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Government Economics - Why Lowering Taxes Means More Revenue

The August 5 debate of Republican candidates for the office of President of the United States had a number of interesting points, but one of the most intriguing came when a reporter tried to imply to Rudy Giuliani that raising taxes was the only way to provide sufficient revenues for things like bridge repair and infrastructure maintenance. Giuliani called the question a "knee-jerk liberal response", and explained that the key is providing revenue, not pursuing a desire tp punish success.

As an example, let's look at fiscal 2006. The U.S. Treasury Department reports that 2.4 Trillion dollars were received for fiscal year 2006, an 11.7% increase from fiscal 2005 and a 35.9% increase from fiscal 2003. The gist of that data proves that despite lowering federal income taxes, more money has been coming in. This is a peculiar effect, but it's been shown before, under Kennedy and Reagan before Dubya tried it again. It seems reasonable to me, to examine the function of this effect.

Let's start with that 2.4 Trillion dollars. That's $2,400,000,000,000. Lot of zeroes, hmm? The U.S. population just kicked over 300 million this year, so that works out to $8,000 in federal taxes for every man, woman, and child in the United States. I didn't pay $8K in federal taxes last year, how about you? And in fact, when we consider that the actual pool of taxpayers is much smaller than the 300 million people living here, round about 132.8 million people according to the IRS, so that means our average is really about eighteen thousand dollars per taxpayer. And no, I don' think many taxpayers actually put out that much, either. So what's going on? It may seem at first that the high-wage taxpayers are really getting socked, and they are, but really, when it's all sorted out, what happens at the federal level is similar to what happens at the state, county, and city levels; it's business where a lot of that money is made, and in short, if a business is healthy and successful, it pays more in taxes. With me so far?

OK, so it's in government's interest for businesses in general to succeed. So how does that work, exactly? It begins with the fact that taxes can only be applied to money which is used. That is, mechanisms like Sales Tax and Excise Taxes and so on, can only be applied when money is used in commerce. Employment taxes and withholding can only be done when employees are actually hired and paid. And since so many taxes are proportional to the level of commerce, the more business a company does, the more taxes it pays.

So what does raising or lowering taxes have to do with increasing revenues? Well, where do you think the money that comes into a business is originated? It comes from the consumers, of course. If the consumers feel times are tight and uncertain, of course they will not be interested in spending money, it's just too risky, which attitude naturally slows down the economy. And when the economy slows down, so does tax revenue. Now, when on the other hand taxes are lowered, this provides taxpayers with more money, and a lot of that gets spent, which revs up the economy ... and in spite of the lower rate, increases the amount of money which comes in to the government. It's the same reason why stores put products on sale; the lower price is made up and more by the jump in volume sales if the manager has planned it right. Basic economics, really.



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Comments (45)

DJThanks for serving... (Below threshold)

DJ
Thanks for serving up this topic.

I'll just add these flamers: The tax code is the most important and effective method still available for liberals to bring about their much loved social engineering.

The break between the Friedman/Hayek/Von Mises (Chicago School) and Keynes/Galbraith became the argument du jour in 1981 when Reagan was successful in pushing through historical reductions in the highest marginal rates (70%) in spite of a Democrat controlled Congress. Remember the Boll Weevil Democrats? Once voters got a taste of lower taxes the supply side argument was settled.

However, twenty seven years ago this was a roiling boiling debate and many Republicans had their doubts, which is to say nothing of the then monolith media (which had no competition). It is a credit to Reagan that he spoke over the media, directly to voters, and succeeded.


You bring up a good point H... (Below threshold)
Robert the Original:

You bring up a good point HughS, it all goes back to 1981.

It is worth pointing out too, that since Reagan changed the tax code and moved the FED away from the Phillips curve (The Keynesian trade-off between inflation and unemployment), our economy has enjoyed the two longest booms in our history and working on a third.

The proof is in the pudding.

mmmm ... pudding....... (Below threshold)
yo:

mmmm ... pudding.
... which has been pretty tasty of late, I'll have to admit.

You do know that you will b... (Below threshold)
jhow66:

You do know that you will blow Lee Wardie's mind if he reads your post don't you? (wait, does he have one?)

Thanks Robert.... (Below threshold)


Thanks Robert.
An interesting side note: I just finished reading Stephen Hayes' book on Cheney.

