Bush Tax Cuts Benefit Everyone - Not Just the Wealthy

The Arguments for Keeping the Tax Cuts

Those who favor the continuation of the Bush tax cuts argue that these cuts are needed to encourage investment which, in turn, will result in a stronger economy and more job creation.

As I pointed out in my Hub entitled How Tax Cuts Work, this is true to the extent that the cuts are made to the rates in the higher tax brackets of a progressive income tax system (our Federal and State income tax systems are progressive systems) and that the rates are such that they are discouraging work and investment to some extent.

The Laffer Curve

The famous Laffer Curve (named after the economist Arthur Laffer who first publicized it) shows how increasing tax rates result in increased tax revenues up to a point - after this point increasing marginal tax rates (the rates in the higher brackets) result in lower revenues for the government.

You will notice that the only numbers on curve are found on the horizontal axis and these are zero at the starting point of the curve and 100 where the curve intersects the axis on the right side.

                  The Laffer Curve               (Graphic Courtesy of WikiPedia)
The Laffer Curve (Graphic Courtesy of WikiPedia)

Point "t" on the horizontal axis shows the point where the slope of the curve ceases to increase and begins decreasing indicating that, at these points on the curve to the right of the "t", government revenues collected with the tax will be decreasing as the rate increases.

The reasons there are no numbers is that, first, we don't know at exactly what rate the slope of the curve will become negative thereby reflecting reduced tax revenue collection from increased rates.

Second, even if we could determine the point precisely, it is not only subject to change overall but the point also varies from taxpayer to taxpayer.

The key question then is at what marginal rate(s) will the increased rate(s) result in less rather than more Federal tax revenues collected?

During a national crisis, like World War II, people are more willing to sacrifice for the good of the nation. However, in the absence people perceiving a real threat to the nation's well being the point at which the slope of the Laffer Curve turns downward will be considerably to the left of the World War II point.

Evidence of Tax Cut Success

While we cannot pinpoint the rate at which taxes cause work and investment to decline, there are plenty of anecdotal examples of this occurring.

The 1978 Steiger Capital Gains Tax Cut legislation (named after Representative Bill Steiger of Wisconsin) reduced the tax rate on the gains resulting from the sale of capital assets.

This resulted in many people suddenly selling stocks and other assets whose price had increased noticeably since the purchase of the asset. Much of this increase had been due to the government's continued inflating of the money supply rather than any real gain in value.

Many of the assets sold following the Steiger Tax Cut were associated with the old industrial economy which was not growing. The money gained from the sales was then reinvested in the new high tech economy allowing that sector to grow and increase jobs.

Bush Era Tax Cuts Have Increased, Not Decreased, Tax Revenue

Former President Ronald Reagan used to tell the story of his experiences as an actor in the high tax era of the 1950s.

He found that his income from being the lead actor in five feature film productions each year left his family with a comfortable income.

However, if he made a sixth movie the additional income earned from that movie would push him into a higher tax bracket (which was in the 90% range in those days) which, after paying the higher tax on that portion of his income, left him and his family with very little additional income for that year.

The 90% tax on his income earned by making more than five movies per year was the same as having his pay for additional movies cut by 90%.

Faced with the choice of spending time home relaxing with his family or working on location for a few weeks for 10% of his normal pay, he choose to limit himself to five films. This, of course meant that many of the other workers on the set whose jobs and income were tied to Reagan's movies were also limited to five films per year.

Since these other workers were in lower tax brackets, they suffered a noticeable cut in their incomes due to less work.

My Hub entitled Rolling Stones Prove Tax Cuts Work contains numerous other examples of entertainers and other high income people choosing to live and work abroad, thereby reducing work opportunities in their home countries for others who would normally be hired as support workers, in an effort to avoid burdensome high taxes.

Keeping the tax cuts in place will help keep America competitive in the global market by encouraging more investment which will result in more jobs and greater output by the economy.

More people working and earning incomes result in an increase in total income. The larger the total national income the greater the amount of revenue raised by existing tax rates.

