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    It's the Economy, Stupid

    Tax Cuts Do Not Equal Increased Revenue

    by | Apr 23, 2011

    Let me begin this column by apologizing to my readers. Normally, in an opinion column the writer presents the highlights of an issue without needing to present, in detail, the facts underlying the issue being discussed. However, this column is going to go back and demonstrate that my opinions do not come from either pure ignorance or deceit but, instead, are informed by creditable sources. In this case, my figures are coming from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO); Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The apology is because of the data-laden presentation that may put some people to sleep. The issue being discussed is the relationship between tax cuts, deficits, and revenue.

    Federal Revenues as Percent of GDP - Reagan v. ClintonThe benchmark that will be used is a percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP). This allows one to compare relevant figures, such as revenue and spending, in relation to the overall growth of the economy and allows for apples to apples comparisons. Since Reagan lowered taxes and Clinton raised them on the top 2%, I will use these two Presidents to illustrate my points

    The claim was made that Reagan tax cuts almost doubled federal revenue over the following decade. When Reagan took office in 1980, individual tax revenue stood at 9% of GDP. That fell to 8% by 1988 when he left office. Corporate tax revenue fell from 2.4% of GDP to 1.9% during the same period. Total revenues for the government fell from 19% to 18.2% of GDP. Even though GDP grew from almost $3 to $5 trillion, government debt grew from 26.1% of GDP to 41%. What actually happened was that federal debt almost doubled, not revenue. The moral of this story: A thriving economy plus tax cuts equals less revenue and increased debt.

    On the other hand, Clinton raised taxes on the top 2% of the population. In 1992, individual tax revenues were 7.6% of GDP and grew to 10.2% by 2000. For corporations, it was 1.6% and 2.1% respectively. Total revenues grew from 17.5% of GDP to 20.6%. GDP grew from $6 to almost $10 trillion but total government debt dropped from 48.1% of GDP to 34.7%. Taxes went up, revenue went up, and national debt went down. A thriving economy plus tax increases equals more revenue and less debt.

    Federal Spending as Percent of GDP - Reagan v. ClintonRevenue is one side of the coin, spending is the other. So how do these Presidents stack up on the spending side of the equation? The charge was made that spending tripled under Reagan because of the Democrats. At first blush, you must wonder if they held a gun to Reagan’s head to force him to sign all of that spending legislation. But what do the facts tell us? Did spending increases cancel the effect of Reagan’s tax cuts? Well, discretionary spending dropped from 10.1% of GDP to 9.3% under Reagan and from 8.6% to 6.3% under Clinton. Mandatory spending dropped from 10.7% of GDP to 10.1% under Reagan and from 11.5% to 10.5% under Clinton. Total spending dropped from 21.7% of GDP to 21.3% under Reagan and from 22.1% to 18.2% under Clinton. In other words, total spending dropped under both Presidents but only under Clinton did tax increases on the top 2% produce enough revenue to reduce the national debt — significantly.

    US National Debt Reagan through ClintonUnder both Presidents there was a thriving economy as measured by GDP growth. Both Presidents reduced both discretionary and mandatory spending. One cut taxes and one raised them. One President almost doubled the national debt and one actually reduced it. One President proved that tax cuts along with spending cuts do not reduce the debt. Conservatives can continue to spout the tax cut equals increased revenue manta all they want but they lack an understanding of economic reality. They can continue to beat the drum that tax cuts coupled with reduced spending will reduce the debt but economic history is not on their side. Chambliss (R-GA) and Ryan (R-WI) are beating this drum right now. Beware.

    ###
    Jim Fitzgerald

    Jim Fitzgerald

    A clinically trained psychologist, Jim had a private practice in Cobb County for almost 30 years. For the last ten years he has been a Professor of Psychology at Goddard College in Plainfield, VT, but lives in the North Georgia Mountains.

