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Pitchfork and Torches For The Rich

Written by Lance Roberts | Jul, 18, 2013

Receipts_as_percent_of_GDPThe last several days has seen a rising rhetoric in the “Tax The Evil Rich To Solve Our Financial Delimma” story.   The liberal side of the media loves this angle as it establishes the dividing line between the rich and the poor which is great for the headlines and selling papers – it just doesn’t hold water, however, when it comes to reality.

The Obama administration’s budget projections claim that raising taxes on the top 2% of taxpayers, those individuals earning more than $200,000 and couples earning $250,000 or more, will increase revenues to the U.S. Treasury.  That may be true in the short term but you are raising taxes on the 10% of the population that pays 70% of the total tax bill already.   Furthmroe, empirical evidence suggests otherwise. None of the personal income tax or capital gains tax increases enacted in the post-World War II period has raised the projected tax revenues.

Take a look at the chart.  Over the past six decades, tax revenues as a percentage of GDP have averaged just under 19% regardless of the top marginal personal income tax rate. The top marginal rate has been as high as 92% (1952-53) and as low as 28% (1988-90).

Over this period there have been more than 30 major changes in the tax code including personal income tax rates, corporate tax rates, capital gains taxes, dividend taxes, investment tax credits, depreciation schedules, Social Security taxes, and the number of tax brackets among others. Yet during this period, federal government tax collections as a share of GDP have moved within a narrow band of just under 19% of GDP to a lower band of 16% during economic recessions….like now for instance.   Note:  Lower economic growth and recessions produce less in government receipts due to lower incomes accross the entire strata -currently there are 44 million Americans are on food stamps which doesn’t produce a lot of tax receipts.

Why is this the case?  as we have said previously, the higher the taxes the more you discourage entrepreneurship.  It is primarily that evil rich top 10% that has wealth to invest to create new jobs and new enterprises – William Kurt Hauser stated that:

“When tax rates are raised, taxpayers are encouraged to shift, hide and underreport income.  Taxpayers divert their effort from pro-growth productive investments to seeking tax shelters, tax havens and tax exempt investments. This behavior tends to dampen economic growth and job creation. Lower taxes increase the incentives to work, produce, save and invest, thereby encouraging capital formation and jobs. Taxpayers have less incentive to shelter and shift income.

On average, GDP has grown at a faster pace in the several quarters after taxes are lowered than the several quarters before the tax reductions. In the six quarters prior to the May 2003 Bush tax cuts, GDP grew at an average annual quarterly rate of 1.8%. In the six quarters following the tax cuts, GDP grew at an average annual quarterly rate of 3.8%. Yet taxes as a share of GDP have remained within a relatively narrow range as a percent of GDP in the entire post-World War II period.”

This is fairly common sense.   If a person is operating a business there are a vast number of ways to reduce tax liability in any given year regardless of the circumstances – expense more, defer more, etc.   If you want more in tax revenue create an economic enviroment that is conducive to creation and expansion and as a consequence you will collect more in taxes on a growing economy.   Under the current ideals of this Administration they will try to squeeze more out of a shrinking economy which is not a good formula.

Hauser states that “The target of the Obama tax hike is the top 2% of taxpayers, but the burden of the tax is likely to fall on the remaining 98%. The top 2% of income earners do not live in a vacuum. Our economy and society are interwoven. Employees and employers, providers and users, consumers and savers and investors are all interdependent. The wealthy have the highest propensity to save and invest. The wealthy also run the lion’s share of small businesses. Most small business owners pay taxes at the personal income tax rate. Small businesses have created two-thirds of all new jobs during the past four decades and virtually all of the net new jobs from the early 1980s through the end of 2007, the beginning of the past recession.”

In other words, the Obama tax increases are targeted at those who are largely responsible for capital formation. Capital formation is the life blood for job creation. As jobs are created, more people pay income, Social Security and Medicare taxes. As the economy grows, corporate income tax receipts grow. Rising corporate profits provide an underpinning to the stock market, so capital gain and dividend tax collections increase. A pro-growth, low marginal personal tax rate stimulates capital formation and GDP, which triggers a higher level of tax receipts for the other sources of government revenue.

“The historical record is clear on this as well. In 1987 the capital gains tax rate was raised to 28% from 20%. Capital gains realizations as a percent of GDP fell to 3% in 1987 from about 8% of GDP in 1986 and continued to fall to below 2% over the next several years. Conversely, the capital gains tax rate was cut in 1997, to 20% from 28% and, at the time, the forecasts were for lower revenues over the ensuing two years.

In fact, tax revenues were about $84 billion above forecast and above the level collected at the higher and earlier rate. Similarly, the capital gains tax rate was cut in 2003 to 15% from 20%. The lower rate produced a higher level of revenue than in 2002 and twice the forecasted revenue in 2005.”

The Administration is attacking the income group that is the most responsible for capital formation and jobs in the private sector.

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