With Congress out of Washington for the August recess, more and more reporters and opinion makers are turning their attention to the enormous decisions on tax policy that await lawmakers when they return.
Anti-Tax Lawmakers Ignoring Public Opinion
The public supports President Obama's approach to the Bush tax cuts. A new CNN poll finds that only 31 percent of respondents think that Congress should extend the Bush tax cuts for the very rich as well as everyone else. This is in keeping with previous polls with similar results.
The main justification given by anti-tax lawmakers and activists for ignoring public opinion on this matter is that higher taxes on the rich, they claim, will hurt business investment and therefore hurt job creation. But a growing chorus of analysts agree that allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for the rich will not harm the economy.
Anti-Tax Lawmakers Ignoring Rational, Informed Economic Analysis
For example, Allan Sloan, senior editor for Fortune and a columnist for the Washington Post, writes that "From the start of the income tax through 2003, dividends were taxed as regular income, and capital gains were treated far less favorably than now. Somehow both the republic and the financial markets survived. They'll survive higher rates, too."
Sloan provides a refreshingly calm approach to a subject that sends many people into hysterics: the impact of taxes on investment.
For example, he points out that the 2003 tax cut bill signed by President Bush "set dividend taxes for the high-bracket crowd at preferential rates for the first time and brought the rate on long-term capital gains to its lowest point since 1941, according to the tax publishing firm CCH. But that didn't exactly result in a bull market. According to Wilshire Associates, whose numbers I'm using throughout this column, the U.S. stock market rose only 14.6 percent from the May 5, 2003, tax cut through Obama's election on Nov. 4, 2008... That price gain, about 2.5 percent a year compounded, was less than half the historical rate."
In Sloan's view, the ups and downs of the stock market have little if anything to do with tax rates. He goes on to say, "Since Obama's election, the market has been very good. In fact, the market's 10.4 percent rise during Obama's first 100 days in office bested tax-cutting Ronald Reagan (a 4 percent gain for his first 100 days) and George W. Bush (a 2.3 percent loss for the equivalent period)."
Higher taxes on the very rich will not reduce their investment in stocks and bonds and also will not reduce their investments in their own businesses that they actively operate (as we have explained elsewhere).
When it comes to job creation, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office agrees that the other measures that have been discussed in Congress (like aid to state and local governments and extended unemployment benefits) are many times more effective than income tax cuts for the rich.