October 28, 2008
Let's face it, in our slumping economy, there is only one growth industry left: Political campaigns. Well, maybe two, if you count bankruptcy lawyers, but we'll worry about them another time. Think of it, while consumption on everything from autos to sofas has slowed to a trickle, campaign spending is booming. Candidates this year have raised—and are likely to spend—in excess of $5 billion. Barack Obama alone may spend something approaching $1 billion.
October 27, 2008
The ordinarily very astute EconomistMom blithely asserted that there is "a lot of historical evidence suggesting that one-party government tends toward fiscal irresponsibility." Maybe not. Some time ago, I asked Urban Institute RA, Sonya Hoo, to review the evidence from states, over time, and across countries. She found the evidence of such an effect to be quite ambiguous.
October 27, 2008
When TPC analyzed Senator McCain’s proposal to replace the income tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health insurance with flat refundable tax credits of $2,500 for single coverage and $5,000 for family coverage, we found only modest net effects on coverage. Our model predicted that more than 21 million people would gain insurance coverage in the individual nongroup market by 2013 while 16 million would lose employer-based coverage. Despite a $1.3 trillion price tag over the next decade, the proposal would yield only modest and temporary gains.
October 23, 2008
A few more thoughts on "Barack the wealth spreader," as Sarah Palin now describes the Democratic nominee. I'm inspired in part by commenter D.F., who wrote this morning, "Tax rebates don't work. We need a flat tax." First off, John McCain is right when he says Obama's tax plan is redistributionist, if by that he means his rival would give his biggest tax cuts to the lowest earners. TPC calculates that Obama would cut the average tax rate for the lowest 20 percent of earners by more than 5 percent while he'd raise the rate by a roughly equal amount for the top 1 percent.
October 21, 2008
John McCain says Barack Obama’s enthusiasm for refundable tax credits amounts to socialism. Wow. This is interesting for so many reasons. To start, the mother of all refundable credits is the Earned Income Credit, which is the largest poverty program in the U.S. and distributes $42 billion to more than 20 million low-income families. It was enacted during the Presidency of well-known leftist Gerald Ford, and has been expanded repeatedly ever since, most recently by President Bush in 2001.
October 20, 2008
A commenter has asked an interesting question about the relationship between small business income and the number of workers in these firms. The FactCheck.org item Len Burman and Eric Toder cited in their blog post this morning reports that 20 million small businesses—many sidelines businesses or hobbies—;have no employees at all besides the proprietor. But it would be good to learn more about the rest. We’d like to hear from any of you who have other data or thoughts about this question.
October 20, 2008
Poor Joe the Plumber has become a political metaphor: something no one ever wants to be. As we all know by now, based on his actual (rather than aspirational) income of $40,000, Joe would get a slightly bigger tax cut under President Obama than President McCain. But in one sense, even though the real Joe doesn’t own a business, most small business owners, like Joe, also have very modest incomes. Based on a sample of individual income tax returns, TPC finds that among tax units that receive most of their income from their own business, a partnership or a farm (reported on schedules C, E, or F), more than half have income below $30,000 and 80 percent make less than $100,000. (Table T07-0206)
October 16, 2008
Talk about a bad idea. Barack Obama and John McCain both want to give people tax incentives to empty their retirement savings accounts. They’d help contribute to a disastrous old age for many middle-class seniors, even as they provide a windfall to wealthy savers. In the name of relieving financial hardship caused by the economic slowdown, Obama would allow penalty-free withdrawals from 401(k)s, IRAs, and the like of up to $10,000 for the next two years. McCain’s plan, which is even worse, would cut the tax rate to 10 percent on up to $50,000 of withdrawals in both 2008 and 2009. Workers contribute pre-tax money into these accounts and, currently, withdrawals are taxed at rates up to 35 percent.
October 14, 2008
TPC's Katherine Lim has crunched some numbers on John McCain's proposal to temporarily cut capital gains tax rates from 15 percent 7.5 percent. In 2009, under a plan that lowers taxes on both gains and dividends, those making $1 million or more would get two-thirds of the benefit, and an average tax cut of more than $72,000. Those making less than $50,000 would get, on average, nothing.
October 14, 2008
Both Barack Obama and John McCain have rolled out new economic stimulus plans. Each is a hodgepodge of some good ideas, some not-so-good, and some potentially awful. Obama says his new ideas would cost $60 billion. McCain says his would cost about $52 billion. Here is a quick look at what they have in mind: The centerpiece of Obama’s proposal is a new refundable tax credit for companies that add domestic jobs. Businesses would get $3000 for every net new full-time worker they hire. Any business would be eligible, even those that pay no taxes.