5. And (surprise!) since Reagan, only the wealthy have gained significant income.
The Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute and similar conservative marketing organizations tell us relentlessly that lower tax rates will make us all better off.
“When tax rates are reduced, the economy’s growth rate improves and living standards increase,” according to Daniel J. Mitchell, an economist at Heritage until he joined Cato. He says that supply-side economics is “the simple notion that lower tax rates will boost work, saving, investment and entrepreneurship.”
When Reagan was elected president, the top marginal tax rate (the tax rate paid on the last dollar of income earned) was 70 percent. He cut it to 50 percent and then 28 percent starting in 1987. It was raised by George H.W. Bush and Clinton, and then cut by George W. Bush. The top rate is now 35 percent.
Since 1980, when Reagan won the presidency promising prosperity through tax cuts, the average income of the vast majority—the bottom 90 percent of Americans—has increased a meager $303, or 1 percent. Put another way, for each dollar people in the vast majority made in 1980, in 2008 their income was up to $1.01.
Those at the top did better. The top 1 percent’s average income more than doubled to $1.1 million, according to an analysis of tax data by economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez. The really rich, the top one-tenth of 1 percent, each enjoyed almost $4 in 2008 for each dollar in 1980.
The top 300,000 Americans now enjoy almost as much income as the bottom 150 million, the data show.
6. When it comes to corporations, the story is much the same—less taxes.
Corporate profits in 2008, the latest year for which data are available, were $1,830 billion, up almost 12 percent from $1,638.7 billion in 2000. Yet, even though corporate tax rates have not been cut, corporate income-tax revenues fell to $230 billion from $249 billion—an 8 percent decline, thanks to a number of loopholes. The official 2010 profit numbers are not added up and released by the government, but the amount paid in corporate taxes is: In 2010 they fell further, to $191 billion—a decline of more than 23 percent compared with 2000.