In it he mentions the role of one of Cheney's early mentors in the House, Bill Steiger from Wisconsin. Steiger was first elected in 1966 and in 1978 was successful in passing a reduction in the capital gains tax, two years prior to Reagan's election, and a full three years before the bull market started. I remember reading in The National Review many years ago a short history of the supply side revolution and one writer (it wasn't Buckley, maybe even Freidman, but can't remember) commenting that when Steiger's bill passed "it was all over" for the Keynesians.

If taxes were 100% then no ... (Below threshold)

If taxes were 100% then no one would pay them. If taxes were 0% then needed infrastructure to support the economy wouldn't be there to support economic growth. There is obviously a 'sweet spot' at which point lowering tax rates lowers revenue and raising taxes raises collections. But if you can lower tax rates and collections increase... the tax rates are toooooooo high.

Isn't it sad that the above... (Below threshold)

Isn't it sad that the above column isn't common knowledge ? Answer: What's really sad is that it's not taught, by hardly anyone, outside of Walter Williams.

pudgeIt's not taught... (Below threshold)

pudge
It's not taught because social engineering is still the holy grail of the Leftist academy. Why, one might ask, is it that Austrian economists (who, BTW, inform the opinions of Profs like Walter Williams) were first to posit this thinking? Perhaps because they lived next door, and then were conquered by, the alternative....Marxism.

If there ever was a more su... (Below threshold)

If there ever was a more substantive domestic political topic than the subject posed by DJ I can't think of it. Which makes me wonder why some of our favorite leftists haven't weighed in.
I suspect that tax hikes are slowly becoming (but not there yet) what social security reform has been for decades...the third rail of politics.

Now, when on the o... (Below threshold)
jpe:
Now, when on the other hand taxes are lowered, this provides taxpayers with more money, and a lot of that gets spent, which revs up the economy

If that were the case, we'd see commensurate increases in GDP and consumer spending.

Was there?

jpe I'm not going to... (Below threshold)

jpe
I'm not going to look up the link for this, but Federal receipts, when compared to high marginal rates from the early 1980's through today, have risen as rates were lowered.
Consumer spending is part of the equation;consumer saving is the other part.

This is why the language us... (Below threshold)

This is why the language used to discuss taxes needs to change. People need to start pushing the use of tax rates and tax revenues, not just the word taxes. There is a difference between the two.

hmmmm<a href="http:/... (Below threshold)
nogo war:
nogoWere you hummi... (Below threshold)

nogo

Were you hummimg a tune or trying to make a point?
Bridge collapse.
Lower marginal tax rates.
Connect the dots for us,ok?

While you are at it, give us your opininon on earmarks in the Federal Budgeting process.

It hardly started with Reag... (Below threshold)

It hardly started with Reagan - or even Kemp, Roth, and Steiger in the years immediately previous (getting Reagan interested in tax cuts in the first place). JFK reduced the top marginal rate from 90% (!) to 70%, with similar results.

Naturally, the Law of Diminishing Returns must kick in at some point. JFK's cut lowered the top rate by 22% - but that meant the guy got to keep 30% of his gross earnings instead of 10%, in effect tripling his after-tax income. Reagan's reduction from 70% to the 36% for which he eventually settled cut them nearly in half again - raising that take-home from 30% of AGI to 64%, more than doubling it.

Bush's cuts were far more marginal. It will be several more years before the full effects can be measured with accuracy, but it is fair to assume the stimulative effect was much less than the two previous marginal rate cuts.

What is eminently demonstrable, though, is NOT that "tax cuts create more revenue" or that "tax cuts always pay for themselves," but rather that "tax cuts do not reduce the growth of tax revenue over the long term, and may increase the rate of growth somewhat."

To claim that tax cuts increase economic growth itself requires faith, because the evidence is quite thin. The economy tends to grow at a pace determined and influenced by a large number of factors, of which marginal tax rates are only one.

Granted, it is a most difficult proposition to prove conclusively anyway, since it is always impossible to know precisely how much growth another policy might have delivered. I'm not saying it isn't so, only that it hasn't been proven and one shouldn't make the claim until it has.

