Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Will raising taxes on the rich help the economy and create more jobs?

The presidents of my two favorite think tanks, Arthur Brooks (AEI) and Edwin Feulner (Heritage) explain in this USA Today editorial.

Excerpt: (links removed)

First, there is no evidence that tax increases will actually solve our troubles. On the contrary, years of data from around the world show that when nations try to solve a fiscal crisis primarily by raising tax revenues, they tend to fail. In contrast, fiscal approaches based on entitlement reform and spending cuts tend to succeed.

American Enterprise Institute economists Kevin Hassett, Andrew Biggs and Matthew Jensen examined the experiences of 21 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries between 1970 and 2007. They found that countries with successful fiscal reforms, on average, closed 85% of their budget gaps with spending cuts. The countries with failed reforms, on average, relied at least 50% on tax increases. President Obama’s strategy falls firmly in the latter camp. After discounting the accounting tricks that create fictitious spending cuts, the president’s plan would impose about $3 in tax hikes for every $1 in spending cuts.

That is, his approach would probably land America in the “failed attempt” column. Five years down the line, we would be in the same fiscal mess we are in today, just with higher taxes and a bigger government.

Second, tax hikes aimed at small segments of the population wouldn’t raise much in revenues. Consider the “Buffett Rule” that the president spent many months promoting. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, it would raise about $47 billion over a decade. The federal government currently spends about $4 billion more per day than it takes in. The Buffett Rule, then, would raise about enough next year to cover 28 hours of government overspending. Heritage Foundation economist Curtis Dubay finds that closing the deficit solely by raising the two highest tax brackets would require hiking them to 159% and 166%, respectively.

Third, as economists and business executives have noted repeatedly, raising taxes on families earning over $250,000 per year is effectively a massive tax hike on small businesses. Most small businesses today organize as S-corporations or other pass-through entities; their income is taxed as personal income. A study by Ernst and Young shows that Obama’s proposed tax hike would force these small businesses to eliminate about 710,000 jobs. Moreover, these households already bear a great deal of tax liability. According to the most recent Internal Revenue Service data, those earning $250,000 and above — roughly 2% of all taxpayers — earn 22% of income, but pay 45% of all federal income taxes.

Simply put, increasing tax rates on the wealthy is not a serious approach to solving America’s fiscal woes. The problem is purely one of excessive spending, not inadequate taxing.

Revenues haven’t changed substantially over the last decade, but government spending is way, way up. That’s what’s causing us to go into debt – massive government spending on turtle tunnels and Solyndra. We can do better than socialism.

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Mark Steyn: Americans must choose between low taxes and big government

I noticed that John Hawkins at Right Wing News had come up with his list of the top conservative commentators, and guess who is at the top of the list? Canadian writer Mark Steyn.

Here’s Mark Steyn writing in Investors Business Daily.

Excerpt:

According to the most recent (2009) OECD statistics: Government expenditures per person in France, $18,866.00; in the U.S., $19,266.00. That’s adjusted for purchasing-power parity, and yes, no comparison is perfect, but did you ever think the difference between America and the cheese-eating surrender monkeys would come down to quibbling over the fine print?

In that sense, the federal debt might be better understood as an American Self-Delusion Index, measuring the ever-widening gap between the national mythology (a republic of limited government and self-reliant citizens) and the reality (a 21st century cradle-to-grave nanny state in which Democrats boast,  “Government is the only thing we do together”).

Generally speaking, functioning societies make good-faith efforts to raise what they spend, subject to fluctuations in economic fortune: Government spending in Australia is 33.1% of GDP, and tax revenues are 27.1%. Likewise, government spending in Norway is 46.4% and revenues are 41% — a shortfall, but in the ballpark. Government spending in the U.S. is 42.2%, but revenues are 24% — the widest spending/taxing gulf in any major economy.

So the agonizing over our annual trillion-plus deficits overlooks the obvious solution: Given that we’re spending like Norwegians, why don’t we just pay Norwegian tax rates? No danger of that. If Jews earn like Episcopalians but vote like Puerto Ricans, Americans are taxed like Puerto Ricans but vote like Scandinavians.

We already have a more severely redistributive taxation system than Europe in which the wealthiest 20% of Americans pay 70% of income tax while the poorest 20% shoulder just three-fifths of 1%. By comparison, the Norwegian tax burden is relatively equitably distributed.

Yet Obama now wishes “the rich” to pay their “fair share” — presumably 80% or 90%. After all, as Warren Buffett pointed out in the New York Times last week, the Forbes 400 richest Americans have a combined wealth of $1.7 trillion. That sounds a lot, and once upon a time it was. But today, if you confiscated every penny the Forbes 400 have, it would be enough to cover just over one year’s federal deficit. And after that you’re back to square one.