Reductions in Top Marginal Tax Rates Do Benefit the Rich

The tax cuts do favor those with higher incomes. But this is because, under our progressive income tax system, the only people who pay the high marginal rates are those with the highest incomes.

The term marginal here refers to the tax bracket in which the last dollars of income are taxed. Our Federal Income Tax is a progressive tax in which the tax rate increases as one's income increases. Under a progressive tax system, income is divided into brackets with the rate increasing on each successively higher bracket.

High income people do not pay a higher rate than others on their total income. Instead the higher rates are only on the higher brackets of their income.

The progressive nature of our tax system is such that, as one's income rises, the additional increments of income are taxed at progressively higher rates. Since the incomes of lower income people are below the threshold at which the higher rates kick in, they are not being penalized by the tax cuts.

If the high tax rates in the upper income brackets actually generate significant tax revenues for the government and the cutting of these rates results in a reduction in total tax revenues there would be no reason for cutting marginal rates.

Such a reduction would be bad policy for two reasons.

First, assuming the citizens as a whole were benefiting from the current level of government spending, the resulting reduction in tax revenue would leave the nation as a whole worse off.

Second, if the only way to restore the lost revenue was to increase the tax burden on lower income people this would be unfair, to say the least.

However, this is not the case as history has shown that reducing high marginal rates encourages higher income people to work and invest more thereby creating a larger income pool on which to levy the tax.

For example, if the total income available to tax in the 90% bracket is one billion dollars ($1,000,000,000) then the government will collect nine hundred million dollars ($900,000,000) in taxes on incomes in this bracket.

If we cut the top rate from 90% to 50% and, due to higher income people deciding to work and invest more (such as former President Reagan deciding to make six or seven films per year rather the five), income available for taxation in the now 50% bracket increases to two billion dollars ($2,000,000,000).

At the new, lower, 50% top marginal tax rate the government's tax revenue from this group rises to one billion dollars ($1,000,000,000) or one hundred million ($100,000,000) more than at the previous 90% rate.

Since the tax cut resulted in the government collecting more revenue from the high income brackets than previously, there is no need to raise more money from lower income people by increasing the taxes in the lower brackets.

Further, the tax cut only applies to rates in the top brackets which only affect the last dollars of income earned by high income people, leaving high income people to continue to pay the same rates as everyone else on income taxed in the lower brackets.

This situation is no different than if the government had enacted a fifty cent per cup tax on tea sold by the cup over the counter but had no tax on coffee sold by the cup.

If the government then reduced the tea tax to twenty-five cents it would clearly be a tax cut favoring tea drinkers but one would be hard put to argue that coffee drinkers had been slighted or harmed by this in any way.

Tax Cuts and Government Revenue

The income tax cuts enacted during the administrations of Calvin Coolidge in the 1920s, Kennedy-Johnson in the 1960s, Ronald Reagan in the 1980s and the administration of George Bush have all resulted in total tax revenues increasing.

This is because, with the tax cuts, there was not only more income produced to tax in the top brackets, but the fact that additional jobs were created for people in the lower tax brackets. The new jobs created resulted in an increase in the number of workers in these lower brackets thereby increasing the total amount of income available to tax in all brackets.

However, politicians are addicted to spending and, in each of the recent tax cuts, Congress has gone on a spending binge every time the revenues from tax cuts increased.

By assuming that continued increases in spending are both inevitable and necessary, left leaning politicians and their allies in the media are able to correctly assume growing deficits as projected spending is outpacing current tax revenues.

Their mistake is their assumption that they can take the current income of wealthy people, raise the tax rates on the highest brackets and multiply the current income of wealthy people by the new rate.

Assuming that the new marginal tax rates on the wealthy are high enough AND that wealthy people will continue to earn as much income as under present rates, this will generate the revenue needed to cover the anticipated spending increases.

The problem here is that by increasing the marginal tax rates, wealthy people will reduce their income by working less thereby avoiding the higher tax rates. This will often result in tax revenues falling rather than rising leading to large deficits.