Jim,Tax cuts of co... (Below threshold)
Robert the Original:

Jim,

Tax cuts of course did not start with Reagan as you point out, or Kennedy either. If you look at Friedman's work or Laffer's starting in the '20's, cuts were always followed by a bounce in the economy and revenue growth. I am sure you do not doubt this.

What did start in about 1980 was the "official" end of Keynes' concentration on unemployment/inflation as the goal. The seventies put an end to it; there was no Phillips trade-off, no cost-push, and no wage-pull - only stagflation. As a Theory Keynes had suffered mighty blows. (Oddly enough, Laffer credits his curve in part to Keynes, who had also spoken about a point of diminishing returns as rates go up). But these days, outside the Universities, you can't find a Keynesian with a bloodhound.

Without a doubt, the FED started managing policy differently with an eye also to growth and the money supply. Also without a doubt, the thirty years since have been very good with long booms and fairly shallow recessions, and not at all likely due to luck.

I ask you then, if not Keynes, what? Surely one is left with the Chicago School?

The current deficit might be as low as $ 150 B against projections several years ago of $ 450 B. To what do you attribute this change, if not the Laffer effect? If you answer normal economic growth, how can one factor in the cuts if not to positive effect?

And finally, given all the evidence - even if not proved to your satisfaction - would you raise marginal rates or lower them?


Now, when on the o... (Below threshold)
Now, when on the other hand taxes are lowered, this provides taxpayers with more money, and a lot of that gets spent, which revs up the economy ... and in spite of the lower rate, increases the amount of money which comes in to the government.

So when the government collects tax dollars it doesn't spend that money? That seems to be what you are saying. I don't understand how $1 dollar spent by a taxpayer is better for the economy than $1 spent by the government.

Also, you didn't mention deficit spending. Isn't borrowing money in order to pay for a tax cut more of a factor than the tax cut itself when we are discussing how to grow the economy?


Sorry to blog whore but...<... (Below threshold)

Sorry to blog whore but...

I wrote a diary at The Forvm refuting your post. I hope you have the
chance to check it out.

"I don't understand how $1 ... (Below threshold)
Robert the Original:

"I don't understand how $1 dollar spent by a taxpayer is better for the economy than $1 spent by the government." - Blue Neponset.

___

The old Soviet sphere was famous for stores that had nothing on most of the shelves and 500lbs of butter in the corner.

The market is the best way we have to determine the efficient allocation of resources, government spending (earmarks, bridges to nowehere) is not.

Karl Marx lives.

The market is the best w... (Below threshold)

The market is the best way we have to determine the efficient allocation of resources, government spending (earmarks, bridges to nowehere) is not.

If the market determined when, where and how to build roads, aircraft carriers or public libraries then you might have a point but it doesn't. That is the Government's job and in our current system at least, that isn't going to change. Therefore it doesn't matter if someone else can do the government's job better or not when we are discussing tax revenues.

Also, when you borrow money to pay for tax cuts you aren't choosing between the market or the government you giving both entities the same amount of $$. As a result, increased efficiencies don't matter because you aren't changing the allocation of the resources.

Blue,Ultimately, l... (Below threshold)
Robert the Original:

Blue,

Ultimately, lower taxes leads to less government spending. Less is available, due to practical deficit limits if you like. Government will spend everything they get, and more.

Yes we need the government for certain things, but the less the better.

So, one dollar on the margin is more productive in the private sector than in government. Even if it is 1 to 1, borrowing for cuts, very soon the increase in the economy changes the ratio, as now for example.

If you tax more, then spend into deficit, Mr. Marx wins and you get, say, Cuba.

If you tax less, even into deficit, you and me spend the money and we know better what to do with it - we all win. It is not the same stimulus.

All Socialist and Communist countries are screwed up because government handles too much and you get inefficient allocation of resources.

So, to your statement about $1 being not different if handled by the private sector or government - big difference.

Ultimately, lower taxes ... (Below threshold)

Ultimately, lower taxes leads to less government spending. Less is available, due to practical deficit limits if you like. Government will spend everything they get, and more.

In theory maybe but in the real world that doesn't happen. The "drown the gov't in the bathtub" idea just doesn't seem to work.

So, one dollar on the margin is more productive in the private sector than in government. Even if it is 1 to 1, borrowing for cuts, very soon the increase in the economy changes the ratio, as now for example.

