TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Obama and the Tax Tipping Point

Obama and the Tax Tipping Point:  How Long Before Taxpayers Are Pushed Too Far?, by Adam Lerrick:

What happens when the voter in the exact middle of the earnings spectrum receives more in benefits from Washington than he pays in taxes? Economists Allan Meltzer and Scott Richard posed this question 27 years ago. We may soon enough know the answer.

Barack Obama is offering voters strong incentives to support higher taxes and bigger government. This could be the magic income-redistribution formula Democrats have long sought.

Sen. Obama is promising $500 and $1,000 gift-wrapped packets of money in the form of refundable tax credits. These will shift the tax demographics to the tipping point where half of all voters will receive a cash windfall from Washington and an overwhelming majority will gain from tax hikes and more government spending.

In 2006, the latest year for which we have Census data, 220 million Americans were eligible to vote and 89 million -- 40% -- paid no income taxes.  ...  [T]his will jump to 49% when Mr. Obama's cash credits remove 18 million more voters from the tax rolls. What's more, there are an additional 24 million taxpayers (11% of the electorate) who will pay a minimal amount of income taxes -- less than 5% of their income and less than $1,000 annually.

In all, three out of every five voters will pay little or nothing in income taxes under Mr. Obama's plans and gain when taxes rise on the 40% that already pays 95% of income tax revenues.

The plunder that the Democrats plan to extract from the "very rich" -- the 5% that earn more than $250,000 and who already pay 60% of the federal income tax bill -- will never stretch to cover the expansive programs Mr. Obama promises.

What next? A core group of Obama enthusiasts -- those educated professionals who applaud the "fairness" of their candidate's tax plans -- will soon see their $100,000-$150,000 incomes targeted. As entitlements expand and a self-interested majority votes, the higher tax brackets will kick in at lower levels down the ladder, all the way to households with a $75,000 income.

I am reminded of the poem by Martin Niemöller:

[T]hey came first for [those making $250,000], And I didn’t speak up because I [didn't make $250,000];
And then they came for [those making $150,000], And I didn’t speak up because I [didn't make $150,000];
And then they came for [those making $100,000], And I didn’t speak up because I [didn't make $100,000];
And then . . . they came for me [because I made $75,000] . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.

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Comments

Is this a slippery slope? Where does the AMT fit into all this?

Posted by: Shawn | Oct 22, 2008 10:47:46 AM

what you just made was a slippery slope argument:

-What next? A core group of Obama enthusiasts -- those educated professionals who applaud the "fairness" of their candidate's tax plans -- will soon see their $100,000-$150,000 incomes targeted. As entitlements expand and a self-interested majority votes, the higher tax brackets will kick in at lower levels down the ladder, all the way to households with a $75,000 income. -

This is an argument, with no evidence, but simply a an assertion that you pull from nowhere. It usually takes this shape:

-What next? If they make us wear seatbelts when we drive, they will soon make us wear crotch protectors, helmets, and gloves. Where does it end?

See how that works? Furthermore, to rework the poem that was written to oppose nazism and use it to oppose Obama's tax plan may leave implications that you may not have desired.


Posted by: rohan | Oct 22, 2008 11:05:29 AM

What happens when the voter in the exact middle of the earnings spectrum receives more in benefits from Washington than he pays in taxes?

I can tell you right now: Reelection. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is very popular with Paul.

Posted by: Jeffersonian | Oct 22, 2008 12:18:10 PM

Bread and circuses. "Panem et circenses," it is the built in death clock of any democracy.

Posted by: Richard R | Oct 22, 2008 12:20:23 PM

Back some months ago when wags were typing comments like "If Hillary wins-sell stock, buy guns and canned goods", I smiled.
Well, the citizenry doesn't need to concern itself with Hillary, but this article gives a reason why the stock market may at least take a _really_ substantial amount of time before it comes back. If you think the Dow is cheap now, just wait a couple of weeks for the election. Then wait a few months for the economic plans to become clear. Then wait a year for existing cuts to expire. Then decide if the Dow is cheap. Or not.

Posted by: Jim,MtnViewCA,USA | Oct 22, 2008 12:24:19 PM

We're already there up here in Quebec. And there's no going politically once you reach that point...

Posted by: Greg Gransden | Oct 22, 2008 12:31:47 PM

Most Americans are descendants of people who came here voluntarily, because of better economic opportunities, lower taxes (which is the same thing as more freedom).

