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."