     

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    • MonicaSmith

      You, my friend, are being logical and that is your mistake.
      (Excuse my use of the second person, but you’ll see it’s use as a rhetorical device that’s central to conservative thought.)
      You are assuming that the costs and benefits being referred to apply to the same entities. In conservative land that’s never the case. When conservatives look at what the country owes, their perspective is entirely self-centered and the question they ask is “does what you (the country) owe benefit me?” Thus, the country’s debt is good when the interest on it is paid to “me and my cronies,” as a guaranteed tax-exempt unearned income, and it’s bad when the interest on it is paid into the Social Security Trust Fund as unearned income for people who paid in less than they get out. In conservative accounting, any time you get a benefit, it’s a cost to “me” simply because I didn’t get it. Moreover, in the conservative world view, not having one’s expectations satisfied registers as deprivation. That’s because one person benefitting from another’s cost is the norm.
      It’s a matter of perspective. Liberals get confused because the conservative habit of framing a discussion as “objective” is a pretense which involves the substitution of the object of their envy for themselves. The real purpose of their nattering is to get benefits for themselves that they haven’t earned — i.e. at your cost. But, of course, they’re not going to admit that.

      The problem with the current national debt is that it is owed to and paying interest to the Social Security Trust Fund and China and American bond clippers aren’t getting what they’re entitled to. Obama’s promise to reduce the national debt is not going to make them happy because what they want is a bigger trickle down. Indeed, the increase in the national debt that went to state grants is adding insult to injury because those grants substituted for state and local bonds and, in effect, frustrated the strategy of making local governments borrow instead of collecting to spend. Our leisured elites don’t just want to avoid paying taxes; they want a cut of every public dollar spent. And, on the local level, they want to be able to control what the public dollars are spent for.

    • Trevor Irvin

      Jim, Another very good piece, as usual.
      T

    • Maria

      Republicans use the same data but change the color of the bars to the party controlling congress ;-)

    • James S. Bauman

      May 19, 2011

      RE: Tax Revenues CANNOT cause Deficits or Debt, Excess Spending ALWAYS DOES!

      Greetings:

      Looks to me like you “Stacked the Deck” in “favor” of your argument from the VERY BEGINNING. You compared your graph as a percentage of the GDP. However, the GDP ALREADY INCLUDES ALL of the INCREASED GOVERNMENT SPENDING, as can be shown by the following GDP formula:

      GDP = private consumption + gross investment + government spending + (exports -- imports).

      The GDP therefore ALREADY includes INCREASED Government Spending! So you are including INCREASED GOVRERNMENT SPENDING on BOTH sides of the comparisons! For instance If Government Spending Goes UP in the GDP, Naturally Increased Income from Tax Cuts will no longer be as high -- NOT WHEN COMPARED AGAINST the MUCH HIGHER INCREASED GOVERNMENT SPENDING!

      1) Why not just perform a standard straight-Line comparison Of Revenues BEFORE the TAX CUTS and Revenues AFTER the TAX cuts. That would be a better way to comparing “apple to apples” here.

      2) Next do a straight-line comparison of National Spending BEFORE the Tax Cuts verses National Spending AFTER the Tax cuts. Again that would compare “apple to apples” here.

      3) Finally, Compare what the National Debt WOULD HAVE BEEN WITHOUT the INCREASED NATIONAL SPENDING and WITH the actual additional Revenues obtained after the National Tax Cuts. Makes a VERY BIG difference in your graphs now doesn’t it?

      Quote: ” It’s the Economy, Stupid Tax Cuts Do Not Equal Increased Revenue Wednesday, May Apr 23, 2011”

      OH REALLY? Let us just use the “raw data” for both Clinton and Bush’s Back-to-back administrations here, shall we? That way we can compare “apples to apples” here (like you SHOULD HAVE DONE in the first place), now can’t we?

      http://www.usgovernmentrevenue.com/breakdown
      Total Government Revenue in the United States Federal, State, and Local

      http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/breakdown
      Total Government Revenue in the United States Federal, State, and Local

      Under Clinton:
      1) Revenue steadily increased from $1.154 Trillion in 1993 to $2.0 Trillion in 2000 or an average increase of $105.75 Billion per year for 8 consecutive years.

