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

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 Flat Taxers' Flat Distortions

Several leading Republicans now claim that a flat tax can lower most taxpayers' burden, close loopholes, and avoid revenue shortfalls. Wrong on all counts.

H aving attacked the liberal accomplishments of the Great Society and New Deal, congressional Republicans are preparing to eliminate a reform that stretches even further back into history: the progressive income tax. Republicans in both houses of Congress have introduced plans for a flat tax, claiming that its simplicity and fairness will be a boon to all. Majority Leader Dick Armey, presenting his plan, states that "millions of taxpayers are taken off the rolls entirely, and middle Americans receive a tax cut." The first part of that claim is largely true. Since Armey's plan does not tax income from interest, dividends, or capital gains, those taxpayers who live completely off of investment income would be taken off the rolls entirely. The second part of the claim is, by any serious accounting, wrong. Armey's plan has two parts: It replaces the progressive income tax with a flat tax, and it replaces business taxes with a consumption tax. Both elements would dramatically shift the tax...

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