Robert McIntyre

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

Recent Articles

The Taxonomist

Tax-Cut Fever Alan Greenspan has blessed a tax cut, the budget surpluses are said to be bigger than ever, and Republicans control all branches of the federal government. Are we ready to rumble with George W. Bush's gigantic tax cuts? Can we cut taxes even more? Take a deep breath. The projected surpluses . According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), non-Social Security surpluses over the upcoming decade could be $3.1 trillion, assuming ... well, that's the rub. To reach that staggering surplus estimate, the budget office assumed such things as zero population growth, government wages falling further behind private wages, more and more Americans cheerfully paying the Alternative Minimum Tax, and so forth. It's not the technicians' fault: These implausible assumptions are all required by law. But nobody, including the estimators, thinks that they're realistic. Here's a more believable story . Start by subtracting the $400 billion in projected Medicare surpluses, which an...

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

Hatching Tax Cuts for the Rich Why is it that when Republicans in Congress try to address a real problem--whether it be an inadequate minimum wage, the tax code's marriage penalty, or whatever else happens to catch their attention--they so often end up calling for big tax cuts for the rich? The latest example comes from Senator Orrin Hatch, the Republican from Utah, who says he wants to simplify the income tax. Now, "tax simplification" is a perfectly fine idea, and Hatch has the wisdom to focus on several areas that deserve attention, even though they affect only about six million high-bracket taxpayers. For instance, back when George H.W. Bush was president, he and Congress decided that higher tax rates on the welloff were needed to help reduce the budget deficit. But because lawmakers were afraid to raise tax rates directly, they took a roundabout route. First, they disallowed a portion of itemized deductions,...

The Taxonomist

Bush's New Math Suppose you're the chief economic adviser to George W. Bush. For the past five months, you've been telling the public and your boss that his tax cut plan will cost $1.3 trillion over 10 years. How do you deal with the fact that your figure is arithmetically impossible? And more important, how do you counter Al Gore's widely reported claim that the Bush tax plan will cost more than $2 trillion over 10 years? That was the conundrum facing Larry Lindsey, Bush's supply-side tax guru. To solve his problem, Lindsey went to the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, whose vice chairman, Bill Archer of Houston, is a strong Bush backer. The committee's staff is widely respected for its nonpartisan analyses, so Lindsey had to frame his question carefully. And he did. First of all, Lindsey asked the committee estimators for a nine-year rather than 10-year estimate. On top of that, he knew...

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