Republicans focus on tax cuts for the rich

Discussion in 'Politics' started by ZZZzzzzzzz, May 8, 2006.

  1. Republicans Set Aside Middle-Income Tax Cuts to Focus on Rich

    May 8 (Bloomberg) -- Republican lawmakers, facing the prospect that their power to cut taxes may soon be curbed, plan to extend breaks that mostly benefit the wealthy and Wall Street at the expense of reductions for middle-income households.

    Six months before elections that may return a Democratic majority in at least one house of Congress, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois are focusing on extending the 15 percent rate on investments and repealing the estate tax. They won't push extensions of lower rates for all taxpayers and expanded breaks for married couples and families with children, which expire after 2010.

    ``In politics, timing is everything; you do what you can when you can, and this is what's queued up right now,'' says Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, the No. 4 Republican in the Senate. Given the federal budget deficit, it would ``be hard to generate public support overnight'' for making permanent the other tax cuts, he says.

    Democrats say the Republicans are favoring tax breaks that do little for middle-income Americans; 50 percent of all U.S. households earn between $26,859 and $120,100, according to the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan research institution in Washington.

    ``Even in an election year where they are losing popularity nationwide, they've chosen to pander to their base of rich donors and leave the middle class behind,'' says Representative Charles Rangel of New York, the senior Democrat on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.

    Reaping the Benefits

    Internal Revenue Service data show taxpayers who earned at least $1 million reaped 43 percent of all savings from reduced rates on dividends and capital gains. The estate tax will affect only 12,600 families with more than $2 million in assets this year, a number that will decline to 7,200 by 2009, according to a study by the Tax Policy Center.

    In contrast, households earning less than $75,000 received about 70 percent of the benefits from increasing the child credit and 64.4 percent of the benefit from creating the 10 percent bracket on the first $14,000 of taxable income, the Tax Policy Center says. In addition, it says 55.2 percent of the benefit from ending the so-called marriage penalty was received by families earning less than $100,000.

    Political analysts say Democrats have their best chance in a decade to regain a majority in the House or the Senate from the Republicans, who are beset by flagging polls caused by ethics scandals, public outrage at the government's faltering response to Hurricane Katrina and discontent over the Iraq war.

    Holding a Lead

    Democrats have taken the lead over Republicans on most issues, including taxes, for the November congressional elections, according to a Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll conducted last month. The survey of 1,234 registered voters found that 49 percent of respondents favored Democratic candidates in their district, compared with 35 percent who said they would vote for a Republican.

    To gain control, Democrats would need to pick up six seats in the 100-member Senate, and 15 seats in the 435-member House. Democratic control of either chamber would make extension of many of the tax cuts difficult. Most Democrats opposed many of them when originally enacted, and some who supported them now say they are unaffordable.

    The administration has projected a record $423 billion budget deficit, for this year, although Treasury Undersecretary Tim Adams said last week that surging tax receipts will push the deficit ``well below'' the projection.

    Sustaining Growth

    Bush and his supporters say lower taxes on investments and multimillion-dollar estates will sustain economic growth. They point to reports last week showing the U.S. economy grew at a 4.8 percent annualized pace in the first quarter.

    ``The best way to reduce our deficit is to keep pro-growth economic policies in place so the economy expands, which will yield more tax revenues,'' Bush said last week in Washington.

    While the president has called for all of the $1.85 trillion in tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003 to be made permanent, administration officials acknowledge that may not be possible.

    ``You can't do everything at once,'' says Sean Kevelighan, a Treasury Department spokesman who focuses on tax and economic issues. ``But what we are doing right now directly correlates to U.S. economic strength.''

    House and Senate Republicans agreed last week to extend for two years the 15 percent rates on dividends and most capital gains, enacted in 2003 and slated to expire at the end of 2008.

    Extending the cuts would also be a boon to Wall Street, where the Russell 1000 Securities Brokerage & Services Industry Index is up 200 percent since the investment tax breaks took effect.

    Merrill's Ads

    New York-based Merrill Lynch & Co., the No. 2 securities firm by market value, has published full-page ads in Capitol Hill newspapers such as Roll Call in support of the cuts. The Securities Industry Association, a Washington trade group, is lobbying for the breaks because its members fear investors will flee the markets if they sense higher rates are on the horizon, says Richard Hunt, the group's vice president of federal policy.

