Gene Lyons has a great piece in Salon on tax myths in the US, including a recent report from the Associated Press that about 47% of Americans will pay no federal income tax for 2009. As Lyons explains, that’s a misleading factoid:

“How many are retirees living on savings and Social Security? How many soldiers? Students? How many are unemployed amid the current recession, thus have no income to tax? … It’s also false to imply that households paying no income tax escape federal taxation altogether. Social Security and Medicare payroll deductions, for example, add up to a nonrefundable 15.3 percent — a slightly higher rate than wealthy citizens pay on income from dividends and capital gains. Low-income earners, meanwhile, pay the same gasoline and sales taxes as everybody else.”