Liberals salivate over 62% top tax rate

Stephen Moore of the WSJ does the math:

If the Democrats’ millionaire surtax were to happen—and were added to other tax increases already enacted last year and other leading tax hike ideas on the table this year—this could leave the U.S. with a combined federal and state top tax rate on earnings of 62%. That’s more than double the highest federal marginal rate of 28% when President Reagan left office in 1989. Welcome back to the 1970s.

Here’s the math behind that depressing calculation. Today’s top federal income tax rate is 35%. Almost all Democrats in Washington want to repeal the Bush tax cuts on those who make more than $250,000 and phase out certain deductions, so the effective income tax rate would rise to about 41.5%. The 3% millionaire surtax raises that rate to 44.5%.

But payroll taxes, which are income taxes on wages and salaries, must also be included in the equation. So we have to add about 2.5 percentage points for the payroll tax for Medicare (employee and employer share after business deductions), which was applied to all income without a ceiling in 1993 as part of the Clinton tax hike. I am including in this analysis the employer share of all payroll taxes because it is a direct tax on a worker’s salary and most economists agree that though employers are responsible for collecting this tax, it is ultimately borne by the employee. That brings the tax rate to 47%.

Then last year, as part of the down payment for ObamaCare, Congress snuck in an extra 0.9% Medicare surtax on “high-income earners,” meaning any individual earning more than $200,000 or couples earning more than $250,000. This brings the total tax rate to 47.9%.

But that’s not all. Several weeks ago, Mr. Obama raised the possibility of eliminating the income ceiling on the Social Security tax, now capped at $106,800 of earnings a year. (Never mind that the program was designed to operate as an insurance system, with each individual’s payment tied to the benefits paid out at retirement.) Subjecting all wage and salary income to Social Security taxes would add roughly 10.1 percentage points to the top tax rate. This takes the grand total tax rate on each additional dollar earned in America to about 58%.

Then we have to factor in state income taxes, which on average add after the deductions from the federal income tax roughly another four percentage points to the tax burden. So now on average we are at a tax rate of close to 62%.

Democrats have repeatedly stated they only intend to restore the tax rates that existed during the Clinton years. But after all these taxes on the “rich,” we’re headed back to the taxes that prevailed under Jimmy Carter, when the highest tax rate was 70%.

Too bad they can’t raise it to 98%, eh?

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2 Responses

  1. pjMom, I was on a parenting discussion board recently and politics came up. Amazingly, there was a girl (has 2 kids, lives on East coast) who said her and her husband are “numbers people” and they believe that the rich should absolutely pay more in taxes and if they did, our deficit would be reduced or eliminated entirely.

    Um, yeah. This tells me there are a lot of seemingly normal people who have absolutely no concept of reality. She was being completely earnest in that their assessment of our economy was accurate because they were both good with numbers. Maybe they attended public schools recently?

    • I had this debate once with my husband while we were dating. He supported that position back then–rich folks should pay more. I argued that they already do as a percentage. I even used Rush’s always awesome graphs to explain the percentage of taxes paid by groups.

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