Robert McIntyre

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

Recent Articles

The Taxonomist:

Many of the country's biggest corporations are once again paying little or nothing in federal income taxes, according to a new study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). Corporations are supposed to pay 35 percent of their profits in taxes. But the 250 companies in ITEP's survey paid only 20.1 percent in 1998. That figure was down from 22.9 percent in 1996 and way below the 26.5 percent big companies paid back in 1988, when they had yet to figure out ways around the loophole-closing 1986 Tax Reform Act. Forty-one companies actually paid less than zero in federal income taxes for at least one year from 1996 to 1998. They reported a total of $25.8 billion in pretax profits. Rather than paying $9 billion in federal income taxes at the 35 percent rate, the companies enjoyed so many excess tax breaks that they received $3.2 billion in rebate checks from the U.S. Treasury. In other words, they made more money after taxes than before!...

The Taxonomist

Sooner than anyone imagined only a few months ago, the inevitable conflict between the Bush tax cuts and public programs has come to a head. In January the Congressional Budget Office told us to expect hundreds of billions of dollars in budget surpluses over the next five years, beyond the buildup in the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. But now the CBO and the White House agree that those surpluses will not exist. Instead, they predict $160 billion to $200 billion in deficits outside of the trust funds from 2001 to 2005--and the actual shortfall is likely to be considerably higher. Notably, most of the blame, says the CBO, goes not to the sagging economy but to Bush's tax cuts. Democrats are in gleeful "I told you so" mode over the recent budget developments. Bush's speech in February pledging that we could have it all--lower taxes, expanded spending, and real debt reduction--was a tour de force. But now that his promise is revealed as a lie, Democrats see an opportunity to...

Why Pay Down the Debt?

I f I understand Max correctly, our main points of disagreement seem to be the following: A couple of times, he challenges the truism that paying off debt now will make it easier for future taxpayers to maintain or enhance public programs--just as Reagan's big debt buildup in the 1980s made it harder to maintain public spending thereafter. But to his credit, he quickly backs off this indefensible assertion, so I'm not going to restate the obvious. He argues that our kids will be rich enough to pay for our Social Security benefits and service, whatever public-debt obligations we happen to leave them. I'm less confident, and think both we and our kids will be better off if we can reduce the government's future interest costs. Max admits that the economy is doing well these days, as reflected by the lowest unemployment rate in 30 years. But he suggests we could do even better with a looser fiscal policy. (He sounds more Kempish...

The Taxonomist:

A s the country gears up for an intensified battle against terrorism and the economy slips into recession, almost everyone in Washington is looking for ways to provide as much economic stimulus as possible while still preserving long-term fiscal responsibility. Everyone, that is, except congressional Republican leaders, who are calling for just the opposite. In a weird display of Bizarro World economics, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott and House Majority Leader Dick Armey have proposed what they characterize as a two-year, temporary revenue increase--to be followed by a much larger revenue shortfall thereafter. Specifically, Lott and Armey want to reduce the top capital-gains-tax rate from 20 percent to 15 percent, but only for two years. Their stated goal is to spur upper-income investors to accelerate stock sales by taking advantage of the temporarily lower tax rate. If the sell-off is big enough, then it's conceivable that the measure might increase revenues in the short run--at...

The Taxonomist

During the House debate in early March on the first round of the Bush tax cuts, Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas stood up on the House floor and tried to revise history. "Mr. Speaker," said DeLay, "I have to say, that the Democrat leadership has no credibility when it comes to fiscal responsibility. They are the ones that were in charge and who drove up the debt. They point to Reaganomics as the reason for the debt going up, but what they do not point out is that ... the Democrat-controlled House drove spending up... . It is spending, stupid. It is spending that creates the deficit." Well, that's an interesting fable. But it has nothing to do with what really happened back in the 1980s. Under Ronald Reagan, the federal budget deficit grew from 2.7 percent of the gross domestic product in fiscal 1980 to 5 percent of the GDP in 1986. (The deficit actually peaked in 1983, at 6 percent of the GDP, before some of the Reagan policies began to be reversed.) Here's how that occurred. The...

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