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Taxes and tax effects from the tax cut extensions

Update: (hat tip Robert Waldmann)   Senate.gov voting record on middle class tax cut bill

Excerpted from Linda Beale’s piece (7/25) on the numbers for the action taken by the Senate:

…After threatening to filibuster the Obama tax cut proposal, Mitch CcConnell pulled back.  See Lori Montgomery, McConnell pulls back from filibuster on Senate tax-cut vote, Washington Post, July 25, 2012. The Republicans want to pass a deficit-expanding tax cut for the wealthiest Americans who have garnered the most from this lopsided economy in which companies lay off workers to diminish service but achieve ever greater (short-term?) profit margins for those at the top.

(Aside:  That’s not the only way that megacorporations are trying to syphon off all the productivity gains for the few at the top.  See the story about a bank analyst’s conclusion that Wells Fargo was making more money for shareholders by providing lousier service to its customers.  Nathaniel Popper, Bank Analyst Sees No Payoff in Customer Friendly Focus, New York Times (July 24, 2012).)
If the Bush tax cuts were to be extended without modification (as the GOP proposal would have it), the average reduction in taxes for Americans in the three lower quintiles (who make less than 75 thousand a year) would be considerably less than $1000.  See Citizens for Tax Justice, U.S. Taxpayers and the Bush Tax Cuts: Obama’s Approach vs. Congressional GOP’s Approach (July  2012).  So the typical American who earns between 40 and 50 thousand dollars a year will get less than a thousand dollars from an extension of the Bush tax cuts.

Compare the result for the wealthiest Americans under the GOP proposal. 

Another year of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest taxpayers in the richest 1% would give them an average tax cut of about $71,000.  See Citizens for Tax Justice, U.S. Taxpayers and the Bush Tax Cuts: Obama’s Approach vs. Congressional GOP’s Approach (July  2012).   That means that the Republican plan gives a 7000% larger tax cut to the wealthy than to those ordinary folk making 40-50 thousand.

Note that the wealthy still get a tax cut of about $20,000, even under Obama’s plan to cut the additional breaks at $250,000.  That’s because of the way the graduated income tax brackets work.  Everybody–rich or poor–is taxed at the 10% rate on the first $17,400 of income in 2012.  Everybody, rich or poor, is taxed at the 15% rate on any income they earn above $17,400 up to $70,700.   The rate increases to 25% for income in excess of $70,700 up to $142,700 (already in the upper middle class quintile) and to 28% for income above that up to $217,m450, with the rate going to 33% on the excess up to 388,350 (obviously now we’re talking about only the marginal income earned by the wealthy) and then 35% on the excess above that, to whatever millions or billions it may reach.  Accordingly, the very wealthiest millionaries would get the same tax break ordinary folk do on the income they receive in the lower rate brackets up to $250,000.  And as a result, only 1.9%–the very few richest Americans in the ultra-elite–would have less of a tax cut than otherwise under the Obama proposal.

from cross post with ataxingmatter

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Friday Animations–Bush Tax Cuts

by Linda Beale

Friday Animations–Bush Tax Cuts
crossposted with Ataxingmatter

It might be worth reminding everbody about now that the Bush tax cuts were a poor idea even when they were first proposed. Like so much else done by the Bush administration (and pushed by the right generally), they amounted to yet another means of redistributing from the have-less to the have-mores that Bush called his base. The following is a good animation depicting the interrelationship of distributional issues and the tax cuts, showing visually how the riches from the last few decades went to the wealthy and then the tax cuts added to the problem by favoring them over ordinary folk.

“the Bush Tax Cuts” (Oct 14, 2004)

One can only wish that those GOP voters in the Senate and House this week had gone back to reiew these points and then listen to their own guru, John McCain, who thought that the projected 2003 deficit of 246 billion (without tax cuts and war costs) was scandalously high. He called “alarming” the 10-year deficit prediction for the cost of the Bush tax cuts of $1.8 trillion, especially when it didn’t even include the war costs, and that such a deficit could “lower the standard of income” for generations of Americans.

That is, in 2003, even the crusty rightwinger John McCain recognized that at a time of deficits and significant war costs (back when he “hoped” that we would have a “brief, successful war in Iraq”), passing tax cuts of the magnitude proposed in 2003 (including the treatment of dividends for the wealthy elite at the preferential capital gains rate) would be irresponsible lack of statesmanship that disregarded the fiscal security of the American people. He spent some time emphasizing the fact that the extent of war costs connected with the Bush invasion of Iraq were not knowable and could be quite high if the war “didn’t meet our best estimates for its duration”

Of course, most Americans have suffered throughout the last decade from the irresponsibility of the Bush tax cuts that rewarded the wealthy and continued the “winner-take-all politics” noted by Joseph Hacker and Paul Pierson (in a book to be reviewed soon).

John McCain Ardently Opposing Bush Tax Cuts” (2003) here

(2003)

And a bonus–a graph showing the effect of the Bush Tax cuts on the deficit if they are not paid for other tax increases or appropriate spending cuts.

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Tax cuts are pledged why??

We do know from Mike Kimel’s Presimetrics that the political message that tax cuts raise revenue is false. In particular, here are two looks at the topic from data from the last decade. It does appear that many want to continue what was done during this last decade…hold on to your wallet!!