The Real Issue Here Is Freedom vs Bureaucratic Dictate

As I have pointed out in comments in my previous Hubs dealing with tax cuts, there is another, less articulated, reason why some on the left oppose tax cuts.

Both the late economist John Kenneth Galbraith and, more recently Paul Krugman, have opposed tax cuts on the grounds that spending decisions in the economy should be made by government rather than by individuals.

Galbraith, even though he was a member of the Kennedy Administration, opposed the Kennedy-Johnson tax cuts on the grounds that people would get used to taxes being cut and would demand more cuts.

Galbraith was not so much concerned with the government's revenue needs as he was with the idea that the government, rather than individuals, should make the decisions as to how much and what types of products people should consume.

In some of his writings (such as the Affluent Society), Galbraith actually called for the establishment of a special system of schools to attract and train people for careers in government.

These specially trained career bureaucrats would be responsible for micro-management of the economy. Their duties were to be making decisions as to what products would be produced for people.

Galbraith envisioned these bureaucrats deciding on things like the types of books, movies and other entertainment to be produced for people to enjoy in their leisure time. Of course these bureaucrats, not the individual consumers, would decide what would be available in these areas.

Galbraith envisioned taxing away most of people's discretionary income and using it to produce goods selected for them by elitist bureaucrats - meaning that things like Monday Night Football would be replaced with entertainment like Masterpiece Theater.

Books like Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and George Orwell's Animal Farm offer a glimpse into the regimented society ruled by bureaucratic fiat that elitists like Galbraith envisioned and wished to see created.

In the final analysis the tax cut debate is really about individual freedom of choice vs bureaucratic dictate.

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Comments 28 comments

Royal 4 years ago

This is the biggest piece of crap in a sack that I have ever read. Everything is expressed as if it's true from this right wingnut site.

Right since the people who don't make enough to pay the higher rate aren't losing anything, oh yeah, who is making up the amount of money needed to do the things a country does for it's people? Either someone else or they don't get done. since the rich don't need any services, I guess who is paying the price of tax cuts to the wealthy.

This is the dumbest article I have read in a long time.

Hell why don't we just give all the money to the top 20% and let them decide what the rest of us need or should get. that's what's happening anyway.


ernie flores 4 years ago

we need to get rid of the bush tax cut,and have everybody pay the same taxes.


Paul Hager 5 years ago

If you could actually lower taxes would people invest and/or spend their hard earned money in this economy. The economy is too fragile right now to handle large changes in the way taxes are raised. If you want a model for change, just look north into Canada, where a conservative government in the 80's moved from income and corporate taxes to a consumption tax called the G.S.T. It was an election gamble and it changed the way taxes are collected. Even our gas is higher because of the GST. If you could move from regressive taxes on income and implement a consumption tax, then the rich, who buy more expensive houses and boats and meals, would be paying their fair share of taxes. On a side note, food is not taxed from a grocery store unless it is value added or prepared meals like a restaurant. This way the poor are not being taxed for the basics of living.


Chuck profile image

Chuck 5 years ago from Tucson, Arizona Author

Goodgodno - you are the one that needs to check your facts sir. According to new data from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (the people who collect the taxes and have access to everyone's tax returns) and cited in the July 20, 2011 editions of the Wall Street Journal and Chicago Tribune among others, those making One million dollars and up pay an average of 23.3% of their income in Federal income taxes. Those making $500,000 to a million dollars pay about 24.1% of income in taxes, those making $200,000 to $500,000 pay 19.6%, and in the lowest area cited $30,000 to $50,000 in income pay 7.2%. I presume those with less than $30,000 are among the nearly 50% of the population who pay no Federal income taxes.


Goodgodno 5 years ago

Higher income citizens do NOT have higher tax rates. The rates of the lower class portion of America are, on average, 36%, while the average billionare's rate is a mere 17%. Get your facts straight!


eMiLy 5 years ago

thanks so much! this helped me a LOT in a speech for speech and debate!!! Great info!!!! :D :D :D

Thnaks!!