While we are not yet close to it yet, pretty soon America will not be attractive for highly-educated immigrants anymore.

And after that, driven, entrepreneurial US-born people will emigrate OUT of the USA to pursue better opportunities elsewhere. As strange as that sounds, remember how and why the parents/gparents/ggparents of today's Americans came here in the first place.

Some lucky country is going to be smart enough to attract the best and brightest Americans, just as we were once able to do for a long time.

Will it Australia? Hong Kong/China in 'special economic zones'? Possibly Dubai?

A huge windfall of wealth awaits the country that can offer good enough incentives for American expats.

To see how ugly America will become under leftism, please see this superb and hilarious picture, which is all too true.

Posted by: Toads | Oct 22, 2008 12:34:08 PM

Hi there,

I've already written my Senators (Chambless, Isakson) to let them know that there's a leisure class at either end of the economic spectrum, and that if they make it impossible for me to expend effort and achieve it at one end, I will go on strike, become their ward, and achieve it at the other.

This is one of many options I'm considering, depending on how badly things go. I'm renewing my Irish passport, so if they try to pull a stunt like nationalizing 401(k)s - a la Argentina - I can cash in and flee.

Bloody Democrats.


Patrick
--

Posted by: Patrick Carroll | Oct 22, 2008 12:39:50 PM

This is precisely how things have played out in New Jersey. There are far more residents who experience a net benefit via payouts from Trenton than residents who are sending money there. The urban centers receive the lions share of state aid for schools and local tax abatement while their residents pay little or no taxes. Then there is the not-insignificant population of government employees (teachers, police, fire, state, county, and local government) who depend on a steady paycheck carved out of tax receipts. The end result is that those people vote in unison to keep the Democratic party in power, and the Democrats reciprocate by raising taxes on "the rich" or "corporations" to placate their constituents.

But now the chickens have come home to roost. With the decline of Wall Street jobs the state faces a potential $4 Billion shortfall next year. Some big corporations have left New Jersey for greener tax pastures. Many formerly high income residents will see their paychecks slashed this year. There aren't enough "rich people" left to tax. The last Democratic governor who was faced with a similar situation was Jim Florio and he raised taxes on everyone making $75,000 or more per year.

Posted by: Chris Wysocki | Oct 22, 2008 12:47:38 PM

It is morally abhorrent to take from someone based solely on the fact that they [have] earned and use that money to buy favor with others solely based on the fact that they [have not] earned.

Where there may be a reasonable need for charity or a hand up in many cases, this is substantially offset by people who frankly have not worked hard and have not made the sacrifices to earn that others have.

Aside from the obvious overhead of flushing society’s hard-earned resources through an inefficient, often corrupt, and politically motivated bureaucracy; the process also eliminates any popular political check on government growth.

When a minority of voters pay the majority of taxes it's checkmate for the bureaucracy and government because there's little or no popular resistance to an ever-growing and insatiable government monster.

I might disagree with the assessment that we are [approaching] the tipping point though. We are there by giving our already highly progressive tax structure credence. Obama's shift just accelerates our path to destruction.

Charity should be in the hands of the people who go to the trouble to earn in the first place. Putting society’s resources in the hands of politically motivated candidates who promise to take what others have earned to do their own definition of good is utter lunacy. The motivational work/reward cycle upon which all society, government and charity depend can never survive it.

I'll see the survivors in the valley.


Posted by: jimmy | Oct 22, 2008 12:57:32 PM

Really, Professor? You're comparing progressive taxation to the Holocaust?

Posted by: Pform | Oct 22, 2008 1:03:56 PM

You're describing what happened with the Alternative Minimum Tax. Originally started to keep the very rich from hiding it all in tax shelters, the ATM has been creeping down the income ladder ever since and now catches a fair number of middle class taxpayers in its web. They'll get us one way or another.

Posted by: tim maguire | Oct 22, 2008 1:07:22 PM

Given that the ideology of the Dems(socialism,broadly)failed decades ago,it's not unfair to say they are secular socialist who now seek power merely for the sake of power,rather than to accomplish any goal other than self perpetuation of themselves and their clients.
Reducing 49% of The People to the status of tax serfs to buy the votes of the other 51% creates a permanent majority,yes?

