Bush has made several different proposals that relate to taxes. Virtually all of them have been supported with deceptive facts and figures. What is most disturbing about this is not just that the President is making these deceptive proposals that will greatly effect all Americans, especially in this time of economic turmoil, but that by and large the media has supported these claims and in fact vigorously defended them especially in televised news programs such as those on CNN, Fox, and MSNBC. The so-called "experts" have proven to be mostly just a bunch of people that are either duped by poor economic principles and logic, people that are just towing the party line and don't really understand what they are talking about, or people that are intentionally going along with the deception because they have a personal interest in it, be it that they want the tax cuts to benefit themselves or that their job is on the line.
The lies and deception of the economic proposals of the current Bush administration rivals that of the Reagan administration, if not surpasses them. As I have already shown, both the Trickle-Down plan and the Savings and Loan scandals of the Reagan/Bush administration consisted of large-scale deception at the presidential level.
"These are the basic ideas that guide my tax policy: lower income taxes for all, with the greatest help for those most in need. Everyone who pays income taxes benefits - while the highest percentage tax cuts go to the lowest income Americans. I believe this is a formula for continuing the prosperity we've enjoyed, but also expanding it in ways we have yet to discover. It is an economics of inclusion. It is the agenda of a government that knows its limits and shows its heart."
- George W. Bush Jr.
Bush's overall tax plan can be seen here:
There has been large push for the total repeal of estate/inheritance taxes over recent years. George Bush made this part of his presidential campaign, and his bill to repeal the estate tax was one the first pieces of economic legislation that he put forward when he took office.
The repeal of the estate tax is, quite simply, absurd.
Estate Tax reform could take place in a manner to raise the bar on who pays estate taxes, that is a viable concern, but a full repeal of the tax goes against the core economic principles of America and strikes at one of the oldest forms of taxation in the country.
Estate Taxes were last established in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson. Wilson enacted the estate tax after several years of building support for the tax in the country. Prior to Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt had pushed for the estate tax, but there was not broad enough support for the tax within his party at that time, however estate taxes had been implemented many times prior to that as well.
"…the National Government should impose a graduated inheritance tax, and, if possible, a graduated income tax. The man of great wealth owes a peculiar obligation to the State, because he derives special advantages from the mere existence of government. Not only should he recognize this obligation in the way he leads his daily life and in the way he earns and spends his money, but it should also be recognized by the way in which he pays for the protection the State gives him."
"This object can be attained by making the tax very small on moderate amounts of property left; because the prime object should be to put a constantly increasing burden on the inheritance of those swollen fortunes which it is certainly of no benefit to this country to perpetuate."
"This species of tax has again and again been imposed, although only temporarily, by the National Government. It was first imposed by the act of July 6, 1797, when the makers of the Constitution were alive and at the head of affairs. It was a graduated tax; though small in amount, the rate was increased with the amount left to any individual, exceptions being made in the case of certain close kin. A similar tax was again imposed by the act of July 1, 1862; a minimum sum of one thousand dollars in personal property being excepted from taxation, the tax then becoming progressive according to the remoteness of kin. The war-revenue act of June 13, 1898, provided for an inheritance tax on any sum exceeding the value of ten thousand dollars, the rate of the tax increasing both in accordance with the amounts left and in accordance with the legatee's remoteness of kin. The Supreme Court has held that the succession tax imposed at the time of the Civil War was not a direct tax but an impost or excise which was both constitutional and valid. More recently the Court, in an opinion delivered by Mr. Justice White, which contained an exceedingly able and elaborate discussion of the powers of the Congress to impose death duties, sustained the constitutionality of the inheritance-tax feature of the war-revenue act of 1898."
- President Theodore Roosevelt, 1906
The estate tax was, and is, seen not only as a very just tax, but a tax that is essential in order to keep our economy functioning properly and to protect our democracy from the buildup of vast amounts of wealth by a small minority (which is happening anyway).
Understanding why the estate tax is important may shed some light on why some people, like Bush, want to repeal it, precisely because it would jeopardize our democracy and our economic system, as the rest of his legislation does.
It should be noted that the estate tax only affects the top 2% of American estates and that the tax is graduated so that even people who have to pay the estate tax do not pay the full amount unless their estate is extremely highly valued.
The average amount paid by those families that do pay the estate tax is only 17% because there are a number of deductions that are always taken advantage of by those wealthy enough to have to deal with the estate tax in the first place.
