Al Michaels is one of sports broadcasting’s best-known conservatives, and the NBC announcer cracked wise with one of the right’s most classic myths: that income taxes these days are extraordinarily high.
“That’d be $8 today,” Michaels muttered about Bill Belichick’s first job, making $25 a week for the Colts—“$22 after taxes he told us,” partner Cris Collinsworth replied. The truth:
Say you take Bill Belichick at his word (this may be difficult for you). If he really did only make $1,300 in income in 1975 (if, indeed, he made $25 a week for an entire year) then he wouldn’t have owed any taxes at all; the standard deduction was $1,600 in 1975. For someone to owe $3 a week in income tax in 1975, they’d have to have earned $3,400 a year.
In 2014, that’s about $15,037. A single person earning that and filing in 2014 would pay about $488 in taxes for the year—or $9.38 a week. That’s $2.13 in 1975 dollars—for a person earning nearly three times what Bill Belichick claimed to earn.
OK, so poor people pay far less in federal income taxes today than they did in 1975. But what about rich people like Al Michaels, who reportedly earns $5m a year? Ignoring the myriad benefits provided to the rich in the form of deductions, capital gains, and so on, Al Michaels pays somewhere around $1.5m a year in taxes. If this were 1975, he’d be paying the equivalent of $3.5m.
Quit your reminiscing, Al.