Monday, December 17, 2007
Interesting editorial in today's Wall Street Journal: Taxes and Income [click on chart to enlarge]:
Every Democrat running for President wants to raise taxes on "the rich," but they will have to do something miraculous to outtax President Bush. Based on the latest available tax data, no Administration in modern history has done more to pry tax revenue from the wealthy.
Last week the Congressional Budget Office joined the IRS in releasing tax numbers for 2005 [blogged here and here], and part of the news is that the richest 1% paid about 39% of all income taxes that year. The richest 5% paid a tad less than 60%, and the richest 10% paid 70%. These tax shares are all up substantially since 1990, and even somewhat since 2000. Meanwhile, Americans with an income below the median -- half of all households -- paid a mere 3% of all income taxes in 2005. The richest 1.3 million tax-filers -- those Americans with AGIs of more than $365,000 in 2005 -- paid more income tax than all of the 66 million American tax filers below the median in income. Ten times more.
For the political left and most of the media, this means only that the rich are getting richer, so of course they're paying more taxes. And it is true that the top earners have increased their share of total income. Yet, as the nearby table shows, the rich showed more rapid gains in reported income shares in the 1990s than in the first half of this decade. The share of the richest 1% jumped to 20.8% of total income in 2000, from 14% in 1990, but increased only slightly to 21.2% in 2005. This makes it hard to pin their claim of "rising inequality" on the Bush tax cuts, though the income redistributionists are trying. By this measure, the Clinton years were far worse for "inequality."
Notably, however, the share of taxes paid by the top 1% has kept climbing this decade -- to 39.4% in 2005, from 37.4% in 2000. The share paid by the top 5% has increased even more rapidly. In other words, despite the tax reductions of 2001 and 2003, the rich saw their share of taxes paid rise at a faster rate than their share of income.