Furthermore, revenue lost from the repeal of the estate tax will have to be made up for by other taxes, which would inevitably fall more on middle income and low income Americans. The estate tax was estimated to raise $662 billion between 2002 and 2011. That is money that will have to be made up somewhere else. Obviously the estate tax is a tax that specifically targets the wealthiest Americans, so if it is repealed that $662 billion is going to have to come from somewhere other than the wealthiest Americans or else there would be no point in repealing it, so that means the tax burden is going to be shifted down to less wealthy Americans.
Bill Gates Sr. is a major proponent of keeping the estate tax. In an interview on the matter he had to say this about how and why the estate tax issue has become popular among Americans.
"Planned Giving Today: "Death to the death tax" has become a kind of rallying cry for minority business and family farmers. Yet only a very small percentage of all estates are taxed. How do you explain this kind of populist outrage against a tax that affects so few people?
Gates: Well, I think the principal ingredient of that result is an enormously clever, long-term and persistent effort by those on the other side of this issue to create a public attitude. I credit it to an unbelievably successful public relations effort. The newspaper people have been highly organized, using the expression "death tax" and showing the poster children -- farmers or small business persons -- having lost a business or not being able to pass it along to their families because of the estate tax. The continuous pounding and presentation of those pieces of the case have been very effective. Unfortunately, those of us who feel otherwise never got on the field. I mean, the opposition was running up and down the field making touchdowns at will because there wasn't anybody doing any tackling on the other side."
Obviously popular support for the repeal of the estate tax is largely due to a deceptive media campaign. Bush is not the sole source of this deception though, many politicians have weighted in the matter. In fact the issue was brought up during the Clinton administration by Republicans. What Bush did finally do was to implement a policy that repeals the estate tax over time until 2010 when it is then up for vote to get rid of it or reinstate it.
Below is a web site that opposes the estate tax, as they call it, the "death tax":
As is typically the case, the site is full of deceptive statements and emotional appeals. For example: "More than 70% of all family businesses do not survive through the second generation and fully 87% do not make it to a third generation."
Yes, that's true, but there is no connection between estate taxes and the failures. There are hundreds of reasons why small businesses don't survive three generations. Do you want to work at your grandpa's barbershop? To attribute this fact to estate taxes is absurd. Furthermore this statement doesn't even say that the businesses that fail were ever subject to the estate tax! This is blatantly irrational propaganda, and this is the type of propaganda that was been a part of the Bush campaign and has been a part of the general media campaign against estate taxes.
It has also been stated that the estate tax is a "double-taxation". Well first of all, even if it is that's not really relevant, we all get taxed double, triple, and more on our money and secondly, it's not. Any portion of an estate that has risen in value over time is value that has never been taxed.
Commenting on the inheritance tax during his campaign Bush stated: "You're going to hear all kinds of rhetoric out of Washington. They're going to say it's risky, it's this, it's that ... Al Gore believes the surplus is the government's money. I believe the surplus is the people's money,"
What surplus is there under Bush in the first place?
From Bush's tax plan:
"The death tax also impedes economic growth because it levies yet another layer of taxes on capital. More capital investment means higher incomes for all workers."
More capital investment does not mean higher income for all workers. I have already shown this in the section on Trickle-Down economics. While Reagan implemented the largest tax cuts I history, freeing up the largest amount of capital for investment in history, average wages for workers actually went down, and have generally stayed the same for the past 30 years. The minimum wage is lower today than it was in 1950. It was at it lowest point in 50 years during the Reagan administration.
"Since the marginal federal tax rate on savings can reach 68 percent (the 40 percent top income tax rate combined with the effect of the 55 percent top death tax rate and the state death tax credit),"
Well, Bush is also proposing to cut the top tax bracket to 33% instead of the current 39%. Is he unsure of his ability to get that plan through? Why not use his own numbers for the calculations? Secondly, there is no logic in combining income tax rates with inheritance tax rates. In what way are the two related? None, unless he means to imply that if a person earned all their money in the year of 2000, when the top tax rate was 39%, through earned income, and then they died that year and they had earned over 20 million dollars of taxable income (to put them into the highest estate tax bracket), and their estate didn't take advantage of any exemptions, then yes, his argument might make a bit of sense, but since that is a virtual impossibility his argument is totally without merit and in fact deceptive. Actually, the largest aspect of value of estates that are subject to tax is typically appreciation of assets, which is a value that has never been taxed.
"… the death tax can also create a disincentive for seniors who want to save for their children or grandchildren."
This argument is contrary to Bush's typical economic talk, which indicates that spending and participating the economy is important. Which is it? Should the seniors spend their money, thereby fueling the economy, or save their money for their descendants? Again, keep in mind this only applies to estates in the million plus range and that the tax is typically only paid at a rate of 17% and that there are ways to gift a large amount of assets to descendants tax free anyway.
