Is it any wonder the economy keeps limping along? As long as President Obama remains in the White House, and Democrats control the Senate don’t expect things to improve. If they have their way, top earners will be paying a whopping 62% in taxes! Stephen Moore added up all of their tax proposals and threw in state taxes and that’s what it adds up to. That’s hardly a prescription for economic health or global competitiveness.
Now let’s consider how our tax system today compares with the system that was in place in the late 1980s—when the deficit was only about one-quarter as large as a share of GDP as it is now. After the landmark Tax Reform Act of 1986, which closed special-interest loopholes in exchange for top marginal rates of 28%, the highest combined federal-state marginal tax rate was about 33%. Now we may be headed to 62%. You don’t have to be Jack Kemp or Arthur Laffer to understand that a 29 percentage point rise in top marginal rates would make America a highly uncompetitive place.
What is particularly worrisome about this trend is the deterioration of the U.S. tax position relative to the rest of our economic rivals. In 1990, the highest individual income tax rate of our major economic trading partners was 51%, while the U.S. was much lower at 33%. It’s no wonder that during the 1980s and ’90s the U.S. created more than twice as many new jobs as Japan and Western Europe combined.
It’s true that the economy was able to absorb the Bush 41 and Clinton tax hikes and still grow at a very rapid pace. But what the soak-the-rich lobby ignores is how different the world is today versus the early 1990s. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, over the past two decades the average highest tax rate among the 20 major industrial nations has fallen to about 45%. Yet the highest U.S. tax rate would rise to more than 48% under the Obama/Democratic tax hikes. To make matters worse, if we include the average personal income tax rates of developing countries like India and China, the average tax rate around the world is closer to 30%, according to a new study by KPMG.
What all this means is that in the late 1980s, the U.S. was nearly the lowest taxed nation in the world, and a quarter century later we’re nearly the highest.
Despite all of this, the refrain from Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and most of the Democrats in Congress is our fiscal mess is a result of “tax cuts for the rich.” When? Where? Who? The Tax Foundation recently noted that in 2009 the U.S. collected a higher share of income and payroll taxes (45%) from the richest 10% of tax filers than any other nation, including such socialist welfare states as Sweden (27%), France (28%) and Germany (31%). And this was before the rate hikes that Democrats are now endorsing.
Where will these policies leave us in the new world order the Democrats dream about?
Expect to hear more about how we’re giving money to rich people while balancing the budget on the backs of the poor from now until November 2012. We could tax the rich at 95% and they’d still say the same thing.
Update: Obama Press linked – thanks!