No,"Progressives" are retrograde,just as the aptly named legacy media cannot understand,or admit,the reality and ramifications of the information age,so the Dems cannot accept that technology will allow people to move billions to tens of billions of dollars off shore with a key stroke.Just ask George Soros.
One of the pitfalls of Po-Mo is,well,to paraphrase Lenin "you may not be interested in reality,but reality is interested in YOU".
Denying reality doesn't make it go away.

No,people just thought the current economic situation was,well,a bit scarey,it wasn't.
Scarey comes next January when the Dems go hog wild,with nothing between them and disaster but our near useless GOP Tories.

Posted by: m | Oct 22, 2008 1:14:13 PM

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess of the public treasury. From that time on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the results that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship." -- Sir Alexander Fraser Tyler

Posted by: Paul in CT | Oct 22, 2008 1:26:23 PM

Well, over time this sort of thing is supposed to be self correcting. Carter gave us Reagan.

The wrinkle now is the Democrats look to silence criticism with the Fairness Doctrine, etc http://www.unfairdoctrine.org/ . With just one side of the story getting out in the legal MSM, we won't self correct.

It'll be interesting to see how the internet factors in after the dems outlaw talk radio.

Posted by: Orlando Dawn | Oct 22, 2008 1:26:51 PM

How dare you trivialize the memory of the Holocaust so shamefully???!!?

(sarcasm on and tuned to high volume)

:-)

Posted by: sestamibi | Oct 22, 2008 1:27:03 PM

Atlas Shrugged. There may come a point where the producers in this country are going to have to go on strike against the government.

Posted by: IrishLad317 | Oct 22, 2008 2:00:53 PM

I have read some theory that the Roman Empire fell not so much because of strength of the barbarians but because of the weakness of roman defenders brought on by financial mismanagement. In order to stay in power the last few roman emperors spend a lot of money providing the plebes with what they were clamoring for: "bread and circus" and in so doing they depleted the treasury. Something not hard to believe considering that the estimated that cost of one major spectacle at the Rome Colosseum is between one and two billion dollars in today's currency.
Is that the way we are heading?

Posted by: Luc | Oct 22, 2008 2:13:21 PM

Decades ago I read that 70% of the delegates to the 1972 democrat convention received more than half or all of their income from government in one way or another. I doubt it's gotten better since, and probably the republicans are a large part of the problem as well by now.

Often attributed to de Tocqueville, possibly incorrectly, is the old conundrum (I paraphrase):
Democracy contains the seed of its own destruction, when a majority of the citizens discover they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury.

Arthur Laffer conceptualized his infamous Laffer Curve decades ago. While it has taken a lot of ridicule over the years, it is quite sound and common sensical. On a graph, if the vertical axis is the rate of tax, and the horizontal axis is the dollars of revenue to the treasury, there are two rates at which revenue must be zero - 0% and 100%. The only area of disagreement is at what rate does revenue get maximized?

Liberals would say we can raise revenues by raising taxes, while conservatives say the opposite. All the empirical data from actual experience confirms that tax rates are too high. When tax rates were cut by Kennedy, Reagan and Bush II, revenues went up substantially over time.

Obama has said that he understands that lowering the capital gains tax will increase revenue to the government, but he doesn't care. He says that taxes are about "fairness", and so he will raise capital gains taxes anyway. Apparently punishing people who have arranged their finances to be in position to take capital gains need to be punished even it means lower revenues to spread around to others.

That Orwellian mindset and approach to the real world is also evidenced in the democrat decision to re-impose the "Fairness Doctrine" which will guarantee a decrease in fairness to their political opponents.

Posted by: geokstr | Oct 22, 2008 2:33:33 PM

The real tipping point will come when the minority of the population that pays the taxes concludes that the tax code is illegitimate and starts a massive evasion of taxes. The first sign is the super wealthy quietly moving their assets out of the country and if necesary renouncing their citizenship.

The second sign will be the less wealthing going John Galt or quietly bartering services. The level of actual taxation to pay for this new wave of socialism is not sustainable. People are funny, they refused to get robbed as long as they can help it. Soon the USA will become the new Italy when it comes to taxes.

Posted by: cubanbob | Oct 22, 2008 3:15:43 PM

Wow, I cannot believe you just used a Holocaust memorial poem as a tool in a tax law blog post.

