HT: Volokh Conspiracy
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As the presidential campaign enters its final stages, there will be increased debate over budget priorities and how they will be paid for. Many commentators and political leaders, including Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, believe that tax increases are needed to restore near-term budget balance and finance longer-term entitlement growth.These claims fail budget arithmetic and economics. Worse, they raise serious questions about the nation's broad fiscal policies and its commitment to economic growth.By historical standards, federal revenues relative to GDP, at 18.8% last year, are high. In the past 25 years, this level was only exceeded during the five years from 1996 to 2000. Still, we stand on the verge of a very large tax increase, one that will occur unless the next Congress and president agree to rescind it. Letting the Bush tax cuts expire will drive the personal income tax burden up by 25% – to its highest point relative to GDP in history.
This would be the largest increase in personal income taxes since World War II. It would be more than twice as large as President Lyndon Johnson's surcharge to finance the war in Vietnam and the war on poverty. It would be more than twice the combined personal income tax increases under Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. The increase would push total federal government revenues relative to GDP to 20%.( Read more... )