When House Budget chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released his tax reform plan recently, liberals pounced on it as an unfair giveaway to the rich. In The Washington Post, E.J. Dionne claimed that Ryan’s tax plan would increase the deficit and “expand benefits for the wealthy,” while Dana Milbank said that the plan would “disproportionately help the rich.” A New York Times editorial said that under the Ryan plan, “the rich pay less in taxes than the unfairly low rates they pay now.”
What hogwash! Personally, I favor cutting taxes on the rich and everyone else, but that’s not the goal of the Ryan plan. The goal is to simplify the tax code and spur economic growth, and you can do that without changing the total revenue raised or who it is raised from. Ryan’s strategy is to eliminate tax deductions and credits while replacing the current six-rate income tax structure with two rates of 10 and 25 percent. The result would be less tax paperwork, more jobs and more investment, which would be good for everybody.
Liberals rail against the idea of cutting the top income tax rate from the current 35 percent, but Ryan’s lower 25 percent rate was not picked out of thin air. IRS data show that taxpayers with the highest incomes currently pay an average of about 25 percent of their income in income taxes. At the same time, middle-income taxpayers pay an average of roughly 10 percent. That is why Ryan’s two-rate tax structure of 10 and 25 percent would collect about the same amount of money from the same income groups as the current code if we got rid of the deductions and credits.
Chris Edwards is the director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute, and editor of www.DownsizingGovernment.org. Before joining Cato, Edwards was a senior economist on the congressional Joint Economic Committee, a manager with PricewaterhouseCoopers, and an economist with the Tax Foundation.
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