Friday, November 16, 2012
If we want millionaires to pay more taxes, then we need an economy where there are more millionaires.
President Obama on Wednesday announced that any budget deal must include $1.6 trillion from higher taxes. "When it comes to the top 2%," he said, "what I'm not going to do is to extend further a tax cut for folks who don't need it." He argued that we are never going to get anywhere near balancing the budget without more revenue from people earning above $250,000 a year.
He's probably right about that, though not in the way he intends. The country needs an economy that will create more of the "millionaires and billionaires" that Mr. Obama loves to excoriate, not more taxes from those who already exist. Total taxes paid by millionaires fell by almost $100 billion between 2007 and 2010, the last year with statistics available from the Internal Revenue Service. The drop resulted not from too-low tax rates, but from the severe recession and an anemic recovery since 2009 that thinned the ranks of the wealthy.
If Mr. Obama wants the Warren Buffetts and Justin Biebers to shoulder more of the nation's tax burden, he would do well to pay attention to the history of tax rates. Over the past century, lower rates have shifted the tax burden onto high-income earners and away from the middle class while maintaining the tax code's progressivity....
[T]he economic growth that was touched off by lower tax rates, particularly in the 1960s and 1980s, also benefited middle-class incomes and living standards. If Mr. Obama has his way and raises tax rates on upper-income groups, it will slow the economy, and everyone will lose.