"So How Did the Bush Tax Cuts Work Out for the Economy?"
David Cay Johnston takes a look at the Bush Tax cuts. What he sees isn't pretty:
So How Did the Bush Tax Cuts Work Out for the Economy?, by David Cay Johnston: The 2008 income tax data are now in, so we can assess the fulfillment of the Republican promise that tax cuts would produce widespread prosperity by looking at all the years of the George W. Bush presidency.
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. ...
The changes in average and total incomes are detailed ... in Table 1, the first of four tables analyzing the whole data. ...
Table 1. 2008 Average Incomes Fell Well Below 2000 Level
Click Here for Table 1
The tax cuts cost $1.8 trillion in the first eight years, according to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center, whose reliability the last administration went out of its way to praise. Those cuts were heavily weighted toward the people candidate George W. Bush famously called "haves and the have-mores . . . some people call you the elite. I call you my base."
Table 2. More Taxpayers, Less Revenue
Click Here for Table 2
In the two years since 2008, the cuts' total cost grew to $2.3 trillion, the Tax Policy Center estimated.
One of every eight dollars of the tax cuts went to the 1 in 1,000 taxpayers in the top tenth of 1 percent, the annual threshold for which was in the $2 million range throughout the last administration. The only other large beneficiary was parents with children under 17 who make enough to pay income taxes, thanks to the $1,000-per-child tax credit Republicans started championing in the mid-1990s.
Now let's look at wages, the source of most people's income. In 2008 the average taxpayer made $58,000. That was $5,100 less than in 2007, a decline of 8.1 percent.
Table 3. 2007 to 2008: Fewer Jobs, Less Money (Mostly)
Click Here for Table 3
The number of taxpayers reporting any wages in 2008 was 1.26 million fewer than in 2007, a scary figure when you consider that most people do not expect to be out of work for an entire year and that the population grew by more than a percentage point. In August 42 percent of the unemployed -- 6.2 million people -- had been out of work for 27 weeks or more, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said. The average for all jobless workers was 33.6 weeks of unemployment, the equivalent of going from New Year's Day through August 23 without a paycheck. ...
Table 4. 2008: Fewer Jobs, Lower Pay
(With Exceptions in Bold)
Click Here for Table 4
Total wages in 2008 fell by nearly 4 percent, compared with a year earlier, for the 87 percent of Americans whose total income was less than $100,000. Since 2000, population grew more than wages. ...
Figure 1. High-Income Paying Zero Tax 1998-2008
The number of people reporting incomes of $200,000 or more but legally paying no federal income taxes skyrocketed in the second Bush term. A decade ago it was fewer than 1,500 taxpayers; in 2000 it was about 2,300. This high-income, tax-free group jumped to more than 11,000 in 2007 and then doubled in 2008 to more than 22,000.
In 2008 nearly 1 in every 200 high-income taxpayers paid no federal income tax, up from about 1 in 1,500 in 1998. ...
The Statistics of Income data on tax-free, high incomes severely understate economic reality because they exclude deferral accounts, including those of hedge fund managers with billion-dollar incomes who can legally report no current income and borrow against their untaxed gains to live tax free.
The one bright spot in the SOI data at Table 1.4 was that the number of people making $100,000 to $200,000 grew significantly between 2007 and 2008. Their ranks increased by 393,465, or 3 percent, to more than 13.8 million taxpayers.
This truly is good news, because most of the increase had to be people who worked their way up into six-figure incomes from 2007 to 2008. ...
But despite that one sliver of good news about low six-figure incomes, the data show overwhelmingly that the Republican-sponsored tax cuts damaged our nation.
Examining performance against the promises, what do we find? Overwhelming evidence that the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 made us much worse off.
Ignore the cynics who say the Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, in Wasilla, and on the airwaves care only about the rich. I don't believe that. I think they are captive to economic theories few of them understand and that are simplistic in the extreme. I take them at their word, that they truly believe their policies will produce broad benefits for all, but accepting that does not diminish the fact that the policies these Republicans promote also produce massive tax savings for the superrich who finance their campaigns.
The question to ask is whether their policies worked as promised. Have they even come close? Where is the prosperity...?
The hard, empirical facts:
The tax cuts did not spur investment. Job growth in the George W. Bush years was one-seventh that of the Clinton years. Nixon and Ford did better than Bush on jobs. Wages fell during the last administration. Average incomes fell. The number of Americans in poverty, as officially measured, hit a 16-year high last year of 43.6 million, though a National Academy of Sciences study says that the real poverty figure is closer to 51 million. Food banks are swamped. Foreclosure signs are everywhere. Americans and their governments are drowning in debt. And at the nexus of tax and healthcare, Republican ideas perpetuate a cruel and immoral system that rations healthcare -- while consuming every sixth dollar in the economy and making businesses, especially small businesses, less efficient and less profitable.
This is economic madness. It is policy divorced from empirical evidence. It is insanity because the policies are illusory and delusional. The evidence is in, and it shows beyond a shadow of a reasonable doubt that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts failed to achieve the promised goals.
So why in the world is anyone giving any credence to the insistence by Republican leaders that tax cuts, more tax cuts, and deeper tax cuts are the remedy to our economic woes? Why are they not laughingstocks? It is one thing for Fox News to treat these policies as successful, but what of the rest of what Sarah Palin calls with some justification the "lamestream media," who treat these policies as worthy ideas?
The Republican leadership is like the doctors who believed bleeding cured the sick. When physicians bled George Washington, he got worse, so they increased the treatment until they bled him to death. Our government, the basis of our freedoms, is spewing red ink, and the Republican solution is to spill ever more.
Those who ignore evidence and pledge blind faith in policy based on ideological fantasy are little different from the clerics who made Galileo Galilei confess that the sun revolves around the earth. The Capitol Hill and media Republicans differ only in not threatening death to those who deny their dogma.
How much more evidence do we need that we made terrible and costly mistakes in 2001 and 2003?
Posted by Mark Thoma on Saturday, September 25, 2010 at 01:17 AM in Economics, Taxes |
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