But the economy doesn't increase. Consumption, investment and government spending are added together to arrive at GDP. If you decrease one to increase the other it is a zero sum transaction. If government spending stays the same and you borrow money to increase consumption and investment then that has little to do with a tax cut and everything to do with borrowing.

If you want to argue that deficit spending increases revenue then you may have a point. I seem to recall that this idea was the basic premise behind the New Deal.

Blue NeponsetThe n... (Below threshold)

Blue Neponset

The next time you blog whore yourself over here at the "wingnut site" make sure you have a cogent argument to offer.

There are only two ways to get money out of a C corporation, payroll or dividends.

That is the stupidest statement I have ever read. Have you ever taken an accounting class? Run a business? Are you emplyeed by a business? Know how to read a financial statement? Private or Public?

Money is gotten out of C Corps in myriad ways...but when I dumb myself down to your level I think I know what you were trying to say but failed so miserably to do....you're talking about profits, correct? Then say so you moron. And as to what stimulates the economy, those "above the line expenses" (go look that up Einstein)are a major factor .

Keep this up and someone here will have to start fact checking you at your blog whorehouse.

That is the stupidest st... (Below threshold)

That is the stupidest statement I have ever read.

So learn us all then. How do you get money out of a C corporation if you are an owner of the company?

Keep this up and someone here will have to start fact checking you at your blog whorehouse.

Feel free. I don't think you could last five posts over there so it would kind of interesting to see how fast you run away. Unlike here, the conservatives over at the Forvm actually have to defend their arguments. I have yet to see anyone here who could hold a candle to any of the conservatives at our blog.

Give it up Hugh5, you're ta... (Below threshold)

Give it up Hugh5, you're talking to a brickhead, er, wall, I mean curtain, iron that is. Y'all come back though, ya hear ?

Discussing economics with a marxist ? As if!

I agree pudge, I gave up af... (Below threshold)
Robert the Original:

I agree pudge, I gave up after I found out he is a New Deal Socialist. Waste of time.

Heck, I thought they were extinct.

Blue says...... (Below threshold)

Blue says...

Feel free. I don't think you could last five posts over there so it would kind of interesting to see how fast you run away. Unlike here, the conservatives over at the Forvm actually have to defend their arguments. I have yet to see anyone here who could hold a candle to any of the conservatives at our blog.

I'm doing that right now Blue (2 posts and still breathing...although I admit to an advantage; I will not consider intellectual suicide, even if you are imbibing in it)....so listen and learn...at YOUR BLOG.

You said on your intellectually superior blog, (you know, the one where I would not last "five posts") that you were discussing "keep in mind that we were discussing income taxes".

I challenged you, right? I asked if you understood accounting, right. I asked you if you understood above the line accounting. Right? You responded to none of the questions. Instead, you reverted, (or should I say retreated?)to the expected response...calling me stupid. Fair enough....but my questions.

You understand very little about C Corps, accounting, and how they inject liquidity into the economy, in spite of tax policy. Admit it.

See you over there....

A good way to look at the d... (Below threshold)
Robert the Original:

A good way to look at the difference between government spending and private sector spending is research.

In private industry, each dollar spent on research is a carefully calculated chance to produce something productive. Not all ships come in, but you have to land a certain percentage or the company goes under.

Not so with government: we are forever funding research as to why chickens don't have lips, whether female dolphins get headaches to avoid sex, and so on. Much of this leads to nothing economically productive. Some of it is so silly one can only laugh.

Can you imagine a private company financing one of those silly studies we read about all the time? No way Jose'.

A dollar spent by government is not the same as a dollar spent in the private sector.

I asked if you understoo... (Below threshold)

I asked if you understood accounting, right.

Yes, I do understand accounting

I asked you if you understood above the line accounting. Right?

Yes, I do understand above the line accounting

Now that I answered your questions answer mine. How do you get money out of a C Corporation?

A dollar spent by govern... (Below threshold)

A dollar spent by government is not the same as a dollar spent in the private sector.

That is a compelling argument to reduce government spending but it doesn't address the argument that tax cuts pay for themselves.

Blue,You are the o... (Below threshold)
Robert the Original:

Blue,

You are the one who made the statement that you don't see any difference between a dollar spent by government and one spent by the private sector.

