Robert McIntyre

Robert S. McIntyre is director of Citizens for Tax Justice and a contributing editor for The American Prospect.

Recent Articles

The Taxonomist

Dept. of Boneheaded Studies In 1999, two states, New Hampshire and Tennessee, considered adopting a broad-based income tax. This sent antitax lobbying groups into a frenzy of "studies" purporting to show that such a step would be a disaster for the economies of the two states. The lamest of the reports was published in mid-October by the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), an anti-union group. The report's central observation was that six states that had adopted an income tax around 1970 had seen lower economic growth between 1970 and 1990 than they had between 1950 and 1970, before the income tax went into effect. Clearly, the NTU report concluded, those nefarious income taxes were the culprits behind the slower growth. But the report left out one small point: every single state in the country had lower economic growth after 1970 than before (remember OPEC, stagflation, and all that?). Talk about selective use of data. ...

The Taxonomist

Voodoo Tax Calculator George W. Bush's Web site includes a "Bush For President Tax Calculator" that ostensibly lets taxpayers "See How Governor Bush's Tax Plan Helps Working Americans." But the calculator often simply doesn't work. If you type "single, two kids, making $22,000," for example, you'll be told that your current income tax is $110 and that your tax under Bush would be zero. That's pretty far off, since the actual figures are minus $1,701 now and minus $1,811 under Bush. Perhaps to avoid conflicting with Bush's claim that single mothers are grossly overtaxed today, the Bush calculator leaves out the Earned Income Tax Credit. As a result, the tax information it provides for families making less than $30,000 is usually wrong. Oddly, the Bush calculator won't allow income entries greater than $100,000--quite an oversight, given that most of Bush's tax cuts are targeted to the 11 million couples and individuals who make more than that amount. Of course, if Bush's calculator...

The Taxonomist

Bush's "Progressive" Tax Plan "The Bush tax cuts benefit all Americans, but reserve the greatest percentage reduction for the lowest income families." (12/1/99) "Our tax code, in the end, will be more progressive." (4/11/00) These Bush claims are real whoppers. In fact, more than a quarter of all Americans would get nothing at all from Bush's tax cut plan. As a share of federal taxes paid now, the Bush plan amounts to a 5.9 percent reduction for the bottom fifth, an 8.4 percent reduction for those in the middle, and a 15.7 percent tax cut for the best-off 1 percent. As a result, the tax code will be significantly less progressive if Bush's tax plan is enacted. To assert that his tax cuts favor those at lower income levels, Bush chooses to misleadingly focus on only one federal tax, the progressive personal income tax. But most of the federal taxes that lower- and middle-income people pay are payroll taxes and excise taxes, neither of which are affected by Bush's plan. Probably the...

The Taxonomist

Hatching Tax Cuts for the Rich Why is it that when Republicans in Congress try to address a real problem--whether it be an inadequate minimum wage, the tax code's marriage penalty, or whatever else happens to catch their attention--they so often end up calling for big tax cuts for the rich? The latest example comes from Senator Orrin Hatch, the Republican from Utah, who says he wants to simplify the income tax. Now, "tax simplification" is a perfectly fine idea, and Hatch has the wisdom to focus on several areas that deserve attention, even though they affect only about six million high-bracket taxpayers. For instance, back when George H.W. Bush was president, he and Congress decided that higher tax rates on the welloff were needed to help reduce the budget deficit. But because lawmakers were afraid to raise tax rates directly, they took a roundabout route. First, they disallowed a portion of itemized deductions,...

The Flat Taxers' Flat Distortions

Several leading Republicans now claim that a flat tax can lower most taxpayers' burden, close loopholes, and avoid revenue shortfalls. Wrong on all counts.

H aving attacked the liberal accomplishments of the Great Society and New Deal, congressional Republicans are preparing to eliminate a reform that stretches even further back into history: the progressive income tax. Republicans in both houses of Congress have introduced plans for a flat tax, claiming that its simplicity and fairness will be a boon to all. Majority Leader Dick Armey, presenting his plan, states that "millions of taxpayers are taken off the rolls entirely, and middle Americans receive a tax cut." The first part of that claim is largely true. Since Armey's plan does not tax income from interest, dividends, or capital gains, those taxpayers who live completely off of investment income would be taken off the rolls entirely. The second part of the claim is, by any serious accounting, wrong. Armey's plan has two parts: It replaces the progressive income tax with a flat tax, and it replaces business taxes with a consumption tax. Both elements would dramatically shift the tax...

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