"The punitively high death tax can fall most heavily on small businesses and family farms that are asset rich but cash poor."
"Can" is the key word here. Yes, in theory it can. It is very rare for family farms to owe an estate tax. The fact is that no single example has ever been sited of a family farm that was lost due to estate taxes. The fact is also that over half of the estate taxes in 1999 were paid by only 3,000 of America's wealthiest estates, none of them farms. The "real" biggest threat to family farms are corporate factory farms, which have already greatly overtaken American farming anyway.
"According to a 1993 survey, nine of ten successors whose family businesses failed within three years of the owner's death listed the death tax as a contributing factor."
Well sure, who wouldn't? How big a factor? If you inherit a business and then it fails what are you going to do, say that it was your fault because you don't know how to run a business, or blame taxes? Of course people will blame taxes, but again, Bush states that it was "a" factor. How big "a" factor? For all we know it was the least of which.
"Finally, by encouraging intricate planning techniques to reduce taxes, the death tax has created an entire industry of specialized lawyers and accountants. The added complexity and compliance costs make this one of the least efficient federal taxes."
I'll agree there, but all that needs be done is simplify the tax code, not repeal it. Furthermore, the activity of employing lawyers to assist in tax preparation is a stimulus to the economy in itself. So now what is Bush proposing, cutting jobs in the legal profession in order to save America's wealthiest families billions of dollars?
"President Bush believes that the bias of the death tax against the family farm and family business is the antithesis of the American Dream."
That's all well and good, but the main people affected by the estate tax are not farmers or small business owners, they are the heirs of bankers, real estate tycoons, industrialists, and investors, like Bush himself and the entire multi-billion dollar Bush family.
"Accordingly, his tax relief plan will eliminate the death tax. Eliminating the death tax will allow family farms and businesses to be passed from one generation to the next without having to break up or sell the assets to pay a punitive tax to the federal government. As a result, wealth would be taxed only when it is earned, not again when entrepreneurs and senior citizens pass the fruits of their labors to the next generation."
As a result all wealth can be passed on tax free and the shift of wealth that has taken place in America over the past 30 years that has resulted in the top 2% controlling over 50% of the nations wealth is going to increase dramatically to the point where average Americans will have such a small share the economy that they will be without a political or economic voice.
There is an interesting twist to Bush's closing remark though. He states that money will only be taxed when it is earned. Well, he does have that right because by not taxing inheritance that means that money that is not earned at all will be passed on tax-free. Not only will those who inherit the money not have to earn it, they don't even have to pay taxes on it. May as well just have a successful grandfather, let him pass money to you, invest it in an account that pays dividends, which Bush is going to make tax free, live off a portion of the tax free dividends, and then pass it on when you die. Poof, Bush has just created a plan that allows America's wealthiest families to never have to work again and continuously gain economic and political power. This is a classic example of the way that so called "conservative" politicians try to convince working class people to support the interests of the super rich, who are the cause of the problems for working class people. Its an attempt to convince people making $30,000 a year to vote in favor of policy that favors people making $30,000,000 a year and who have inherited billions of dollars.
Aside from that, what would Bush, a 3rd generation millionaire, who was born into a family that made it's money through banking, investing in Nazi labor camps, drug smuggling, the oil industry, illegal corporate dealings, and stealing money from the American people through the Savings and Loan Scandal know about "earning" money? Of course he wants to get rid of the estate tax.
For more on the estate tax, see:
In support of his tax plan to eliminate the tax on dividends Bush engaged in more deceptive number manipulation. Bush's statement on the dividend tax and how it would affect Americans is as follows:
"More than 40% of the people who receive dividends make under $50,000 a year. Many of them are seniors. Three-fourths of the people in America who receive dividends make less than $100,000 a year."
Yes, this is a true statement, yet is says nothing about how the money is apportioned. Many poor and middle class families do have some investment that pays a divided, usually in a tax sheltered retirement account. Most of these people receive a very small amount of income from dividends, so while 40% of the people who receive some dividends make under $50,000, they may be making only $10 a year from dividends. In fact I fall into that category. I was given stock for a graduation present several years ago and since that time I have received about $40 a year in divided income from that stock, which was always reinvested. I count as one of the people making up that 40% statistic. Would Bush's plan to remove the tax from dividend have helped me? No, not really, in fact due to the way inflation works its conceivable that it would actually hurt people like me by unbalancing the ratio of income even more in favor of the already wealthy.
