I've seen this tax illustration countless times leading up to the election but its very misleading for several reasons.
1. All we are privy to is what each man at the table pays for the total bill (i.e. his taxes). We have to do the math to figure out what each one makes according to the 2008 tax brackets. To pay $0 of a $100 tab, the bottom four men must make $8000 or less a year. Our present poverty line for singles is $10,400, neither of which are livable wages. For the richest man to pay $59 he must be making 44 times that amount, or $354,000.
2. In reality of course, taxes don't buy beer unfortunately. Pure capitalism is a bit of a mirage. Big business in America takes a lot of government money to float by way of infrastructure, subsidies, security, etc. So the richest men at the table are paying money to make money, not just to fund others' drinks.
3. In the illustration, the money is paid in exchange for equal rounds of beers for all participants. The poorest appears to drink as heartily as the richest. Sadly this is embarrassingly untrue. Of course richer folks will live more comfortably on their own income than poorer folks, but how do we account for the huge disparity on government spending between wealthier and poorer communities? Let's just say kids in Richland County don't go to the same public schools as kids in Lexington.
4. On that note, the illustration fails to account for the members at the table as human beings, instead of units of economic output. Each man at the table represents not just himself but his family, his community, his school, his subculture. America is not a level playing field. Sure there are lazing, greedy, mooching poor people (just as there are lazy, greedy, mooching rich people). But unless we are willing to say that the reason 80% of black kids in inner-city Baltimore fail to graduate high school is laziness, we are just beginning to scratch the surface of a problem much bigger than we realize. Meanwhile, we're arguing over who gets to pay the least for it. Surely money is not the only answer, but I'm not holding my breath for a free one.
5. Another barrier to a level playing field yet to be mentioned is oppression. The Bible is not ignorant to the inherent wickedness and laziness of man (see Proverbs and Paul). But by far, the number one factor contributing to poverty according to the Scriptures is oppression (see Pentateuch, History, Psalms, Proverbs, Prophets, Gospels, Paul, and James). Of course there are rich people who are innocent of malicious oppression; and there are rich people who are ignorant of their oppression; and there are rich people downright guilty of it in complex economical, social, and political ways biblical writers' couldn't have dreamed of. Whatever the category, chances are that at that table, some are able to pay more of the bill because others can't.