A dollar spent efficiently and productively will lead to further growth (and more receipts), a dollar wasted will not.

In other words, a dollar spent creating a new drug will lead to more growth, a dollar spent on dolphin sex will not.

I have trees in my yard that know this.

You are the one who made th... (Below threshold)

You are the one who made the statement that you don't see any difference between a dollar spent by government and one spent by the private sector.

They both add one dollar to the size of the economy is the point I am making.

In other words, a dollar spent creating a new drug will lead to more growth, a dollar spent on dolphin sex will not.

I don't know about dolphin sex (thank goodness) but a dollar spent on the space program or to help some kid pay for college adds one dollar to the size of the economy and leads to more growth. If you want to argue that wasteful government spending is wasteful then you will get no argument from me, but necessary government spending adds to the size of the economy and leads to growth. Unless your perfect system of government is anarchy then I don't see how you can refute that.

Yes, it is true that some g... (Below threshold)
Robert the Original:

Yes, it is true that some government spending leads to growth, but not much of it.

A much higher percentage of private dollars are spent towards growth.

Wanting less government is not the same as anarchy, but wanting big government New Deal stuff is the same as Socialism.

And it does not work.

Now that I answered y... (Below threshold)

Now that I answered your questions answer mine. How do you get money out of a C Corporation?

The line items are variously called called Cost of Goods Sold, Direct Operating Expense, General and Administrative Expense....money flows out of C Corps under these accounts.

Does that answer your question?

Yes, it is true that som... (Below threshold)

Yes, it is true that some government spending leads to growth, but not much of it.

A much higher percentage of private dollars are spent towards growth.

All spending, government or otherwise, leads to growth.

Does that answer your qu... (Below threshold)

Does that answer your question?

No, it doesn't. We were discussing income taxes and most tax advantageous ways to get the profits out of a C Corporation when you showed up at The Forvm. I find it ironic that someone who couldn't figure that out has the stones to ask me about my accounting background. Thanks for your answer though and have a great day.

"get the profits<... (Below threshold)

"get the profits"

Glad to see you finally got it right, Blue. Next time read your own comments....previously you were discussing getting money out of a C Corp, not profits. See #23 above #29 above.


Hugh,We were discu... (Below threshold)

Hugh,

We were discussing income taxes and everyone but you understood my point. If you didn't understand it you could have asked me to clarify and I would have. Instead you called me stupid, questioned my accounting abilities, and ran back here. That is pretty sad.

"All spending, government o... (Below threshold)
Robert the Original:

"All spending, government or otherwise, leads to growth" = Blue

If they are the same Blue, why is it that Communist and Socialist countries (with almost all government spending), almost always lag countries with small government, in growth?

We're back to Cuba, Blue.

If they are the same Blu... (Below threshold)

If they are the same Blue, why is it that Communist and Socialist countries (with almost all government spending), almost always lag countries with small government, in growth?

Both types of spending increase a country's GDP. GDP = consumption + investment + (government spending) + (exports − imports)

The fact that Communism/socialism doesn't work is the main reason why communists countries have crappy growth rates.

BlueI will apologize... (Below threshold)

Blue
I will apologize for calling you stupid. I shouldn't have done that.
Here is why I reacted the way I did:
______________________________________________

Sorry to blog whore but...

I wrote a diary at The Forvm refuting your post. I hope you have the
chance to check it out.

18. Posted by Blue Neponset | August 8, 2007 11:48 AM

I clicked the link and found this:
_______________________________________________

Republican tax cut shell game
Submitted by Blue Neponset on Wed, 08/08/2007 - 10:44am. Tags: Politics


I was perusing my new favorite wingnut blog when I came across a story on how tax cuts lead to more tax revenue. I have heard this argument many times before but this particular piece does a great job of highlighting the most ridiculous part of this argument. Here is the money paragraph from the story (I put the really dumb part in bold letters):
______________________________________________

I found that comment condescending and rude. That I espouse a difeerent political viewpoint than you does not make me a wingnut, and to be fair, nor does it make you stupid. However, I was offended by the "look at the idiots over there" tone of your remark at the forum. And I was underwhelmed by the level of discussion, particularly by Gabe, whose primary method of debate is to cut and paste War and Peace sized chunks from academic treatisis. I most certainly didn't run back here. I fell asleep over there.

