Front and Center

Politics, society, and other random randomness

Tag Archives: Tax rate

Dems Say They Just Want to Go Back to pre-Bush Tax Rates. Don’t Be Fooled.

For years now, Democrats have been lobbying to have the current tax rates pushed back up to where they were before Bush II cut the rates.  The top marginal rate, now 35%, would go up to 39.6% for individuals earning more than $200,000 per year and families earning more than $250,000 per year.  Claims such as the rich need to pay their “fair share” (a term that is an undefined value, but effective in getting folks riled up), or that the rich have benefitted for long enough and need to pay up, are always used to try and bolster the argument.  I support the idea of raising the marginal rates for EVERYONE to where they were before the Bush tax rate cuts, and have said so many times.  But I discovered that, under further review, Democrats are attempting to go even further in their quest to turn high income earners into bigger cash cows for the government.

What most people don’t realize–and Dems aren’t going to hip folks to it–is that once the healthcare reform plan (“Obamacare”) goes into full effect, the tax rates for $200k/$250k earners will be more than they were pre-Bush.  How?  I’m glad you asked.

Baked into Obamacare are a number of tax rate increases designed to raise revenue to pay for the bill.  The number of taxes built in varies depending on which source you use, but there were two that jumped out at me.

First, there is a new 3.8% surtax on investment income for the over $200k/$250k crowd.  Currently, the tax rate on capital gains (profit made from an investment) and dividends (cash received for owning stock in a company) is at 15%.  The new surtax will push that rate up to 18.3%.  When the argument is made to go back up to the pre-Bush rate, which was 20%, there is no mention of the surtax.  If Democrats have their way, the rate for capital gains and dividends would be at least 23.5%.

Next, there is the 0.9% Medicare surtax, also for the $200k/$250k people.  Currently, 1.45% of everyone’s income is deducted to pay for Medicare.  Unlike Social Security, there is no cap on taxable income, so everything the person makes in income is taxed at the 1.45% rate.  However, with the new surtax, income over the $200k/$250k threshold will see a 0.9% tax increase, making the new tax rate 2.35%.  Instead of raising the top rate 4.6% to get it back to pre-Bush levels, the increase would actually be 5.5%.

A different discussion for another day is the laundry list of other taxes built in, such as the tanning tax, the medical device tax, the health insurers tax, ect.  The bottom line is, these taxes make the “we just want to go back to pre-Bush rates” argument nothing more than political foolery.  And, as usual, most of the masses fall for it.

Advertisements

Where Does Tax Rhetoric Meet Reality?

There has been a lot of talk lately about taxes.  George W. Bush lowered tax rates twice while in office.  Democrats portray those cuts as “tax cuts for the rich” as though no one else benefitted–not even the large number of folks who were removed completely from the tax rolls due to the minimum taxable amount being increased.  Democrats also complain about the cost of the cut for the richest folks, constantly ignoring that the cost of the cut for the other brackets was 3 times as much.  Obama then extended those cuts, much to the chagrin of the Dems.

Now, as talk of deficit reduction and debt reduction heats up, there is much hand wringing going on regarding what to cut and where to get more revenue.  Democrats, of course, say raise taxes.  Republicans say no.

Republicans are playing hardball in terms of tax policy, saying no tax increases will be on the table.  In a way, I can agree, as the more important thing is to lower spending.  Not only that, but the government has a pattern in place:  every time more money comes in, they find a way to spend it.  Without going into detail, the fact that by law, surplus Social Security money is put into the general fund for spending purposes is a prime example.  Anyway, Republicans have their own tax mantra that they will say over and over and over again:

Tax cuts spur economic growth.  But tax increases destroy the economy and destroy jobs!

Having heard this so many times, I finally wondered how much truth there is to this.  Nevermind that I personally believe that taxes can be increased with with no devastating effect to the economy.  I wanted to know what history has shown.  Was there any conclusive proof that showed where tax increases had really hurt the economy?

From what I knew already, I knew that there were examples where tax rate cuts had at least helped spur the economy.  Higher taxes helped fund World War II.  JFK also decreased taxes, which led to economic growth.  Even under G.W. Bush, the economy grew after his tax rate cuts, though in a very tepid fashion.  But what about tax increases?

I was skeptical that I would find evidence and was convinced that the notion was simply a Republican talking point, but there is indeed proof.

  • President Herbert Hoover signed a major tax increase in 1932.  The top marginal rate was increased from 25% to 63%, among other rate increases.  Tax revenues in 1933 were 42% of what they were just two years prior.  Unemployment rose to nearly 25%.  Slowly, though, the economy recovered until…
  • In 1937, Roosevelt signed into law new tax increases.  The result was that the economy went back into recession and didn’t come back until during WWII.  Truman actually cut taxes during that time and by the end of the decade there were budget surpluses.
  • Reagan signed a major tax rate cut in 1981.  Many Republicans like to point this out about Reagan and say that those cuts are why the economy grew during the Reagan years.  But that leaves out part of the story.  Reagan signed a number of tax increases starting in 1982.  Tax loopholes were closed and Social Security was overhauled.  Businesses ended up paying more taxes as a result.  Despite this, there was still economic growth.
  • During the 90s, Clinton raised taxes.  The country was coming out of a recession, and even with the tax increases, the economy grew.  Clinton did, however, also lower taxes on capital gains in the mid-90s.  Many say it was actually the tax cut and not the increase that provided the huge boost in revenue to the government.

So, what is the outcome of my info hunt?  Well, as usual, both sides will make declarations without telling the entire story.  But right now, Republicans are most guilty of cherry picking.  While it’s true that some tax increases did real damage, both Reagan and Clinton showed tax increases can be done and they NOT throw the economy into chaos.  I will also point out that they are especially guilty of ignoring Reagan’s tax increases (yes plural) when talking about how his cuts grew the economy.

Bottom line, rolling tax rates back to pre-Bush levels will not damage the economy.  Just like before, businesses will still find a way to survive and eventually thrive, the economy will grow, and there will be jobs.

At this rate, we’ll NEVER fix the issues

Today is the final vote on recommendations from Obama’s deficit panel.  For those who missed it, President Obama put together a bipartisan panel of 18 appointees, tasked with producing solutions for debt reduction.  The commission did its job, recommending multiple ideas that, if enacted, would help move the country towards fiscal stability.

As expected, the response was chilly at best.  Folks on both sides took the expected approach–“we need cuts, but don’t cut programs that I support!”  Republicans didn’t like the idea of tax increases on gas.  Democrats didn’t like the notion of raising the retirement age or lower tax rates.  Neither side wanted to sign on to doing away with popular tax breaks (even though lowering tax rates would offset it).

So, unless there is some sanity injected into things, we will continue on the rocky road to fiscal disaster.