UNITED STATES – MARCH 07: From left, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., conduct a news conference with other Senate democrats to unveil a plan to improve the nation’s infrastructure on March 07, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
This week, Congressional Democrats released a detailed tax hike plan that they promised to implement if given majority control of the House and Senate after the 2018 midterm elections. So much for the crocodile tears about the deficit–Democrats want to raise taxes not to reduce the debt, but rather to spend that tax hike money on boondoggle projects.
As you might expect, hold onto your wallets. Here are the details:
Increase the top marginal income tax rate from 37 percent to 39.6 percent. This nearly 3 percentage point increase in the top personal rate is not only a hike in the top bracket levy, but it’s also a direct tax increase on small and mid-sized businesses. The 30 million companies which are organized as sole proprietorships, partnerships, Subchapter-S corporations, and LLCs pay their business taxes on their owners’ 1040 personal tax returns. Hiking the top tax rate is a small business tax increase.
Increasing personal income taxes would be particularly unfortunate since workers are now seeing the results of lower rates in their paychecks. Thanks to the new IRS withholding tables, in February of this year over 90 percent of workers saw higher take home pay in the form of fatter direct deposits (for a humorous spectacle of the New York Times desperately trying to get people to down-talk their bigger paychecks, click here). They will continue to see those bigger paydays for as long as the tax rates in law remain in effect. This higher tax home pay is a down payment on a lower tax liability. Typical families of four should see their federal income tax decline from $2000 to $4000, depending on their income level and number of children.
Increase the corporate income tax rate from 21 percent to 25 percent. Up until this year, the United States labored under the highest corporate income tax rate in the developed world. As a result, jobs and capital were fleeing America for more normal tax rates that could be found in tax havens like France and China (saracasm font very much activated). Finally, after many years of bipartisan consensus that the U.S. corporate rate had become an impediment to attracting new jobs and investment, Congress cut the rate all the way from 35 to 21 percent. Even doing that only puts us in the middle of the pack of developed nations, but that’s a heck of a lot better than dead last.
As a result of this change, companies like Fiat Chrysler, Amgen, and Amicus Therapeutics (among many others) have announced new factories and jobs would be built in America, not in other countries. Americans for Tax Reform keeps a running list of tax cut bonuses, raises, 401(k) match increases, and other benefits companies are passing along to workers as a result of this tax cut. The current number as of this writing is 431 companies and over 4 million workers. Just yesterday, Cox Enterprises announced bonuses of up to $2000 for 55,000 of their workers. Walmart and Wells Fargohave announced permanent wage hikes for all employees, notably those on the lowest rung of the ladder. Electric and other utility bills are going down in states all across the country.
Not content to endanger all that good news, the Democratic tax increase goes on to call for the following:
Bring back the alternative minimum tax (AMT) for 4 million families. Up until this year, 4 million upper middle class families had to calculate their income taxes two different ways, and then pay the higher result. This was due to a provision of the law known as the “alternative minimum tax” or AMT. Millions more had to at least pay a tax preparer to run the calculation, even if they didn’t end up paying the AMT. The new tax law all but repealed the AMT for 99 percent of these families thanks to a higher AMT “standard deduction.” Congressional Democrats would bring back the dreaded AMT, which especially hit hard two-income white collar families with kids in New York, New Jersey, and California.
Cut the “death tax” standard deduction in half. Over the past few decades, no tax has proven more unpopular in every single poll than the death tax, the federal tax on estates. 60 to 70 percent of poll respondents consistently call for its full repeal. The new tax law didn’t repeal the death tax, but it did the next best thing–it doubled the death tax’s “standard deduction” from $5.5 million to $11 million (and twice that for surviving spouses). As a result, far fewer family businesses and farms will be subject to the death tax, and many smaller firms can shed the costly insurance, legal, and actuarial costs of avoiding the death tax. Like the top personal rate, the death tax is not something that really affects the rich, who have plenty of resources to avoid the levy. Rather, it hits hardest those companies profitable enough to worry about it but not profitable enough to not worry about, if you catch my meaning. Democrats have never understood this, which is why it’s not surprising they want to reduce the death tax’s standard deduction back down to what it was before.
All of this is very confusing given that the new tax law is supported by a plurality of the American people (the New York Times reports it’s actually a majority) and is growing in popularity. A good chunk of people haven’t even yet realized they’ve received a tax cut, so the favorable numbers should continue to grow. Maybe that’s why a Democratic pollster and strategistrecently wrote:
Since the passage of the Republicans’ tax bill, and even before it, Democrats have been losing the messaging war. Now that many Americans are seeing the results in their paystubs, it’s even harder for Democrats to make this a winning issue. Voters are seeing the bill’s positive impact and are not likely to oppose it because we tell them they’re not benefiting, and many voters who aren’t seeing the impact still support the bill. If Democrats want to continue using this bill as a major issue for November, we need a new messaging strategy.
Instead of figuring out how to raise taxes, Congressional Democrats would do better to work in a bipartisan manner to make the middle class and pro-jobs tax relief just passed into law permanent. A rising tide lifts all boats.
The article originally linked to a poll showing plurality support for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that was characterized as majority support. Polling has shown both plurality and majority support for the tax law. Both recent polls are now cited for the sake of clarity.