OutSideBoxThinker 5 years ago

Great piece, but notice no one points to anything positive during the George W Bush's term. To base a tax cut on theory and what Ronald Reagan did was crazy at the time. Reagan inherited a bad economy from Jimmy Carter. Bush received a prosperous economy from Bill Clinton. I will agree the wealthy pay more than a fair share and that the media at large is not telling the whole story; but according to the Wall Street Journal only 6.1 million jobs were created during the Bush terms compared to 18.9 million during Bill Clinton, 16.1 million during Ronald Reagan and 10.3 million during Jimmy Carter (and he was one term). Not including Barack Obama, George W Bush's policy aided in creating the 2nd least amount (George HW Bush's 2.6 million was the lowest) of jobs created in the last 30 years. If the policies stay in place, Obama is on pace to have the worst with a negative (so far 3 million jobs lost).

So it is interesting to see how taxes have played in the economy over the last 3 decades.


Jeremey profile image

Jeremey 5 years ago from Arizona

An interesting lesson on taxes. I have much to learn, thanks for the informative lessons.


Mr Tindle profile image

Mr Tindle 5 years ago

Nice hub Chuck,

The part about Arthur Laffer's, Laffer Curve was imporant information to include. More people need to grasp the concept that there are limits to the effectiveness of the Government's efforts to raise revenue levels by just simply raising the income tax rates. Also most fail to realize that decreasing tax rates can actually be a better way for the Government to increase revenues because of the potential for decreasing tax rates to spur economic growth.

With that in mind, I would still critisize the Bush Tax Cuts on 2 points

1 They weren't aggressive or broad enough. Rates should have been lowered even more than they were and they should not have been weighted so heavily towards the very, very ultra wealthy.

2 The tax cuts should have been accompanied by spending cuts in order to maximize the impact on growth in the private economy. Less Government = less crowding out of the private sector economy.

Ideally, though I would like to see the Federal Government transition away from funding operations through income taxes and instead move towards consumption taxes.


Matty 5 years ago

>These tax cuts were, and still are effective. Following their passage, they boosted the economy and led to a near decade long economic expansion.

What is left out is that the economic gains were only for the rich during this period, with the middle class losing 10% of their buying power over this same time frame.

AS a matter of fact, it is the ONLY time in US history where the economy grew, but the middle and lower classes didn't benefit and actually shrank.

And somehow the author doesn't feel these facts are relevant to an honest discussion.

Also, the "growth" was followed by the worst recession in 80 years and National debt grew dramatically.

While there is a cliché to never raise taxes in a recession, there's also a cliché about not CUTTING taxes during wartime, which is exactly what happened.

Let's not forget the Bush admin didn't even bother including the costs of two wars in their budgets, and didn't pay for them. We still haven't paid for Regan's defense spending.

Here's the REAL "logic" behind the voodoo economics...What the tricklers are saying is this:

If I make $1 million dollars a year and am taxed only 34% I will take home $660,000.

But if I am taxed at 39% (The Clinton era rate) I will only take home $610,000 a year, therefore I won't invest.

Let's be honest, these are the numbers, and tax rates, while a part of the equation, are only applied to profit, and the bottom line is what drives business, not tax rates.

If there are buyers, someone will fill that void if others won't a 39%.

The trickle downers want us to believe they won't invest if they only make $610,000 in profit, but will if they make $660,000 in profit.

Are you serious? Sure, you'd rather make more, but are you REALLY going to turn down $610,000? C'mon man!

I call every trickle downers' bluff to NOT do business in the US if the tax rates are 39%.

Also, if the US has the biggest GNP in the World, why shouldn't we charge more to participate in it? Isn't this really TRUE free market?

The problem is people on the right support big oil and big military and are happy sending about a billion a day to countries that hate us, then spending another billion (or more) a day on our military to defend our oil interests in the Middle East.

Free market? If we added our costs for military to float around on Navy ships in the Middle East to the price of gas, we'd be paying about $6.60 a gallon, making alternatives much more viable.

