National Review Online: Obama’s New Tax Welfare

National Review Online

Obama’s New Tax Welfare

Barack Obama says he plans to cut taxes for 95 percent of American workers. That sounds terrific, but there are three problems. One, it is meant to draw attention from the real core of the Obama tax plan: proposed increases in every major federal tax. Two, the structure of the cuts will create perverse incentives. And three, many of the people receiving “tax cuts” don’t pay taxes to begin with, meaning they’ll be in effect getting welfare.

The first point requires but a simple list. Obama proposes to raise the top two individual income tax rates by 25 percent or more, through both explicit rate increases and the phaseout of personal exemptions and all itemized deductions for upper-income earners. He’ll increase the capital-gains tax rate by 33 percent, the tax rate on dividends by 33 percent, and the top payroll-tax rate by 16 to 32 percent. He’ll create a new payroll tax for national health insurance, estimated at 7 percent. He’ll reinstate the death/inheritance tax, which is being phased out under current law, with a new top marginal rate of 45 percent. He’ll increase the corporate tax burden by 25 percent “by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens.” He’ll even increase tariffs through his protectionist trade policies.

Besides the $500-per-worker credit, Obama proposes a slew of income-tax credits targeted toward low- and moderate-income people, also refundable. Obama proposes such tax credits for child care, education, housing, retirement, health care, welfare, etc.

Though the people receiving these credits will spend the money, the programs will probably hurt the economy on net, because the credits will be phased out at higher income levels. This, in effect, constitutes yet another marginal tax on high-income earners, and thus another blow to their incentives to be productive. 

These programs alone would cost $1.3 trillion over ten years. I call it The New Tax Welfare.

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