In Mitt Romney's almost comically offensive leaked speech, in which he says that the 47 percent of Americans who don't pay income taxes feel entitled to wild luxuries like "food" and "housing," the GOP presidential candidate also suggests that this 47 percent doesn't "take personal responsibility" for their lives. Some good things have been written about the qualitative validity of Romney's "personal responsibility" statement, but politics blog Squashed decided to look at its quantitative validity, also. Many people who don't pay income taxes have jobs, of course, but how much more would they need to work to be responsible in the eyes of Romney and his supporters? In short: A lot more.
How long a work day would you need to put in at a minimum wage job to pay federal income taxes? Because it's Romney's comment, let's use his family profile. We'll have two parents, one of whom works. And let's limit it to two children rather than Romney's five to avoid an unseemly number of exemptions.
So we have four exemptions at $3,700 each plus the standard deduction of $11,600. So even without tax credits, you would need $26,400.
Because one spouse isn't working, there is no child care tax credit. There could be up to $2,500 in education credits per child-but let's say the kids are younger and go with the lower $1,000 child tax credit for both of them. So that's a $2,000 credit. To owe taxes at this point, you'd need $19,000 in taxable income-or $45,400 in total income. This still a hair below the EIC phaseout in this case. So to hit zero exactly you would need a few more dollars to bring your annual income to $45,750.
In a given year, you have about 260 work days. Let's say you work a full day on all of them. This means that any vacation, sick days, or holidays you want had better be paid. To make your $45,750, you need to bring in $174.62 a day. Let's round that down to $174 to make the math work out more smoothly.
You're earning the federal minimum wage: $7.25 an hour. To get to $174 a day, you'll need to work for … 24 hours. Congratulations. You can sleep on the weekends. If you want to get down to an 8 hour day, you'll need to earn at least $21.75. (You still have to work every day.) Good luck finding an early-career job that pays that well.
See that? All you have to do to be responsible enough for guys like Mitt Romney is work all the time until you're dead. Your kids and spouse will never know you, but at least they'll remember you as a responsible absent parent.
[Image via AP]