Posted by: hing | Oct 22, 2008 3:48:26 PM

What's going to happen when the tipping point is reached? Same thing that's happening in high tax states like California and all over Western Europe. Think underground economy.

Posted by: glenn | Oct 22, 2008 3:49:57 PM

No question this kind of "vote buying" will work in the short run -- after all, who wouldn't like some free money at their (rich) neighbor's expense.

There is also, however, no question it will only serve as a disincentive to hard work in the long run and make everyone poorer.

As people in the socialist worker's utopia of East Germany used to say "We lied about working and the government lied about paying us."

Posted by: Concerned Citizen | Oct 22, 2008 4:34:09 PM

Fellow Americans, welcome to Venezuela.

Posted by: David Govett | Oct 22, 2008 5:04:52 PM

Again, I say :

How long before China sets up a 'special economic zone' near Hong Kong or Shanghai where Americans can freely immigrate to, and work at the China branch of some major Corporation. China could offer zero income tax, great schools, gated communities, etc. to attract American knowledge workers.

Let's say about 1 million Americans leave and go there. Isn't that what happened when many Europeans left for America in the first place.

If Obama taxes Americans too much, SOME country will create the necessary incentives to attract the best and brightest Americans. That country will reap the greatest windfall in history.

I am ready to go, if Obama taxes me at 60% and China offers me a place with little or no income tax, and I can still work as Microsoft, Google, or Intel, just out of China.

Globalization also forces COUNTRIES to compete with each other on taxes. Remember that.

Posted by: GK | Oct 22, 2008 5:18:20 PM

This is some retarded extremist hyperbole. Obama proposes pushing income taxes on the top bracket to Clinton level eras and reducing taxes for everyone else. This wacko is pretending like it's the end of the world... last I checked we had a huge economic expansion under Clinton when the rich were taxed this high.

Posted by: hyperbolicgop | Oct 22, 2008 5:42:48 PM

RE: "The plunder that the Democrats plan to extract from the 'very rich' ... will never stretch to cover the expansive programs Mr. Obama promises."

It doesn't have to. The USA has a DOD budget of about 4% of GDP. Add to that the Iraq/Afghan war and lots of off-budget defense spending, and the figure is closer to 6% of GDP. I expect an Obama administration to cut that by a third - back to levels that are more in line with what the Europeans spend on defense.

Good news: There will be lots of money to save Social Security.
Bad news: Democrats won't save Social Security: they'll blow it on new spending.
Worse news: Putin. China. North Korean WMD. Iran. Islamic fundamentalism.

Posted by: kevino | Oct 22, 2008 6:09:06 PM

Assuming a Federal Income tax remains a major source of funds for the Federal Government: When we reach the point when more than 50 percent of the people earning money in this country do not directly pay so much as a penny for the common defense, the concepts of "We the People" and "provide for the common defence" will become meaningless for all practical purposes. It will be the true beginning of the end of the United States as envisioned by most citizens today and the vast majority of citizens of all previous generations.

Posted by: greftex | Oct 22, 2008 6:12:46 PM

GK,

It's already happening. Learn Chinese and you can turn your gross pay in the U.S. into your take-home pay in China, even after Chinese taxes. I plan to move after the election, irregardless of who wins. The schools are pretty good for young children, but older ones would need private Western schooling, which is readily available. Almost all middle class communities in China are gated, but it isn't terribly important since crime is relatively low. Most importantly, jobs are plentiful. If you want to start a business, the government actually helps you. If you want to open a factory, the environmental regulations are straight forward (yes, they're actually starting to clean the place up ).

Posted by: Jim | Oct 22, 2008 6:44:15 PM

I forgot to add: the names of the 'special economic zone' are Pudong, in Shanghai, with big tax breaks for financial professionals, and Shenzhen, near Hong Kong.

Posted by: Jim | Oct 22, 2008 6:47:13 PM

Already got my patents filed in Korea. Got my new Korean business partners all lined up. Got my manufacturing plant all designed. I'm good to go. B-B-B-Bye B-B-B-Barack.

Posted by: bc | Oct 22, 2008 6:47:14 PM

I've always thought everyone should pay some amount of income tax just to ensure we all have a stake in what the government does. Speaking of which, here's my tax plan:

You make $12,400 you pay 1.24%
You make $55,700 you pay 5.57%
You make $123,000 you pay 12.3%
And so on up until, say, $250,000 and 25% after which it is a flat 25%. You could flatten it out at whatever point everything pencils out.