It’s not that “the rich” aren’t paying their “fair share,” it’s that America isn’t. A majority of the electorate has voted itself a size of government it’s not willing to pay for.

[…]So given that the ruling party will not permit spending cuts, what should Republicans do? If I were John Boehner, I’d say: “Clearly there’s no mandate for small government in the election results. So, if you milquetoast pantywaist sad-sack excuses for the sorriest bunch of so-called Americans who ever lived want to vote for Swede-sized statism, it’s time to pony up.”

And this view is shared by many conservative commentators.

Marc Thiessen wants the Republicans to let the Bush tax cuts expire for everyone:

During the campaign, President Obama repeatedly told us how he wants to “go back to the income tax rates we were paying under Bill Clinton — back when our economy created nearly 23 million new jobs, the biggest budget surplus in history, and plenty of millionaires to boot.” Well if the Clinton tax rates were so great, let’s go back to all of the Clinton rates and relive the booming ’90s.

At least going back to the Clinton rates would put more people on the tax rolls, and give more Americans a stake in constraining government spending. It would also force all Americans — including the middle class — to pay for growing government services, instead of borrowing the money from China and passing the costs on to the next generation.

Americans had a choice this November, and they voted for bigger government. Rather shielding voters from the consequences of their decisions, let them pay for it.

And now he’s being backed up by Charles Krauthammer:

Why are the Republicans playing along? Because it is assumed that Obama has the upper hand. Unless Republicans acquiesce and get the best deal they can right now, tax rates will rise across the board on Jan. 1, and the GOP will be left without any bargaining chips.

But what about Obama? If we all cliff-dive, he gets to preside over yet another recession. It will wreck his second term. Sure, Republicans will get blamed. But Obama is never running again. He cares about his legacy. You think he wants a second term with a double-dip recession, 9 percent unemployment and a totally gridlocked Congress? Republicans have to stop playing as if they have no cards.

Obama is claiming an electoral mandate to raise taxes on the top 2 percent. Perhaps, but remember those incessant campaign ads promising a return to the economic nirvana of the Clinton years? Well, George W. Bush cut rates across the board, not just for the top 2 percent. Going back to the Clinton rates means middle-class tax hikes that yield four times the revenue that you get from just the rich.

So give Obama the full Clinton. Let him live with that. And with what also lies on the other side of the cliff: 28 million Americans newly subject to the ruinous alternative minimum tax.

Republicans must stop acting like supplicants. If Obama so loves those Clinton rates, Republicans should say: Then go over the cliff and have them all.

That’s my view as well. Americans voted for big government, and now we must pay for it. Maybe next time, we will put the remote control down and pay attention to the issues.

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Should Republicans let the Bush tax cuts expire?

In previous posts I noted how government revenues increased when the Bush tax cuts were passed, because more money was taken out of savings and invested on enterprises, resulting in more tax revenue from profits. I also noted that the deficit was shrinking after the tax cuts – down to $160 billion in 2007. Not growing, but shrinking even though we were fighting two wars. I also noted that unemployment decreased when those tax cuts were passed, because more entrepreneurial activity means more hiring.

Take a look at some of the facts about the Bush tax cuts from Investors Business Daily.

Here’s a snippet: (links removed)

The rich paid more. Despite endless claims by critics that Bush’s tax cuts favored the rich, the fact is the rich ended up paying more in taxes after they went into effect.

In fact, IRS data show that the richest 1% paid $84 billion more in taxes in 2007 than they had in 2000 — that’s a 23% increase — even though their average tax rate went down.

What’s more, their share of the overall income tax burden grew, climbing from 37% in 2000 to 40% in 2007.

At the other end of the spectrum, the bottom half of taxpayers paid $6 billion less in income taxes in 2007 than they had seven years earlier — a 16% drop — and their share of the total income tax burden dropped from 3.9% to 2.9%.

Millions dropped from the tax rolls entirely. Another unheralded feature of the Bush tax cuts is that they pushed nearly 8 million people off the tax rolls entirely because, among other things, Bush doubled the per-child tax credit to $1,000 and lowered the bottom rate to 10%.

The Tax Foundation estimated that these changes benefited modest-income married couples with children, who were the ones most likely to fall from the tax rolls.

The tax cuts didn’t cause the massive deficits. Critics routinely blame the Bush tax cuts for turning surpluses late in the Clinton administration to huge deficits under Bush. Not true.

