Party and Taxes

The argument over the House of Representatives’ just-passed Small Business Tax Cut Act demonstrates the stark contrasts between the Republican and Democratic Parties’ attitudes toward Americans and our money, even as the bill demonstrates a continued Republican failure—it’s a temporary measure, and so it has no economic value whatsoever.

The SBTC allows businesses with up to 500 employees to take a tax deduction equal to 20% of their profits, up to a maximum deduction equal to 50% of their employee wage bill.  This deduction is good for one year, only.

This bill plainly encourages hiring, with the size of the deduction driven by the company’s payroll cost.  Pay raises or intrinsically high wages are themselves unlikely to yield improvements in production or in productivity as efficiently as hiring new employees: a larger work force brings more working hours to a company than simply paying more for an existing number of working hours.

On the other hand, the deduction also can be put to uses other than hiring that are good for our economy.  Improved capital equipment improves the productivity of the existing work force, leading to lower prices to consumers.  Paying down existing debt strengthens the company against the uncertain future our present economy is inflicting on all of us.  Funding active R&D helps the company to stay ahead of evolving consumer demand.  Simply saving the money adds to the company’s strength by building its cash cushion for deployment in crisis or for use in an unexpected opportunity.

What the Republicans say about the bill:

…the one-year tax cut for businesses with fewer than 500 workers would boost job creation.  Only companies that pay wages would be eligible for the deduction of 20% of their domestic business income….

We need to let small-business owners keep more of their hard-earned money so they can start hiring again[.]

It treats every small business equally.  This bill does not pick winners and losers[.]

What the Democrats say about the bill:

…a giveaway to wealthy business owners since it includes no requirement that companies hire workers.

…the tax cut favor[s] richer small businesses, since the tax savings would be larger for firms with higher income.  Democratic aides cited a Joint Committee on Taxation report showing 125,000 business taxpayers with income of more than $1 million would receive $7.35 billion in tax cuts, or $58,500 a tax filer.

…the legislation would cost $46 billion and add to the deficit…. …Democrats said they backed Mr. Obama’s plan for an alternative minimum tax of 30% for people making more than $1 million.

The differences in attitude are clear.  Republicans view the money as our money, and with lower taxes they attempt to leave more of it in our hands and to leave the use of it up to us.  They plainly prefer the money to be used for hiring, but they do not presume to dictate to us how we must spend it.  Republicans trust the judgment of Americans, as effected both by individuals and through our free market, more than they trust the judgment of government.

On the other hand, Democrats have a real problem with Americans becoming rich.  Rather than helping all Americans to do better, as the SBTC could have a chance of doing, they much prefer holding back the wealthy to the level of the rest of us.  Anything that helps them along with the rest of us is anathema to Democrats.  This, of course, caps our own chances of bettering our lives.

The beef about the SBTC favoring the rich is plainly bogus.  It elides the fact that the businesses with the larger profits have the larger payrolls—the larger work forces—and it is the work force bill that is the limiter on the deduction, not the profit.

Democrats consider the “lost” revenue to be the government’s money, not us taxpayers’, and when forced to leave some to us, they want to dictate to us how we must use it: “You must spend our money on hiring.”  Democrats trust their own judgment more than they do that of individual Americans.

Moreover, Democrats insist on raising taxes even further, particularly on disfavored groups, while refusing the obvious alternative: reducing their spending to make up for the reduction in the amount of our money government gets to collect.

As I said at the outset, though, this bill has a serious problem: it’s temporary.  No business is going to do anything of a long-term nature—like permanent hires—on a temporary measure.  To properly impact our economy and have the advertised effect, it needs to be made permanent.

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