don't call it a tax in this country. We have other words for it. That's what we're doing. We're being taxed to death. The French, for all that they riot and get out in the street and protest and whatever, you never see them out in the street saying, we pay too many taxes. They never complain about that because they get something for it. They get to go to a doctor when they're sick. Their kids get to go to school and college, not have to worry about it. They have help with their kids if they have kids and have to work.
That's all taken care of. They don't complain about their taxes. We complain about our taxes because we can't get a pothole fixed.
Moore, of course, harbors some absurd notions (he has many, to say the least) about what constitutes a "tax." So, let's examine the record on taxes as understood by 99% of the rest of the planet: Moore's "facts" about what the French and other Europeans pay in taxes -- less than Americans, he says -- are just plain laughable. For example, from where did Moore get his "fact" that the French pay 10% in income taxes? He doesn't say. Like the U.S., France has a progressive income tax with their rates ranging from 0% to 46.75% and intermediate brackets of 7.5%, 21%, 31%, 41%. (Source.) This source notes that the French income tax begins at Moore's stated 10% and ranges as high as 48.1%. (It also notes that the French have to pay a sizable 19.6% VAT.) The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) calculates that the "combined effects of personal income tax, employee and employer social security contributions, payroll taxes and cash benefits" facing the French are quite larger than that facing Americans. For a single French individual the combined total is 50.1%, while for a married couple it's 41.7%. For the same in the U.S. it's 29.1% and 11.9% respectively. (See also this chart.) Be sure to also compare taxes of the other European countries to those of the United States in the previous links.
And notice how Moore delves into his typical labyrinthine word-smithing: He says that the supposed 10% French income tax "pays for everything," and that each thing that that 10% pays for is itemized on a Frenchman's paycheck. But at the same he states that "what they (the French) do is they have these other taxes." Hmm. I'm left scratching my head -- does the supposed 10% French income tax "pay for everything" ... or are there "these other taxes" as well? It's pretty obvious it's the latter (since there's that French 19.6% VAT in addition to income taxes) but when it comes to Moore playing it straight, well that's quite a bit to ask now, isn't it?