Robert McIntyre

Robert S. McIntyre is director of Citizens for Tax Justice and a contributing editor for The American Prospect.

Recent Articles

Setting the Squawkers Straight

“We here at Squawk Box have been campaigning for politicians to ‘give back their pork' to help pay for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Our next guest offers up another possibility. He says we should consider following the path of President Lyndon Johnson. In 1968, LBJ enacted a one-year, 10-percent income-tax surcharge to help pay for the cost of Vietnam, a colossal example of bad timing. Joining us now live from Washington, Robert McIntyre, director of Citizens for Tax Justice. Robert, good morning. Uh, you know you're not going to get a lot of people to say, ‘Yeah, I want more taxes.'” Uh-oh, I thought, as I stared at the TV camera in CNBC's studio in early October and listened to the unseen hosts of Squawk Box speak to me from New York. This feels like a setup. For one thing, I hadn't proposed a temporary income-tax surcharge. On the contrary, I think that we need permanent tax increases, mostly on undertaxed rich people and tax-avoiding corporations -- although I suppose a surtax...

Tax Follies At TNR

You have to wonder. Half to three-quarters of the American public doesn't believe in evolution (depending on how you define it). One out of three Americans thinks the budget deficit can be eliminated (a) by hoping (or praying) that it goes away (8 percent) or (b) by cutting taxes even more (25 percent). Anti-scientific, un-arithmetic thinking seems to be rampant. But has The New Republic gone over to the dark side, too? In August, a TNR cover story promoted the wacky idea that we should scrap all of the federal government's progressive taxes in favor of a national sales tax. Such an enormous shift in the tax burden away from the rich and onto the poor and the middle class is the linchpin of what authors Larry Kotlikoff and Niall Ferguson call their "holistic" approach to "Social Security reform, health-care reform, and tax reform." Their spending proposals -- which include a pernicious restructuring of Social Security benefits in favor of high earners and a goofy system of...

How Times Have Changed

Back in the late 1970s, when gasoline prices zoomed and oil companies were making money hand over fist, our government enacted a windfall profit tax to return some of those unjustified gains to the public that was paying for them. Today, as gasoline prices have again skyrocketed, the federal government's reaction is exactly the opposite: add to the excess profits of energy companies with new tax concessions, paid for by ordinary American taxpayers. Back in April, in a rare moment of economic sanity, President Bush noted the obvious fact that “with $55 oil, we don't need incentives to oil and gas companies.” By August, however, Bush had reverted to form, signing a 1,725-page energy bill premised on the notion that the free market doesn't work so well after all. Apparently, $55 per barrel of oil was the magic number. At $64 a barrel, energy subsidies are once again needed. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 includes billions of dollars in tax breaks and grants to oil, ethanol, coal, nuclear, and...

Down Is Up (or So Some Say)

New projections from the congressional Budget Office suggest that this year's deficit will be $75 billion or so less than last year's record level. Similar figures will be reported by the Bush administration just after this column goes to press. The right is already claiming victory. “Our policies continue to boost the economy and tax revenues,” says Representative Jim Nussle, chairman of the House Budget Committee. “These numbers prove what we've said all along,” chimed in House Speaker Dennis Hastert. Indeed, claims Stephen Moore in The Wall Street Journal , “the numbers are an eye-popping vindication of the Laffer Curve.” Now wait a minute. Far from “an eye-popping vindication” of right-wing theories, the recent budget news is merely an eye-glazing vindication of the laws of arithmetic. Consider: When Bill Clinton left office, he had turned the huge non–Social Security deficit he inherited from the first President Bush -- equal to 4.6 percent of the economy -- into a small surplus. He...

Bush's Tax-Deform Panel

The president's advisory panel on Federal Tax Reform is mouthing some surprisingly attractive lines about improving our tax system. A panel appointed by Mr. Big Deficits points out that “we have lost sight of the fact that the fundamental purpose of our tax system is to raise revenues to fund government.” Mr. Loophole's appointees argue that “a rational system would favor a broad tax base, providing special treatment only where it can be persuasively” justified. Despite President Bush's devotion to shifting taxes away from the rich, his panel insists that we need to “share the burdens and benefits of the tax system in an appropriately fair and progressive manner.” And it solemnly pledges that its July 31 report will “recommend options that are revenue neutral” -- that is, no more unaffordable tax cuts. Wow! This sounds pretty good. But sadly, it's all a hoax. You might begin to suspect as much by looking at the panel's makeup. As is traditional with Bush, the top posts are held by...

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