For the finer counterpoints of the this issue I will defer to a web site that has already addressed the issue thoroughly, which states:
In a later section I will discuss again how tax cuts that go disproportionately to the wealthy actually devalue the cuts that are given to poorer citizens. It may seem that, well, even though those making under $50,000 will only get 6.7% of the cut, that's still something. No, that's not true. Due to inflation, which can be increased by the tax cuts, and due to changing interest rates, which can also be affected, these types of tax cuts can actually cost lower income individuals money, creating a negative effect on lower income individuals.
During his State of the Union address Bush said:
"We should also strengthen the economy by treating investors equally in our tax laws. It's fair to tax a company's profits. It is not fair to again tax the shareholder on the same profits. (Applause.) To boost investor confidence, and to help the nearly 10 million seniors who receive dividend income, I ask you to end the unfair double taxation of dividends."
In this case what has to be pointed out is that two thirds of the elderly population will only see a 4% of the dividend tax cut. The fact is that 43% of the benefits will go to the top 2.5% of wealthy elderly Americans, who are already well off and not in need of a tax cut to meet daily living needs, unlike the poor elderly that do need economic relief just to be able to provide for themselves.
Again, Bush's proposals are all based on lies and deception.
"The momentum of today's prosperity began in the 1980s - with sound money, deregulation, the opening of global trade and a 25 percent tax cut. Along the way we have confirmed some truths and discarded some dogmas. Government can be an ally of enterprise - by creating an environment that rewards work and inspires investment. But government does not create wealth. Wealth is the economic measure of human creativity and enterprise."
- President George W. Bush
Well, this isn't a very good start for Bush's opening to his Income Tax plan. As we have already seen at the beginning of the paper the 1980s is when many American economic problems started, but he is correct that his plans will do a lot to mimic the economic plans of the 1980s. We have also seen how deregulation is exactly what lead to the Savings and Loan scandal and the current round of corporate scandals such as those of Enron and WorldCom.
So, let's see exactly what Bush's income tax proposal includes.
The first item is his proposed changes to the tax brackets.
His plan states:
"Replacing the current tax rates of 15, 28, 31, 36, and 39.6 percent with a simplified rate structure of 10, 15, 25, and 33 percent (see Appendix for rate schedule)"
Looks good huh?
Well, let's look at the real brackets.
So let's see who really gets what reduction, I'll just use Married Joint filing because that is Bush's focus and actually the strongest part of his plan.
Those making between $0 and $12,000 get a 5% income tax rate reduction.
Those making between $12,000 and $45,200 get no income tax rate reduction at all.
Those making between $45,200 and $109,250 get a 3% income tax rate reduction.
Those making between $109,250 and $166,500 get a 6% tax rate reduction.
Those making between $166,500 and $297,350 get a 3% tax rate reduction.
Those over $$297,350 get a 6.6% tax rate cut, which is also the largest tax cut.
We can look at this in even greater detail in graph form.
This is the graph that Bush provides to show how his tax plan will affect citizens, notice he uses married with 2 children and one income in his example, and the graph stops at $98,000:
This is a graph of exactly what his tax plan will really do based on his own numbers, through the one million dollar mark:
The area marked in red indicates the lowest portion of the tax reduction. This portion covers from approximately $20,000 to $70,000 a year for single filers, up to about $90,000 a year for joint filers. So this is the range, from about $20,000 to $70,000 a year, that receives the lowest portion of the tax cut, that income range also represents the largest number of American workers, the group effectively known as "the middle-class".
What is significant to note about the graph that the Bush administration provides is that it stops at $98,000 a year making it look like the poor get the biggest cut, but at $109,250 a year the savings jumps up quickly for all those families that make more than $109,250 a year, which the Bush graph conveniently does not show, which is deceptive.
The graph below shows the money saved by the Bush tax cut proposal. The blue line shows the actual money saved for a given income. The tax cut for those filing $1,000,000 of earned income is 15.3%. The red line shows the amount of money that would be saved for a given income if everyone got an equal 15.3% tax cut across the board. Those couples filing under $27,000 do save more under the Bush plan (in the order of less than $300), however every couple filing more than $27,000 of earned income saves less than they would if they were to receive the same tax cut that those making a million dollars or more receive. A couple filing $45,200 of earned income would save $600 under the Bush plan, however if they were to receive the same size tax cut as a couple filing $1,000,000 in earned in come they would save $1,037. A couple filing $297,350 in earned income would save $9,882 under the Bush plan, $13,704 if the tax cuts were the same for everyone as they are for those filing $1,000,000. Likewise, if a family filing $1,000,000 in earned income were to receive the same tax cut as a family filing $45,200 then they would save $32,368 as opposed to the $56,276 that they would save under the Bush plan.