In August 2001, after the first round of the Bush tax cuts were in place, the CBO projected a surplus of $176 billion in fiscal year 2002, with surpluses continuing to grow in the following years.

[…]And after Bush signed the second round of tax cuts into law in 2003, federal deficits started to shrink. By 2007, the federal deficit was just $160 billion, and the CBO was again forecasting annual surpluses starting in 2012.

[…]Over the next decade… the middle class tax cuts that Obama wants to keep will cost $3.7 trillion, according to the CBO .

But tax cuts for the “rich” that Obama wants to abandon add up to just $824 billion.

That’s $824 billion over 10 years – but Obama has run the national debt up by $6 trillion in only 4 years. $824 billion over 10 years is chicken feed compared to that $6 trillion in debt in only 4 years.

Should we let the Bush tax cuts expire?

Here’s is Marc Thiessen in the liberal Washington Post to make the case that the tax cuts should be allowed to expire.

While the Bush tax cuts expire on Dec. 31, so do a lot of tax policies the Democrats support. For example:

  • The 10 percent income tax bracket would disappear, so the lowest tax rate would be 15 percent.
  • The employee share of the Social Security payroll tax would rise from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent.
  • An estimated 33 million taxpayers — many in high-tax blue states — would be required to pay the alternative minimum tax, up from 4 million who owed it in 2011.
  • The child tax credit would be cut in half, from $1,000 today to $500, and would no longer be refundable for most.
  • Tax preferences for alternative fuels, community development and other Democratic priorities would go away.
  • And the expansions of the earned income tax credit and the dependent care credit would disappear as well.

[…]Right now, Democrats are demanding that Republicans raise taxes while Republicans are demanding that Democrats agree to cut Social Security and Medicare spending. A grand bargain this fall, then, would mean that Republicans get to raise revenue from their own supporters (small-business job creators) in exchange for cutting spending for their own supporters (seniors). Genius! Much better to wipe the slate clean, and start over with more leverage for fundamental tax reform and structural entitlement reform.

[…]During the campaign, President Obama repeatedly told us how he wants to “go back to the income tax rates we were paying under Bill Clinton — back when our economy created nearly 23 million new jobs, the biggest budget surplus in history, and plenty of millionaires to boot.” Well if the Clinton tax rates were so great, let’s go back to all of the Clinton rates and relive the booming ’90s.

At least going back to the Clinton rates would put more people on the tax rolls, and give more Americans a stake in constraining government spending. It would also force all Americans — including the middle class — to pay for growing government services, instead of borrowing the money from China and passing the costs on to the next generation.

Americans had a choice this November, and they voted for bigger government. Rather shielding voters from the consequences of their decisions, let them pay for it.

His point is that if we do nothing, then the Democrats will be tarred with having to pay for the trillions of spending that they have incurred in the last 4 years. Obama complained and complained about them, and when we repeal them and it wrecks economy, he will take the blame.

The people who voted for them have been insulated from paying for all of his spending, because it is all been passed on to children, born and unborn. Taxes have not been raised enough to pay for all the spending, it’s just been added to the debt. Maybe we should make the beneficiaries of that spending foot the bill, so that they will understand how they need to vote next time. Republicans aren’t voting for tax increases. They are just letting them expire, exactly as Obama wants.  He will take the blame for this, and then people will have a real choice to make in 2016. Let the people who voted for bigger government pay the bill for bigger government.

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A primer on the fiscal cliff facing us in January 2013: tax hikes and Obamacare

This is a medium-length article from the Tax Foundation. I found it fascinating to read, because I am busy making plans myself to deal with the next four years under Barack Obama.

Excerpt:

On December 31, 2012, a large swath of the federal income tax code is scheduled to expire, an event which has come to be known as the “fiscal cliff.” Among the expiring provisions are the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts enacted under President Bush, a compromise on the estate tax, a “patch” in the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) reducing its impact, the temporary 2 percent payroll tax holiday, increased business expensing, and the “extenders” package of miscellaneous tax deductions. On January 1, 2013, five taxes enacted as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)—popularly referred to as Obamacare—also take effect, along with sequester spending reductions of $109 billion due to the failure of the “Supercommittee” to reach consensus on budget reductions.

In late February, the U.S. government will hit the debt ceiling, exhausting its ability to borrow to finance ongoing spending without an increase by Congress. Finally, the federal government’s continuing resolution appropriating spending expires on March 27, 2013.