David Cay Johnston at Tax.com notes (h/t Mark Thoma):

Just as they did in 2000, the Republicans are running this year on an economic platform of tax cuts, especially making the tax cuts permanent for the richest among us. So how did the tax cuts work out? My analysis of the new data, with all figures in 2008 dollars:

Total income was $2.74 trillion less during the eight Bush years than if incomes had stayed at 2000 levels. …

Even if we limit the analysis by starting in 2003, when the dividend and capital gains tax cuts began, through the peak year of 2007, the result is still less income than at the 2000 level. Total income was down $951 billion during those four years.
Average incomes fell. Average taxpayer income was down $3,512, or 5.7 percent, in 2008 compared with 2000, President Bush’s own benchmark year for his promises of prosperity through tax cuts. …

Bruce Bartlett at Fiscal Times notes:

Republicans are heavily invested in permanently extending the tax cuts enacted during the George W. Bush administration, all of which expire at the end of this year exactly as the legislation was written in the first place. To hear Republicans, one would think that the Bush tax cuts were the most powerful stimulus to growth ever enacted and only a madman would even think of allowing any of them to expire.

The truth is that there is virtually no evidence in support of the Bush tax cuts as an economic elixir. To the extent that they had any positive effect on growth, it was very, very modest. Their main effect was simply to reduce the government’s revenue, thereby increasing the budget deficit, which all Republicans claim to abhor.

Contrary to Ronald Reagan’s 1981 tax cut, which was a simple across-the-board marginal tax rate reduction, the Bush plan was a hodge-podge of tax gimmicks designed more to win the support of various voting blocs than stimulate growth.

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Dealing with the Sunset of the Bush Tax Cuts (Part IV in a series)–the Tax Relief Coalition

by Linda Beale
crossposted with Ataxingmatter

Dealing with the Sunset of the Bush Tax Cuts (Part IV in a series)–the Tax Relief Coalition

The Tax Relief Coalition–another of the myriad anti-tax groups comprised of Grover Norquist’s group and those of similar ideology–is at it again with a letter to Congress (available on BNA) urging the passage of new legislation to pass tax cuts to extend the temporary cuts enacted under the Bush administration. The group is spending millions lobby for its interests with the dubious claim that discontinuing tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans will hit small businesses the hardest. See, e.g., Jensen & Salant, Leader on Bush Tax Cuts Wins Allies to Keep Provisions in Place, Bloomberg.com (Aug. 20, 2010) (noting that the coalition groups have spent $3.8 million since Jan. 1, 2009 on candidates and advertising, and that the Chamber of Commerce plans to spend $75 million influencing elections in its favor).

Note that the coalition–formed of “trade associations, advocacy groups, and corporations”–calls itself favoring “pro-growth tax policies”. But what it means is favoring tax cuts. It is arguable that tax cuts support economic growth–at best they are a second-rate stimulus compared to direct government spending on public and human infrastructure that provides long-term support for economic stability– such as public transportation, public communication networks, development of alternative energy sources, education (K1-university), and basic research.

These claims that the tax cuts help small businesses are at best dubious. (See, e.g., yesterday’s post outlining various reasons why the capital gains preference has very little to do with stimulating entreprenuership or helping small businesses.) The coalition tries to cast the Bush tax cuts in terms of job creation. But the fact is, the Bush regime had a lousy record for job creation, and the tax cuts that were especially favorable to corporations probably did almost nothing to contribute to job creation. The “American Job Creation Act of 2004” for example, mainly acted as a tax cut for multinational corporations that used the very low taxation of repatriated money to pay big dividends to shareholders even while they were laying off thousands of workers. Similarly, expensing provisions and other tax cut provisions (especially for oil and gas industry and other targeted industrial provisions) mainly gave more money to managers and owners, not workers. Real wages of workers have fallen, while corporations sit on big kitties of cash–keeping the productivity gains for managers and owners and not sharing them with workers and certainly not creating new jobs for new workers.

What about the small company owners that the National Federal of Independent Business brings in to calim that any tax increase is a job killer? See Bloomberg article, above. That’s a superficially self-serving claim that is probably in truth a case of blind greed keeping business owners from admitting that federal dollars spent for unemployment, infrastructure, education and other important programs will actually create a more sustainable economy that will be better for their businesses. A little bit more in taxes now will have positive impact, not negative, on the economy. And those arguments also leave out a few of the details–like the fact that the proposed tax increase on joint returns with $250,000 or more impacts very, very few small businesses.

The hypocrisy is also evident, as coalition members refuse to limit extension of the tax breaks to the lower income group, even while they complain about deficits. The deficit argument is essentially brought out to create fear in average voters and to provide a salient objection to any additional spending that does not directly go to the benefit of business managers and owners, but it isn’t a real concern since it doesn’t enter into the discussion of whether or not to extend tax breaks to the wealthy who don’t need them.

Regretably, the Democrats don’t have much backbone on this issue. Senators Conrad and Bayh, for example, have accepted the idea that it is problematic to raise taxes on anybody during an economic slowdown. That their position doesn’t make sense–a little bit more in taxes on the wealthiest Americans won’t really affect either consumption or investment in new businesses–doesn’t seem to matter.

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