Obama Advisers Describe Tax Plans

Obama economic advisers Jason Furman and Austan Goolsbee describe Obama’s tax policies in The Wall Street Journal, beginning with warnings that, “Even as Barack Obama proposes fiscally responsible tax reform to strengthen our economy and restore the balance that has been lost in recent years, we hear the familiar protests and distortions from the guardians of the broken status quo.” Such distortions are coming directly from the McCain campaign, as exposed here and here. Despite claims being spread on the right that Obama would institute confiscatory tax rates, taxes under Obama would be less than under Ronald Reagan with those earning under $250,000 per year not seeing an increase. They write:

Sen. Obama believes a focus on the middle class is appropriate in the wake of the first economic expansion on record where the typical family’s income fell by almost $1,000. The Obama plan would cut taxes for 95% of workers and their families with a tax cut of $500 for workers or $1,000 for working couples. In addition, Sen. Obama is proposing tax cuts for low- and middle-income seniors, homeowners, the uninsured, and families sending a child to college or looking to save and accumulate wealth.

The Obama plan would dramatically simplify taxes by consolidating existing tax credits, eliminating the need for millions of senior citizens to file tax forms, and enabling as many as 40 million middle-class filers to do their own taxes in less than five minutes and not have to hire an accountant.

Sen. Obama also recognizes that small businesses are the engine of job growth in the economy. That is why he is proposing additional tax cuts, including a tax credit for small businesses that provide health care, and the elimination of capital gains taxes for small businesses and start-ups. The vast majority of small businesses would face lower taxes under the Obama plan than under the McCain plan. In addition, Sen. Obama supports reforming corporate taxes in a manner that would help create jobs in America and simplify the tax code by eliminating distortions and special preferences.

Sen. Obama believes that responsible candidates must put forward specific ideas of how they would pay for their proposals. That is why he would repeal a portion of the tax cuts passed in the last eight years for families making over $250,000. But to be clear: He would leave their tax rates at or below where they were in the 1990s.

– The top two income-tax brackets would return to their 1990s levels of 36% and 39.6% (including the exemption and deduction phase-outs). All other brackets would remain as they are today.

– The top capital-gains rate for families making more than $250,000 would return to 20% — the lowest rate that existed in the 1990s and the rate President Bush proposed in his 2001 tax cut. A 20% rate is almost a third lower than the rate President Reagan set in 1986.

– The tax rate on dividends would also be 20% for families making more than $250,000, rather than returning to the ordinary income rate. This rate would be 39% lower than the rate President Bush proposed in his 2001 tax cut and would be lower than all but five of the last 92 years we have been taxing dividends.

– The estate tax would be effectively repealed for 99.7% of estates, and retained at a 45% rate for estates valued at over $7 million per couple. This would cut the number of estates covered by the tax by 84% relative to 2000.

Overall, in an Obama administration, the top 1% of households — people with an average income of $1.6 million per year — would see their average federal income and payroll tax rate increase from 21% today to 24%, less than the 25% these households would have paid under the tax laws of the late 1990s.

There is considerable more information in their article, including futher comparisons with McCain’s tax policies. Another comparison can be seen in the report from the Tax Policy Institute which I previously discussed here.

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