Here are some of the things to look out for, which are all described in detail in the article:

  • 2001 and 2003 Tax Cuts Expiration
  • Estate Tax Increase
  • Alternative Minimum Tax
  • Payroll Tax Increase
  • Business Depreciation Expense
  • Taxes in PPACA (Obamacare)
  • Debt Ceiling
  • Sequestration

I am most concerned about income tax increase, the capital gains tax increase, the dividend tax increase and the payroll tax increase. These are all going to clobber me. I will have less money for charity and savings, and will have to retire later – and have less time for my Christian activities as a result of having to work longer. The voters in the last election have decided that I must sacrifice more of my earnings so that Obama can hand it all out to his constituents in exchange for their votes.

It helps to know exactly what will be changing in the future, because I have to know how to respond to this. Some adjustments that I might make cannot be done at the drop of a hat. Some take months to plan and execute. It’s best to think about things in advance. We have two deadlines: December 31st and March 27th. It will be interesting to see  what Washington decides to do.

UPDATE: James Pethokoukis of AEI explains the significance of the tax increases for capital gains and dividends. Other countries have lower rates on these taxes, so expect the capital that funds businesses and creates jobs to leave the country. Obama likes to rail against outsourcing, but he actually causes it – because of his ignorance.

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How did the Reagan tax cuts and Bush tax cuts affect unemployment?

Consider this article by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, which discusses how the Reagan tax cuts affected the unemployment rate.

Excerpt:

In 1980, President Carter and his supporters in the Congress and news media asked, “how can we afford” presidential candidate Ronald Reagan’s proposed tax cuts?

Mr. Reagan’s critics claimed the tax cuts would lead to more inflation and higher interest rates, while Mr. Reagan said tax cuts would lead to more economic growth and higher living standards. What happened? Inflation fell from 12.5 percent in 1980 to 3.9 percent in 1984, interest rates fell, and economic growth went from minus 0.2 percent in 1980 to plus 7.3 percent in 1984, and Mr. Reagan was re-elected in a landslide.

[…]Despite the fact that federal revenues have varied little (as a percentage of GDP) over the last 40 years, there has been an enormous variation in top tax rates. When Ronald Reagan took office, the top individual tax rate was 70 percent and by 1986 it was down to only 28 percent. All Americans received at least a 30 percent tax rate cut; yet federal tax revenues as a percent of GDP were almost unchanged during the Reagan presidency (from 18.9 percent in 1980 to 18.1 percent in 1988).

What did change, however, was the rate of economic growth, which was more than 50 percent higher for the seven years after the Reagan tax cuts compared with the previous seven years. This increase in economic growth, plus some reductions in tax credits and deductions, almost entirely offset the effect of the rate reductions. Rapid economic growth, unlike government spending programs, proved to be the most effective way to reduce unemployment and poverty, and create opportunity for the disadvantaged.

The conservative Heritage Foundation describes the effects of the Bush tax cuts. (H/T The Lonely Conservative)

Excerpt:

President Bush signed the first wave of tax cuts in 2001, cutting rates and providing tax relief for families by, for example, doubling of the child tax credit to $1,000.

At Congress’ insistence, the tax relief was initially phased in over many years, so the economy continued to lose jobs. In 2003, realizing its error, Congress made the earlier tax relief effective immediately. Congress also lowered tax rates on capital gains and dividends to encourage business investment, which had been lagging.

It was the then that the economy turned around. Within months of enactment, job growth shot up, eventually creating 8.1 million jobs through 2007. Tax revenues also increased after the Bush tax cuts, due to economic growth.

In 2003, capital gains tax rates were reduced. Rather than expand by 36% as the Congressional Budget Office projected before the tax cut, capital gains revenues more than doubled to $103 billion.

The CBO incorrectly calculated that the post-March 2003 tax cuts would lower 2006 revenues by $75 billion. Revenues for 2006 came in $47 billion above the pre-tax cut baseline.

Here’s what else happened after the 2003 tax cuts lowered the rates on income, capital gains and dividend taxes:

  • GDP grew at an annual rate of just 1.7% in the six quarters before the 2003 tax cuts. In the six quarters following the tax cuts, the growth rate was 4.1%.
  • The S&P 500 dropped 18% in the six quarters before the 2003 tax cuts but increased by 32% over the next six quarters.
  • The economy lost 267,000 jobs in the six quarters before the 2003 tax cuts. In the next six quarters, it added 307,000 jobs, followed by 5 million jobs in the next seven quarters.

The timing of the lower tax rates coincides almost exactly with the stark acceleration in the economy. Nor was this experience unique. The famous Clinton economic boom began when Congress passed legislation cutting spending and cutting the capital gains tax rate.

Those are the facts. That’s not what you hear in the media, but they are the facts.

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