But, people really don't want free market, especially those are the right that claim they do, but would rather spend hundreds of billions in corporate welfare in the form of free military protection.

We spend more on the military than any other part of government. Yet, only 50% of this actually goes to protecting our country, the other half goes to protecting businesses abroad.

It is unbelievable the sense of entitlement rich people in this country have.


Shirley 5 years ago

Thanks for putting this in Laymen's Terms. It definitely helps me to be open-minded about a subject I really was closed-minded about. What about taxing merchandise only and eliminating income taxes? Just something I have thought a lot about but am not sure of the big picture of how this would really play out. All I can say, is this economy is in big trouble. I am scared for my teen boys futures!


Tony 5 years ago

Another problem I have is that everyone thinks that Reagan solved the Depression of his era with tax cuts but if you really look at his policies you see he had plenty of stimulus in his economic plan. Granted most was in military contractor spending. But still his spending helped fueled the recovery. He also spent plenty on social progams


Tony 5 years ago

The problem with your asumption of the Bush tax cuts is flawed...Tax Revenues decreased from 2001-2006. And the Reason they increase a little above 2001 levels after that was a false housing market geared to make money on the movement of money creating a revenue increase. Than in 2008-2009 tax revenue feel 1/3 that is why the deficit is a problem now lack of Revenue from loss of jobs. Those Bush era tax cuts didn't produce the effects to the economy that all are presenting. there was a loss of jobs and revenue during his Administration.


EliKen 5 years ago

Even though the argument for lower rates is as compelling as it is, the Liberals will never get it, they are about creating an entitlement society, with one political party and government control of everything...It is called, in Webster's, Socialism. It would be nice if the mainstream media would start to recognize it rather than applaud it.

Ken@EliKen


AL 6 years ago

Could You explain why there is such a difference of opinion on this issue? This is the flip side of your argument. http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=692


Medical Writer profile image

Medical Writer 6 years ago from Great Britain

Bush sucks big time.


American Tiger 6 years ago

Excellent stuff, Brother. Two Thumbs Up and a "Beautiful".

Might I suggest, simply as a means of maintaining the attention of the masses you're trying to communicate with, that you pick one subject at a time and cut your statements into more bite-sized chunks.

You're obviously a brilliant American, with a firm grasp of all the pertinent facts. I believe you could have made exactly the same points with this hub, with about half the words you used.

I'm still an avid fan.

~Tiger~


Medical Writer profile image

Medical Writer 6 years ago from Great Britain

We are still suffering from the recession.


Chuck profile image

Chuck 6 years ago from Tucson, Arizona Author

Jim Petersen - Thanks for visiting and for your comment.

As to your question, you are correct they are still in effect as of this writing (July 24, 2010) but are due to expire on December 31, 2010 or Jan 1, 2011.

These tax cuts were, and still are effective. Following their passage, they boosted the economy and led to a near decade long economic expansion.

The crash of 2008 was not the result of the Bush tax cuts but of the irresponsible spending by both President Bush and the Republican controlled House and Senate. As I explained in my Hub entitled "Blame Washington Not Wall Street" ( http://hubpages.com/politics/Blame-Washington---No... ) was mainly due to the irresponsible lending practices of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, practices which they were encouraged, even pressured, to follow by powerful supporters in Congress, including Democratic Representative Barney Frank and Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd and other (then Senator Barack Obama included).

You are correct when you state that "Money put into the hands of lesser income peoples (sic), stimulates buying." This is true and is the basis, as I explained in my Hub entitled "Democrat vs Republican Tax Cuts" ( http://hubpages.com/money/Democrat_vs_Republican_T... ) for the Keynesian style tax cuts favored by liberals and Democrats.

The Keynesian style tax cuts in the lower tax brackets is designed to put money into the pockets of lower income wage earners to encourage them to spend and buy more on the theory that companies are laying off workers due to a build up in inventories. By increasing buying power it is hoped that people will begin buying more thereby causing inventories to decline which will cause manufacturers to call back laid off workers in order to resume production and rebuild inventories.

