Robert McIntyre

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

Recent Articles

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...

The Taxonomist

By the time you read this, we may have a new balance of power in Washington. If Democrats have the upper hand, we can worry that they'll continue the Clinton-Gore push to make the tax code more complicated--albeit a bit more progressive, too. If the Republicans are in the driver's seat, then it appears that tax cuts targeted to the rich will be at the top of the agenda. Neither vision is attractive to those of us who believe in a fair, straightforward tax system. But whichever party is in charge, perhaps it can be persuaded to amend the details of its presidential candidate's campaign tax promises without sacrificing the basic themes. Democrats will no doubt seek to limit most tax cuts to middle- and low-income taxpayers. That's a noble goal. But why not replace the long list of "targeted" tax breaks that Al Gore promoted in his campaign with a simple tax cut for everybody who works? Here's one idea: Right now, Social Security payroll taxes apply to...

Supply-Siders Go to War

When Abraham Lincoln faced the dissolution of the nation in the early 1860s, he imposed new taxes on the wealthy to help pay to save the Union. When Franklin D. Roosevelt took America to war against the Nazis, he sharply increased taxes on businesses and the rich to help fund that crusade. Now George W. Bush is leading a new battle against international terrorism, and insists that as part of that effort, we need to cut taxes on corporations and the best-off Americans! In late September, after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, Bush and congressional Democrats seemed to have reached general agreement on what should be done to boost our sagging economy. The goal of saving the Social Security surpluses for the future would have to be put on hold for a while to deal with the current crises. But both sides said they accepted the advice of Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan and other economists that additional stimulus measures should be temporary to avoid exacerbating our fiscal...

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