Posted by: Andrew Collins | Oct 22, 2008 7:04:58 PM

When the tax rates get too high (marginal over 50%), people who have enough money will do what I did in 1992 in my early thirties: stop working for money, or at least not risk everything to start or grow businesses.

Let's see what the parasites do then.

And it's most amusing to hear what is going to happen when Obama enacts his great tax plan. I well recall Bill Clinton's "middle-class tax cut," without the promise of which he might well not have got elected.

I'm still waiting for that cut.

Posted by: Chester White | Oct 22, 2008 8:04:27 PM

Real simple what will happen.

When a few pay for the rest, if something happens to cause the few to pay less such as a recession, or a bubble bursts or they just pull an Ann Rand and just shrug off the societal leaches (poor, liberals, democrats, starving artists etc), the rest of the country which produces nothing will (hopefully) starve.

Yeah, I wrote it and I meant it. I hope those useless, lazy, untaxed slackers all starve and preferably before they can breed another generation of drooling idiots.

Posted by: tim stevens | Oct 22, 2008 8:06:30 PM

50%?!?

Lets see, we could eliminate the non-performing bottom 50% of the American population and not affect the GDP at all.

Sounds like a good plan to me. Eliminate the dead wood.

Posted by: jack martin | Oct 22, 2008 8:37:38 PM

About the time our original thirteen states adopted their new constitution
in 1787, Alexander Tyler, a Scottish history professor at the University of
Edinburgh, had this to say about the fall of the Athenian Republic some
2,000 years earlier:
'A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a
permanent form of government.'
'A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover
they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury.'
'From that moment on, the majority always vote for the candidates who
promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every
democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always
followed by a dictatorship.'
'The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of
history, has been about 200 years'
'During those 200 years, those nations always progressed through the
following sequence:
1. from bondage to spiritual faith;
2. from spiritual faith to great courage;
3. from courage to liberty;
4. from liberty to abundance;
5. from abundance to complacency;
6. from complacency to apathy;
7. from apathy to dependence;
8. from dependence back into bondage'

Posted by: DotConnector | Oct 23, 2008 12:56:46 AM

So who will pay the interest on George Bush's debt and who will pay for Iraq and NCLB and Medicare D and his bailout of Wall Street and .....

And George was the conservative?

Posted by: save_the_rustbelt | Oct 23, 2008 5:14:39 AM

To the 89 million who paid no income tax in 2006 and those 18 million more who will pay none under Obama's plan, one could also add those 22 million government employees and perhaps some of the 18 million who work in education and healthcare who would like to see taxes increased to pay their salaries. So...229 million voters, minus all these, leaves about 82 million voters who might work in the private sector. (If I read the labor statistics correctly, there were about 94 million in private employment). Not sure about all this (I'm not an economist, just a taxpayer), but I think we're already at the tipping point. And as one commenter noted, it's tough to go back once we cross that line.

Posted by: jim ferry | Oct 23, 2008 5:21:27 AM

How 'bout this: McCain can't pay for his promised spending either, so he's certain to raise taxes. And what with our fiscal woes, that'll mean spreading the pain to the middle class. A vote for McCain is likely to be a vote for a middle-class tax increase.

I think the premise fits into the W$J Op-ed school of false equivalency just fine.

Posted by: Two Can Play | Oct 23, 2008 6:24:14 AM

Ireland has a flat 15% rate doesn't it? And they speak English.

Posted by: Jimmy | Oct 23, 2008 6:49:28 AM

It's cold there. Hong Kong is the better choice.

Posted by: Joe | Oct 23, 2008 8:45:43 AM

Nearly all working Americans pay FICA (payroll taxes). Everybody still forgetting that while blathering about how "scary" a 39% top marginal income tax rate (and 20% capital gains rate) is?

During the Reagan Administration the top rate was 50% and the payroll tax was lower. I guess that makes Reagan a communist.

Please, people, get a grip. Clintonian tax policy was outrageously middle-of-the-road, and billionaires did fantastically. And by the way, if folks are so concerned about "tipping points" or whatever, ask Governor Palin: her state cuts big annual oil revenue checks to every man, woman, and child. Socialism!