    The estate tax currently has a top rate of 46 percent. The $2 million eligibility threshold is scheduled to gradually increase to $3.5 million before the tax is repealed in 2010 -- only to reappear in full the following year with an exemption amount of $1 million and rates as high as 55 percent.

    The Joint Committee on Taxation, a bipartisan congressional panel, estimates that renewing the investment tax breaks will cost the government $50 billion in revenue it otherwise would have received. Republican tax-cut advocates dispute this, saying that capital gains tax receipts have increased because investors have sold assets they would have kept when taxes were higher.

    Estate-Tax Repeal

    Repealing the estate tax would cost the government as much as $78.8 billion a year by 2016, according to the committee.

    Kevelighan also disputes arguments by Democrats that the tax cuts favor the wealthy. Treasury Department figures show the share of taxes paid by the top 1 percent of earners --defined by the IRS as households with adjusted gross incomes of more than $295,495 -- has grown faster than their share of income, currently 17.2 percent.

    David Keating, executive director of Club for Growth, a Washington-based organization that helped lobby for Bush's tax cuts, says Republicans believe that Democrats would extend the middle-income tax cuts if they win control of Congress. Republicans are focusing on the capital gains and estate tax measures this year because they don't want to give Democrats a middle-class tax cut to tout before the elections.

    ``The others are tougher and it's better to do the ones that are tougher first,'' he says, referring to the investment and estate tax reductions.
  2. It's eternal payback time.

  3. Pabst


    Most everyone is in agreement that the budget deficits, the "national debt" and trade imbalance are at way higher than healthy levels. Of course it's one thing to pay lip service but it's another to actually make the effort to purchase American goods (a self imposed tax toward buying higher priced domestic goods) or to willingly pay higher taxes to government.

    As a futures trader, I don't feel particularly over taxed. However if I were at the same income level and on the hook for 38% Federal, 16% self employed Social and Medicare, and then x% state, depending where I live (Illinois is 3%) I would feel GOUGED! Throw in several thousand a year for property taxes on even the humblest abode along with sales, gas, phone taxes and driving fees like licenses, stickers and plates. It's a SHITLOAD of taxes. Most of which fail to be progressive.

    Out of the three major individual tax categories: estate, capital gains, and income, I would make permanent cuts in income, perhaps raise capital gains and make slight reductions to around 35% in the death tax9with a $3,000,000 exemption). Most appreciation of capital has to do with fiscal and monetary policies of either Congress or the Fed. Thus capital gains are derived from Caesar. Pay the Man his do. Likewise estates have been prime beneficiaries of the same system. However unless someone works for XOM or HAL, I'd say FEW can claim with a straight face that their income is derived from the policies employed by the Federal government.
    As it is about 38% of the wage earners in the United States make too little to pay Federal income tax. (most of that pool is part timers, lower wage workers, ect.). It shouldn't be the income of Bill Gates that the government wants a big piece of, rather it should be a decent chunk of his stock profits (when sold) or estate (when dies). The Gates that goes to work each day and employs others is the Gates that we best not lose.
  4. I don't see the 15% dividend rate as worth spilling blood over, but the cap gain rate is important. The point is, the money has already been taxed once, as income. It's unfair to subject it to multiple taxation just because someone employed it productively and didn't hide it under the mattress. As for the estate tax, careful what yu wish for. The devil is in the details on this one, as some of the repeal proposals have done away with the steppedup basis. Translation, you might not have to pay estate taxes on grandpa's portfolio, but you will have to take it with his historical cost basis. Good luck figuring that out.

    As for income taxes and the supposed unfairness to low and middle earners, most of them pay minimal tax already. It is important for the system to not get any more progressive. Too much progressivity leads to the free rider problem, which we already have to a degree. If most of the population pays little or nothing in taxes but receives benefits (paid for by someone else), they have little incentive to vote for responsible policies.
  5. Pabst


    I agree strongly with your view of a further progressive income tax AAA. And I do believe with tinkering on expenditures, revenue enhancement may not even be needed. However if given the choice of where to raise taxes it would be in the areas I discussed. But in a larger sense very little capital is truly used productively. Most capital is used speculatively. That's all well and good. With speculation comes risk. But budget battles are about cutting babies in half, slaying sacred cows and taking a chicken out of every pot....
  6. Do the wealthy even pay estate taxes? I would think there are many ways around them. A problem I wish I had.