      2) Spending Increased from $1,410 Billion in 1993 to $1,789 Billion in 2000 or an average of $47.375 Billion per year for 8 consecutive years.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_public_debt

      3) Revenue increased at better than twice the rate of spending. Yet the Debt Ceiling Limit was STILL RAISED 4 times from $4,145 Billion on April 6, 1993 to $5,950 on August 5, 1997! Our Politicians INCREASED the Debt Ceiling by $1,805 Billion Dollars (or $1.805 Trillion Dollars)!

      Under Bush:
      1) Revenue increased from $1.8 Trillion in 2003 (when his tax cuts became fully active) to $2.5 Trillion in 2008 or an average of $140 Billion per year for 5 years. Compared with Clinton that is a net gain of $34.35 Billion PER YEAR for each of the 5 consecutive years -- or a 75.535% annual increase in Tax Revenue!

      2) Spending for the same time period under Bush’s Administration went from $2,160B in 2003 to $2,983B in 2008 or an average of 164.6B per year for 5 consecutive years. As you can clearly see, spending increases more than tripled (347.44%) under Bush’s Administration.

      3) Spending increased at better than three times the rate of revenue. Therefore the Debt Ceiling Limit was RAISED 7 times from $5,950 Billion on June 11, 2002 to $11,315 on October 03, 2008!

      Because spending grew so much faster than revenues, Our Politicians increased the Debt Ceiling by $5,365 Billion Dollars (or $5.365 Trillion Dollars)! Our Politicians have only increased the Debt Ceiling 60 consecutive times in the last 50 Years!

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_public_debt

      PERHAPS the .com Bubble Bursting (a recession), two wars, The Twin Towers, Terrorists and the Housing Bubble Bursting at the end of his administration just MIGHT have had “something” to do with the spending increases, don’t you think?

      What ever the reasons, THE FACTS clearly show that:

      1) Bush’s Tax Cuts RAISED REVENUE when compared to Clinton’s previous administration,

      2) The ONLY thing that raised faster than the INCREASED revenues was the INCREASED spending,

      3) Both administrations continued to steadily INCREASE the DEBT CEILING, and

      4) The wise-old adage that “Excessive Spending Causes Deficits/Debts while (INCREASED) Revenue NEVER causes Deficits/Debts!” just may be correct, don’t you think?

      Alternate Quote: “The last resort of the mentally challenged when they can: 1) No longer understand a situation, 2) No longer understand an explanation, or
      3) No Longer defend their position is to either: 1) Use profanity, 2) Start name calling, or 3) Strike out in any manner they can.”

      Did you REALLY want to start calling those who disagree with you (based on the facts) “stupid”?

      Respectfully,

      James S. Bauman

      • Jim Fitzgerald

        I have no idea what you are arguing here because you so conflate your “facts” and “figures” with reality that there is no room for an honest comparison.

        You also attribute quotes to me that are not mine. Why did you insert quotes to rebut that were not in my article?

        Finally, I never said increased spending wasn’t a problem. My thesis was that cutting revenue does not equate to an increase in revenue.

    • Steve

      Deficit numbers are irrelevent when discussing revenue increases. Deficits are a function of spending versus revenues, not revenues versus tax rates. The real revenue numbers (actual money the government took in) went up by about $2 trillion during the Reagan administration. A period during which we had the second greatest tax cuts since the Kennedy administration (which also experienced a real increase in revenue).

      • Jim Fitzgerald

        Are you arguing that the huge debt racked up under Reagan was a result of his excessive spending?

    • http://www.thisweekinstupid.com thisweekinstupid

      I think you meant “deficit” there.

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