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  • gfo99 gfo99 Feb 13, 2010 10:45 AM Flag

    The rich pay too much in taxes already

    The rich pay too much in taxes already.

    While 60% of Americans in recent Gallup polls believe upper-income people are "paying too little" in taxes, it is an article of faith among Republicans that the reverse is true.

    In one variant of this argument, Arthur Laffer claims Barack Obama will have to raise taxes on lower and middle income Americans because "it cannot be done at the high end because those people can get away from it." That assessment echoes George W. Bush, who similarly argued in 2004, "The really rich people figure out how to dodge taxes anyway." (They are right in one sense; thanks to the GOP's gutting of the IRS in the 1990's, by 2007 the amount of federal revenue lost to fraud and unpaid taxes catapulted to $300 billion.)

    Leave it to Bush's former flunkie Ari Fleischer to make even more comical Tax Week plea on behalf of the nation's bedraggled wealthy. The top 10% of taxpayers, Fleischer argued, are "supporting virtually everyone and everything" and "their burden keeps getting heavier." As he put it:

    "It's also what's called redistribution of income, and it is getting out of hand."

    Oh, it's gotten out of hand all right, just not in the direction Fleischer claims.

    As the Center for American Progress noted, the Bush tax cuts delivered a third of their total benefits to the wealthiest 1% of Americans. And to be sure, their payday was staggering. As the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities detailed, by 2007 millionaires on average pocketed $120,000 from the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003. Those in the top 1% stashed an extra $45,000 a year. As a result, millionaires saw their after-tax incomes rise by 7.6%, while the gains for the middle quintile and bottom 20% of Americans were a paltry 2.3% and 0.4%, respectively. (Another CBPP study demonstrated that the Bush tax cuts accounted for half of the mushrooming deficits during his tenure in the White House.)

    And as the New York Times revealed in 2006, the 2003 Bush dividend and capital gains tax cuts offered almost nothing to taxpayers earning below $100,000 a year. Instead, those windfalls reduced taxes "on incomes of more than $10 million by an average of about $500,000." As the Times revealed in a jaw-dropping chart, "the top 2 percent of taxpayers, those making more than $200,000, received more than 70% of the increased tax savings from those cuts in investment income." So it should come as no surprise that the income share of the 400 richest Americans doubled over the past decade.

    There is, of course, one final GOP meta-myth for Tax Day. Despite their best efforts to portray Republicans as the best economic stewards for America, the record clearly shows that the stock market and the economy over all almost always do better under Democratic presidents.

    (This piece also appears at Perrspectives.)

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