Posted by: Tim | Oct 23, 2008 8:55:27 AM

Sounds to me like "Jim" is in the Chinese real-estate business. FYI - Health care in China is terrible, and cleanliness is horrifying bad. Be aware of that if you choose to expatriate there with children.

Posted by: Don Mynack | Oct 23, 2008 9:04:31 AM

Hi there, Two Can Play,

You're exactly correct. Though the Irish have taken heat - mostly from the French - about their low taxes, they've held their ground.

There has been massive inflation in house prices, but then, thet's been the case everywhere, and I'd guess the current crisis s bringing prices down a bit.

So, this could be the time to make the move.


Patrick
--

Posted by: Patrick Carroll | Oct 23, 2008 11:06:49 AM

Ireland has a 15% corporate tax rate, but their personal income tax rate is 41% on all income over 34,000 euros (and 25% below that).

Posted by: ecm | Oct 23, 2008 12:12:56 PM

Ireland has a 12% corporate tax, but I think the personal income taxes are somewhat higher.

Ireland is, however, attracting many tax refugees from France, Germany and Britain.

Australia, Ireland, Dubai, and Chinese 'special zones' are candidates for places where Americans can go to earn much higher take-home pay than in the US. All have their own pros and cons.

China and Dubai are not democracies, but they are stable, clean, low-tax, and treat foreign expats very well, so who cares?

India, too, is thinking about creating low-tax 'commerce zones' to attract expats. India is an English-speaking democracy with a tropical climate, and these zones will keep out the indiginous poverty and filth.

The first country to court the productive, educated American 'Obama refugees' will reap the greatest windfall in history.

Posted by: GK | Oct 23, 2008 12:19:25 PM

I always appreciate the liberal comments. They do not understand basic economics so they start throwing stones; "who will pay the interest on Bush's debt and who will pay for Iraq, etc." One thing I'm sure of is it will not be you. But don't despair, all will be fair, the rich will be patriotic and the wealth will be redistributed.

Posted by: Thomas | Oct 23, 2008 6:12:16 PM

@Luc

Liberals and conservatives may disagree about whether taxes are too high. But Laffer's theory shows that right now they are probably not too high. Laffer's high is not the same as I-pay-too-much high. Laffer's high means that revenue can be increased by lowering the marginal tax rate and therefore the reducing the incentive to avoid taxes. For Laffer too low means that revenue can be increased by increasing the marginal rate.

When the marginal rate is very high, say 80%, a tax payer will spend significant resources to shelter the next dollar of income. In theory she would spend up to 80 cents on the dollar. Under this tax rate significant resources can be spent on creating tax shelters. For example a high earner may be willing to spend 40 cents on the dollar to shield the marginal dollar. Essentially split the benefit 50%-50% with the tax shelter. She would then keep 60 cents instead of merely 20 cents of each marginal dollar. Under this scenario she can triple the amount she keeps—a 300% gain.

When the marginal rate is lowered to say 40% the effect is dramatically different. The tax payer would now, in theory, be willing to spend only up to 40 cents per marginal dollar to shelter the marginal income. Even if she is willing to spend 30 cents to avoid the 40% tax (split the benefit 25%-75%) she would keep only an extra dime of each marginal dollar. That is, she would keep 70 cents instead of 60 cents. An increase of less than 17%.

17% is better then nothing but it doesn't provide nearly the same incentive to pursue tax shelters. Perhaps more significantly it doesn't create as large and enticing a market for tax attorneys. A tax attorney has a more luck selling a complex tax shelter when he can promise to triple a tax payer's after-tax income than when he can only promise a 17% gain.

As with most pricing problems there is a sweet spot. When a product is over priced lowering the price can increase revenue. When a product is under priced, raising the price increases the revenue.

The result is that lowering the tax rate from 80% to 40% tends to reduce tax avoidance and increases revenues. And probably increase productivity too. But lowering the tax rate from 40% to 30% doesn't reduce much tax avoidance and therefore lowers revenue.

A superficial look at the Kennedy, Reagan tax cuts shows that revenue can be increased when a marginal high tax rate is lowered. Kennedy lowered the marginal rate from around 90% to about 70%. Reagan lowered from about 70% to about 50%. The late drop from about 50% to 30% didn't produce the same increase in revenue.

Posted by: Scott Brenner | Oct 23, 2008 7:14:13 PM