Tag: Senate

Taxes and Small Business

I testified to the Senate Finance Committee today regarding taxes and small business. My testimony is posted here.

President Obama plans to raise the top two individual income tax rates. That will not be good for business or the economy. A little more than half of all business income in the United States is reported on individual returns, not corporate returns. Of the business income reported on individual returns, 44 percent is in the top two income tax brackets.

My testimony pointed out that while Congress cut the top individual rate by 5 percentage points this past decade, the average top rate in the 30 OECD countries also fell by 5 percentage points, as shown in the chart below.

If the top federal rate rises to 40 percent next year, the United States will have the ninth highest top individual rate in the OECD, including state-level taxes. We’ve already got the second-highest corporate tax rate in the OECD.

A nation that has been a relative bastion of market capitalism and individual achievement has a tax code that is becoming very hostile to high-earners, entrepreneurs, and businesses of all types.

Criminalizing Politics

Steve Poizner, the California insurance commissioner who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, created a stir this week by charging opponent Meg Whitman’s campaign with attempting to coerce him out of the race. He said he had reported her campaign to state and federal law enforcement authorities.

What did Whitman actually do? Well, Poizner said that Whitman consultant Mike Murphy had contacted a Poizner staffer by phone and email to urge him to withdraw from the race. The email, released by Poizner, said: “I hate the idea of each of us spending $20 million beating on the other in the primary, only to have a badly damaged nominee. And we can spend $40 million tearing up Steve if we must; bad for him, bad for us, and a crazy waste to tear up a guy with great future statewide potential.” In the email, Murphy went on to suggest that if Poizner dropped out of the race before the June 8 vote, Whitman and her team would immediately get behind him for a 2012 challenge to Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Poizner says that’s not only “strong-arm tactics” but possibly an illegal inducement to get him to withdraw. But isn’t this really just politics as usual? Don’t candidates as a matter of course say “support me this time, and I’ll support you next time” or “run for a different office and I’ll endorse you”? Presidential candidates, or their campaign managers, are often said to have promised the vice presidency to more than one rival to clear the field.

The point about spending $40 million of Republican money tearing up fellow Republicans is a pretty common complaint about party primaries. In fact, National Review correspondent John J. Miller raised just that concern about the Rick Perry-Kay Bailey Hutchison showdown in Texas.

Even during the Rod Blagojevich flap over “selling” a Senate seat, the always-provocative Jack Shafer and Jim Harper both asked, Isn’t this what politicians do? They make deals – including deals like “I’ll support your campaign if you’ll make my buddy (or me) a Cabinet secretary.” No doubt the promises are often worthless, but they still get made. Blagojevich and Murphy have reminded pols all over the country that such deals are better made in person, not via email or telephone.

Politics ain’t beanbag, Mr. Poizner. Accept the deal or reject it. But “let’s clear the field and spend our money fighting the other party” is pretty standard politics. And a darn sight better than another standard political practice, using the taxpayers’ money to bribe the voters to support you.

‘Father of HSAs’ John Goodman Plays Host to ‘Father of the Individual Mandate’ Mitt Romney

"Father of the Individual Mandate" Mitt Romney

The former nickname came from National Journal or The Wall Street Journal, I’m not sure which.  The latter nickname comes from Institute for Health Freedom president Sue Blevins.

See here for details on an upcoming event in Dallas where Goodman’s National Center for Policy Analysis will play host to Romney.

It should be an interesting event.  With all 40 Republican members of the U.S. Senate, including moderates like Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), voting to declare an individual mandate unconstitutional…with 35 states moving legislation to block an individual mandate…with the Heritage Foundation rebuking an individual mandate…and with Virginia’s Democratically controlled Senate approving legislation to block an individual mandate…well, Romney may have a tough road to hoe with the conservatives who typically attend NPCA events.

Monday Links

  • Beware the “Crusader Temptation”: “Afghanistan has become a target of aggressive pro-war activists in America, including feminists who believe in waging war to improve the status of women.”

How Many Senators Are More Liberal than the Socialist One?

In a profile of the poetry-reading chief of staff to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the Washington Post calls Sanders not only “the only socialist in the U.S. Congress,” but also “surely [the Senate’s] most liberal [member].” Surely. I mean, he’s a socialist, right? (And by the way, that isn’t a label that Sanders rejects.)

Well, maybe not. According to the National Taxpayers Union, 42 senators in 2008 voted to spend more tax dollars than socialist Bernie Sanders. They include his neighbor Pat Leahy; Californians Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, who just can’t understand why their home state is in fiscal trouble; and the Eastern Seaboard anti-taxpayer Murderers’ Row of Kerry, Dodd, Lieberman, Clinton, Schumer, Lautenberg, Menendez, Carper, Biden, Cardin, and Mikulski. Don’t carry cash on Amtrak! Not to mention Blanche Lambert Lincoln and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, who apparently think Arkansans don’t pay taxes so federal spending is free. Sen. Barack Obama didn’t vote often enough to get a rating in 2008, but in 2007 he managed to be one of the 11 senators who voted for more spending than the socialist senator.

Meanwhile, the American Conservative Union rated 11 senators more liberal than Sanders in 2008, including Biden, Boxer, Feinstein, and again the georgraphically confused Mark Pryor. The Republican Liberty Caucus declared 14 senators, including Sanders, to have voted 100 percent anti-economic freedom in 2008, though Sanders voted better than 31 colleagues in support of personal liberties.  The liberal Americans for Democratic Action provides more support for the Post’s claim, rating Sanders 100 percent liberal. Most raters, though, don’t see it that way. In this compilation of ratings from left-leaning interest groups, 17 senators get higher scores than Sanders.

It almost seems that an avowed socialist is middle-of-the-road among Senate Democrats.

Weekend Links

  • Jeffrey Miron on Obama’s bank fees: “Bailing out the banks was wrong, but a new tax won’t make it right.”
  • What Constitution? If Congress can order you to buy health insurance, why stop there?
  • Don’t poke the bear: There is a proposal in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to rearm the country of Georgia.

How ObamaCare Would Keep the Poor Poor

Suppose you’re a family of four at or near the federal poverty level.  Under current law, if you earn an additional dollar, you get to keep around 60-70 cents.

Under the House and Senate health care bills, however, you would get to keep maybe 38 cents.  Or 26 cents.  Or maybe just 18 cents.

The following graph (from my recent study, “Obama’s Prescription for Low-Wage Workers: High Implicit Taxes, Higher Premiums”) shows that under the House and Senate bills, the combination of (1) a mandate tax and (2) subsidies that disappear as income rises would impose implicit tax rates on poor families that reach as high as 82 percent over broad ranges of income.

This graph actually smooths out some rather bumpy implicit tax rates that spike as high as 174 percent.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the public saw that too-generous government subsidies can actually trap people in a cycle of poverty and dependence.  President Obama and his congressional allies seem not to have learned that lesson.