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FUMARE

Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Sticking it to The Rich

Liberals love the capital gains tax. They see it as a way of sticking it to "the rich" (aka, people who pay capital gains taxes). So when President Bush cut the capital gains tax in 2003, liberal Democrats everywhere declared that this was a "tax cut for the rich."

Donald Luskin of National Review Online, however, explains that the actual effect of the capital gains tax cut was an increase in capital gains revenue. In other words, despite a reduction in the rate of taxation on "the rich," "the rich" ended up paying more overall in capital gains taxes.

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To appreciate this story, we have to go back in time to January 2003, before the tax cut was enacted. Table 3-5 on page 60 in CBO's Budget and Economic Outlook published in 2003 estimated that capital-gains tax liabilities would be $60 billion in 2004 and $65 billion in 2005, for a two-year total of $125 billion.

Now let's move forward a year, to January 2004, after the capital-gains tax cut had been enacted. Table 4-4 on page 82 in CBO's Budget and Economic Outlook of that year shows that the estimates for capital-gains tax liabilities had been lowered to $46 billion in 2004 and $52 billion in 2005, for a two-year total of $98 billion. Compare the original $125 billion total to the new $98 billion total, and we can infer that CBO was forecasting that the tax cut would cost the government $27 billion in revenues.

Those are the estimates. Now let's see how things really turned out. Take a look at Table 4-4 on page 92 of the Budget and Economic Outlook released this week. You'll see that actual liabilities from capital-gains taxes were $71 billion in 2004, and $80 billion in 2005, for a two-year total of $151 billion. So let's do the math one more time: Subtract the originally estimated two-year liability of $125 billion from the actual liability of $151 billion, and you get a $26 billion upside surprise for the government. Yes, instead of costing the government $27 billion in revenues, the tax cuts actually earned the government $26 billion extra.

CBO's estimate of the "cost" of the tax cut was virtually 180 degrees wrong. The Laffer curve lives!

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