Overall, the middle class gets the very least tax break. The large tax break in terms of percentage that goes to the poor is only for families making under $12,000 a year, which is not even a living wage and does not represent many people in the first place. In addition the money saved only amounts to $300 or less. The largest portion of the tax cuts go to families making over $90,000 a year, with the percentage saved by the cuts going up as income increases once you get past $300,000. Singles or families making $2,000,000 or more get a 16% tax cut or more.
The graph below shows the real change in tax burden based on Bush's 2001 tax changes, the ones that resulted in many of us receiving a check back in the mail. Like the Reagan Trojan Horse, those checks were a way to buy support for a tax change that shifted the tax burden onto the middle class.
Another significant problem with Bush's earned income tax proposal is that it sets the limit of the top tax bracket so low, in fact among the lowest in history. It is also significant to note the between the 1940s and the 1960s, when JFK cut the top tax bracket to 70%, the top tax bracket was over as much as 90%.
In addition it should be noted, as was shown by the graph in the section on Trickle-Down economics, that the largest increase in wages for American workers occurred between World War II and 1970. That is not to say that the income tax brackets were the cause of that, but it does indicate the while income taxes were much, much higher the economy actually saw its strongest growth. The period of the 1950s and 1960s is considered the "Golden Age" of the American economy and it all took place under much higher income taxes on wealthy Americans.
For a history of American income taxes see:
Of course there is more to earned income taxes then just the tax brackets. The fact is that Bush's tax plan does help middle income and poor families with children, but does virtually nothing for middle income and poor people without children, while giving large tax cuts to wealthy single people with no children. All of the discussion on his plan always centers on families with children though because that is the only place where there is any real tax cut of any kind for middle and low-income workers. Even given, the plan still gives the largest tax savings to wealthy families with or without children.
For more on Bush's tax cuts and their deceptive portrayal in the media see:
After reading Bush's tax plan I just had to comment on the issue of "Charitable Giving" that he outlines in his plan. The text of the plan reads:
"Since the introduction of the income tax, the law has recognized the importance of encouraging charitable giving by providing a deduction. Today, however, 70 percent of all filers cannot deduct their charitable donations because they do not itemize deductions. Thus, to encourage an outpouring of giving, President Bush's plan will expand the federal charitable deduction to non-itemizers. This change will allow every taxpayer to deduct his or her charitable donations and will generate billions of dollars annually in additional charitable contributions. The President also supports other proposals to increase charitable giving."
This comment is an insult and a slap in the face. Firstly, it is well documented that the estate tax is a major proponent of charitable giving; it is estimated that over 12% of all charitable giving nationwide is influenced by the estate tax. If he wants to promote charitable giving then keeping the estate tax is a fine way to do it. Secondly, it is well known that virtually all of the people that do not itemize are lower income Americans. Virtually every wealthy American itemizes and already takes full advantage of the write-offs for charity. So, what Bush's plan is really saying is that he intends for America's poor and middle class to give more to charity. Gee thanks George. And where will these billions of dollars come from that the poor and middle class will be so happy to give away in order to get meager tax breaks? It is also already well documented that the poor and middle class give a disproportionately larger amount of their income to charity than the wealthy. On average, poor families donate the largest portion of their income to charity already, and yet Bush is proposing a plan that says he wants to encourage the poor to give more?
What may be useful is that more poor and middle class families could be able to take advantage of deductions for the charitable giving habits that they already have in order to reduce their taxable income, but this certainly won't help the tax collection situation and also shouldn't be seen as a way to try and induce the least wealthy segment of society, who already donates the largest portion of their income to charity, to give more.
Look at what is really happening. By taking away the estate tax donations by the wealthy can be expected to be reduced, and to make up for this he is proposing a plan that will attempt to encourage the poor and middle class to donate more. That's outrageous.
Summary on tax issues
Overall Bush's tax cuts are decisively targeted at the wealthiest Americans. On top of that, Bush and his media supporters are using complicated deception techniques to misconstrue the facts. Bush is not giving plain and direct talk on his tax proposals. If he had just proposals then there would be no need for the deceptive manner in which he presents the tax proposals. It should be clear to those that recognize the deceptive techniques that he is using that his intentions are not what he claims them to be. If they were then why would he be lying about his proposals and using deceptive number games?
Tax Relief is Un-American, Wealthy Say:
For more on taxation see:
In Depth Analysis of American Income and Taxation