After reading your post at the forum, I decided to attack the vernacular you used here...

So enough said. I won't call you names here; please don't refer to us here so derisively over there. Agreed?

Blue: "All spending, gov... (Below threshold)

Blue: "All spending, government or otherwise, leads to growth."

A strange statement, from someone claiming to understanding Financial Accounting. How hard is it to understand that a company which does not spend money on research and development of its product is going to be in trouble? How hard is it to understand that the reason all major corporations have Chief Accounting Officers (CAO), is because allocation of capital spending is critical to future growth? How hard is it to understand that money spent on an assumption is riskier than money spent after careful analysis of options? In other words, yes, it matters a great deal how money is spent. And as has been noted here more than once, government's record of prudent resource allocation is distinctly inferior to the private sector.

This is not to slam government, by the way. The best people go where they are respected, and in general, politicians do not treat professionals very well or with much respect. So, the best people stay in the private sector, and the government, though it gets some fine individuals, in general gets, well, less-qualified financial leadership.

Pork: It's how government pretends to do something.

BlueOne last point r... (Below threshold)

Blue
One last point relevant to your disussion with Robert on the utility of a dollar spent by the private sector and a dollar spent by the government.
Private sector spending avoids the added burden of public sector spending because it eliminates the public sector "friction" in the transaction. I'm not one to champion Keynesian economics, but I will not deny that he got some things right, the multiplier principal among them. The efficiency of the multiplier is much higher in private transactions because private transactions originate wealth and capital. Public entities originate no wealth except as proxies for the private sector. Those proxies represent friction in a transaction. Friction reduces efficiency.

So enough said. I won't ... (Below threshold)

So enough said. I won't call you names here; please don't refer to us here so derisively over there. Agreed?

I appreciate the apology Hugh, but I am not going to agree to your terms. You can call me anything you want. I don't know you from Adam and it doesn't bother me all that much when complete strangers call me names. The thing I didn't like about our exchange was that you wouldn't answer my question.

Anywho, please don't take my namecalling personally I wasn't thinking of you when I wrote the term wingnut. I have linked to this blog twice, one time agreeing with it and another time disagreeing with it, but in both cases I called wizbangers wingnuts.

In other words, yes, it matters a great deal how money is spent.

Not when it comes to calculating GDP. $1 of government spending adds $1 to the GDP as does $1 of private sector spending. That is the point I was making.

As I have repeated here and elsewhere if you want to take one dollar from some wasteful government program and give it to the private sector to spend then you will get little argument from me. The problem is that this doesn't happen. Instead the government borrows money to pay for a tax cut and then Republicans claim tax cuts pay for themselves. All the while ignoring the fact that deficit spending stimulates the economy as well as a tax cut.

I think I have made the same argument about 16 times in the last few days and every time I do someone responds that the private sector spends money better than the government. To that I say, No shit! That is a great argument to make if you want to cut government spending. It is a facetious argument to make, however, when you are claiming that tax cuts financed by increasing the deficit pay for themselves.

As an example, if the gov't passes a tax cut that reduces the tax burden by $15 billion* and pays for that tax cut by borrowing $15 billion then, in actuality, $30 billion was added to the size of the economy. You can't ignore the $15 billion of government spending if you want to claim that this tax cut will pay for itself. That is basically what happened with Bush's tax cuts and that is why I am calling Shenanigans on those who claim tax cuts pay for themselves. They convieniently ignore the fact that government spending stimulates the economy.

So, if you guys want to claim tax cuts pay for themselves then stop ignoring how we pay for our tax cuts.

*For simplicity I am assuming that all $15 of the tax savings will be spent on consumption or investment.

BlueShame on me for ... (Below threshold)

Blue
Shame on me for apologizing to you before updating myself on your comments at the Forum.

Go read for yourself. You have no integrity or honor. You are, instead, the epitome of the he said/she said gossiper who lights around groups trying to impress people with your intellect all the while ignoring that those you talk to may be speaking among themselves.

Kevin has a very liberal policy for commenters here (surprising, not, for a "wingnut blog"?; avail yourself of that. Come on in. The water is warm.


See you on the next thread.




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