Assuming a static economy which is in a cyclical recession due to a decline in consumer spending, this theory may make sense. For some reason people became scared and began saving money rather than spending. This, in turn reduced demand, causing manufacturers to have surplus product on hand which caused them to begin to lay off workers. Laid off workers, having lost their income will reduce their spending which makes the economic decline even worse. So, a kick start to the economy by putting more money in the hands of lower income workers who, because of their low incomes, are certain to spend, rather than save it, has a certain logic to it.

However, as I explained in my Hub "A Jobless Recovery" ( http://hubpages.com/business/A-Jobless-Recovery ) in the current decline many people have been let go, not because of a temporary decline in consumer spending, but because their company and, in many cases, their entire industry, has disappeared. Unlike laid off workers who can expect to be called back once consumer demand improves, there is no employer to call them back.

Increasing consumer spending through Keynesian style tax cuts in the lower tax brackets won't create new jobs, instead it will just lead to inflation. To create jobs we need encourage people to invest in and entrepreneurs to create new businesses that will result in new jobs needing workers.

Reducing the rates in the top income tax brackets not only provides higher income people with more money to invest, it also assures them that when they put their money at risk by investing in new businesses they will be able to keep a good size portion of any profits (which are not guaranteed) they may generate.

However, if such people know that most of any profit they might make will simply be taxed away they will seek out safer investments like municipal bonds (which are not only generally safe but the interest paid on them is also exempt from Federal and many state income taxes) or things like fine art or gold both of which allow them to preserve their wealth while not having to pay taxes until they are sold.

Thanks again for your comment.


Jim Petersen 6 years ago

The Bush tax cuts are still in effect,...so how did we get here, If they were so effective? Money put into the hands of lesser income peoples, stimulates buying. Money invested in markets doesn't necessarily generate a need for jobs.


Wes 6 years ago

Want to know why the Bush tax cuts were a great thing? Because it's your money, not the government's. That's why.


Daniel J. Neumann profile image

Daniel J. Neumann 6 years ago from Harrisburg, Pa

This makes a lot of sense. I think we ought to scrap the income tax system, though. I like the idea of taxing consumption or wealth.


Mark Randall 6 years ago

There are many different viewpoints about taxes and whether or not the rates should be higher on American's making over 200k a year. For the most part a more pragmatic viewpoint prevails. Collect enough taxes to pay for what is necessary but cut out of control gov't spending. If you do find yourself in trouble with the IRS on a personal level, please contact guardiantaxresolutions.com for help.


kartbahnfan profile image

kartbahnfan 6 years ago from Dusiburg, Germany

Thanks!!


02SmithA profile image

02SmithA 8 years ago from Ohio

Very informative hub, thanks!


jormins profile image

jormins 8 years ago from Chicago, IL

Excellent hub. My instincts tell me that the Bush Tax cuts are no good just looking at the last 16 or so years, but really I think both sides don't have a really great answer for the current economic issues. This excellent hub has helped me keep an open mind to the idea. It seems that the tax cuts may be more of a scapegoat of our recent government spending as my guess is they will be repealed based on the unpopularity of W right now affecting the general elections in November.


G-Ma Johnson profile image

G-Ma Johnson 8 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

Well I have said this before and will say it again...I remember when the communist said "We will take you from within" Could this be??? G-Ma :o) hugs


Wbisbill profile image

Wbisbill 8 years ago from Tennessee USA

Taxes are just too high on about everyone. Taxes are a moral issue to me and should be based on real need and not perceived and invented crises by politicians. High taxes take a bite out of our personal liberties; infringe on our ability to spend our own money; help keep social engineering power brokers in controls; enslave minorities to plantation mentality; insure class warfare as political issues; just to name a few. I understand that some taxation is necessary. However, it is far too easy to raise taxes and far too hard to cut them. If my car gives trouble, I cannot go to my boss and vote my on raise; she may be generous but I must first cut something else back. This is life. But not for the governments. We need the tax cuts! Submitted by a poor man, but I’m rich where it counts.

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