Robert McIntyre

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

Recent Articles

Joker in Chief

As federal deficits mount to record levels, President Bush now tells us there's light at the end of the tunnel. Not a bright light, mind you, but he does claim that his new budget plan, despite more huge tax cuts, will get the government's books halfway to balanced within five years. There are, however, a few major ifs: If you don't count spending for Iraq and Afghanistan. If you ignore the promised but unbudgeted fix for the alternative minimum tax (hugely expensive). If you expect Congress to slash domestic appropriations by about a quarter in real terms. And, apparently, if you assume that by 2009 we'll still be in Bush's "trifecta" (crappy economy, national emergency, war), so he's entitled to keep spending all the Social Security surplus. This year, Bush says the federal government, outside of Social Security, will spend $1,939 billion but raise only $1,264 billion in revenues, for a deficit of $675 billion. More than a third of regular budget outlays will be financed with...

The Taxonomist

David Cay Johnston of The New York Times came to the Urban Institute, a Washington think tank, in January to talk about his intriguing new book, Perfectly Legal . In it, he argues that some of America's richest people -- with the active encouragement of many of our political leaders -- have successfully schemed to avoid much or most of the taxes they're supposed to pay. The event attracted a large audience, not least because Johnston's debating partner was supposed to be Washington's leading tax-shelter lobbyist, Kenneth Kies. Unfortunately, Kies chickened out at the last minute, citing pressing client business (read he didn't want to face the heat). So the organizers had to recruit conservative economist Bruce Bartlett as a replacement, and this self-described "token right-winger" didn't provide the hoped for fireworks. But he and his fellow panelists did have some interesting things to say. The theme of Johnston's book is that our tax system is "rigged for the super rich." While...

The Taxonomist

In November, with much fanfare, Gov. Mark Warner (D-Va.) introduced his "comprehensive tax reform plan." He bragged that it will bring "tax fairness for working families" and "put Virginia back on the path to fiscal integrity." Warner's cheerleaders on The Washington Post editorial page have similarly touted the proposal as the solution to "the single most important issue facing the Commonwealth: how to overhaul the state's decrepit tax system to make burdens fairer while generating sufficient revenue to stabilize Virginia's shaky finances." Unfortunately, the rhetoric doesn't match the substance. To be sure, Virginia's revenue system is in dire need of reform. The state's tax code is both regressive and inadequate. Poor and middle-income Virginians pay far higher shares of their incomes in state and local taxes than do the wealthy. Meanwhile, since fiscal year 2000, state general fund spending in Virginia, adjusted for inflation and population growth, has fallen by 11 percent. That's...

The Taxonomist

We live in scary times. War and terrorism certainly top the list, but President Bush's tax and budget policies are pretty frightening, too. Yet apparently not everyone is as worried as I am. To illustrate, in early November the Republican majority on Congress' Joint Economic Committee called a hearing to lay the groundwork for making our tax system even worse. Under the rubric of "fundamental tax reform," witnesses were invited to explain why corporations and rich people deserve even bigger tax cuts. Committee Democrats asked me to represent their side. I was what one wag called the "token sacrificial lamb." Tax reform used to mean closing loopholes and making those with the most money pay their share. But the Republican witnesses at the committee's hearing professed quite a different goal. Essentially, they pushed for a loophole-consolidation program that would make most of the income of the rich tax-exempt. Put another way, they called for replacing the income tax with a tax solely...

Gimme Shelters

If you thought President Bush was done with tax cutting for the rest of his term -- as Bush's budget director promised in June -- you've got another think coming. Pending in Congress this fall, with Bush's avid backing, is still another round of huge tax cuts. This time our lawmakers are planning their third major corporate tax reduction in the past two years. In light of the government's dire budget straits, more tax cuts might seem pretty reckless. After all, in the just completed fiscal year, combined federal personal and corporate income taxes fell to only 8.4 percent of the economy, their lowest level since before World War II and a third lower than in fiscal year 2000 -- with no relief in sight. A lot of that shortfall, of course, reflects the Bush cuts in personal income taxes, which have fallen to their lowest level as a share of the economy in more than 50 years. But corporate taxes have plummeted even more than personal taxes. In fact, at only 1.2 percent of the economy over...

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