Robert McIntyre

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

Recent Articles

The Taxonomist

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, the Republican from Texas, recently bragged that she was the key instigator in persuading the Senate Finance Committee, as part of its pending "marriage penalty reduction" bill, to raise the income level at which a couple enters the 31 percent income tax bracket. The Finance Committee had already decided to raise the qualifying level for the 28 percent bracket for couples. But according to The Washington Post , Hutchison insisted on a higher entry point for the 31 percent tax bracket, too, "so that the [marriage] tax relief would be extended to middle-income couples." Now, this is a particularly dumb statement even by U.S. Senate standards. First of all, couples now in the 31 percent bracket already would get the full benefit of the Finance Committee's plan to raise the starting point for the 28 percent bracket. That's a tax cut that none of the almost two-thirds of couples whose top bracket is now 15 percent would enjoy. In fact, about a quarter of the...

The Taxonomist

Don't be surprised if later this year the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the White House sharply raise their projections of future budget surpluses--perhaps by $1 trillion or more over the next 10 years, not even counting Social Security funds. Such good news, if it occurs, will cheer Republican tax cutters, especially George W. Bush, who are struggling to find the money to pay for the huge upper-income tax cuts they want. It will also encourage Democrats who want to invest more in public programs to improve education, health insurance coverage, and so forth. Nobody should get too excited just yet, however. Even if the budget outlook does get rosier, almost all of the projected improvement will be after 2003, and three-fifths will probably be after 2006. Predicting surpluses that far in advance is a delicate task. The projections can be very sensitive to small changes in assumptions. The CBO's current 10-year surplus projections, for example, assume annual revenue growth of 4.2...

The Taxonomist

Dept. of Boneheaded Studies In 1999, two states, New Hampshire and Tennessee, considered adopting a broad-based income tax. This sent antitax lobbying groups into a frenzy of "studies" purporting to show that such a step would be a disaster for the economies of the two states. The lamest of the reports was published in mid-October by the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), an anti-union group. The report's central observation was that six states that had adopted an income tax around 1970 had seen lower economic growth between 1970 and 1990 than they had between 1950 and 1970, before the income tax went into effect. Clearly, the NTU report concluded, those nefarious income taxes were the culprits behind the slower growth. But the report left out one small point: every single state in the country had lower economic growth after 1970 than before (remember OPEC, stagflation, and all that?). Talk about selective use of data. ...

The Taxonomist

Voodoo Tax Calculator George W. Bush's Web site includes a "Bush For President Tax Calculator" that ostensibly lets taxpayers "See How Governor Bush's Tax Plan Helps Working Americans." But the calculator often simply doesn't work. If you type "single, two kids, making $22,000," for example, you'll be told that your current income tax is $110 and that your tax under Bush would be zero. That's pretty far off, since the actual figures are minus $1,701 now and minus $1,811 under Bush. Perhaps to avoid conflicting with Bush's claim that single mothers are grossly overtaxed today, the Bush calculator leaves out the Earned Income Tax Credit. As a result, the tax information it provides for families making less than $30,000 is usually wrong. Oddly, the Bush calculator won't allow income entries greater than $100,000--quite an oversight, given that most of Bush's tax cuts are targeted to the 11 million couples and individuals who make more than that amount. Of course, if Bush's calculator...

The Taxonomist

Bush's "Progressive" Tax Plan "The Bush tax cuts benefit all Americans, but reserve the greatest percentage reduction for the lowest income families." (12/1/99) "Our tax code, in the end, will be more progressive." (4/11/00) These Bush claims are real whoppers. In fact, more than a quarter of all Americans would get nothing at all from Bush's tax cut plan. As a share of federal taxes paid now, the Bush plan amounts to a 5.9 percent reduction for the bottom fifth, an 8.4 percent reduction for those in the middle, and a 15.7 percent tax cut for the best-off 1 percent. As a result, the tax code will be significantly less progressive if Bush's tax plan is enacted. To assert that his tax cuts favor those at lower income levels, Bush chooses to misleadingly focus on only one federal tax, the progressive personal income tax. But most of the federal taxes that lower- and middle-income people pay are payroll taxes and excise taxes, neither of which are affected by Bush's plan. Probably the...

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