Taxes and Growth


I’m embarrassed. I just turned in a piece about conservative economic myths, and a few hours later Paul Waldman reminds me that in the section about how tax cuts always supercharge the economy, I completely forgot to mention this:

Republicans are remarkably consistent in how they talk about the economy, no matter what actually occurs. For example: In 1993 they said, loudly and clearly, that if Bill Clinton’s budget with its top-rate income tax increase passed, the result would be a “job-killing recession.” It did pass, and 23 million jobs were created over the next eight years. In 2001, they said, loudly and clearly, that if we passed George W. Bush’s tax cuts rolling back those increases and cutting other taxes further, the economy would explode with job-creating growth. Over the following eight years, only 3 million jobs were created. The relative success of Clinton and Bush didn’t change the arguments they make about taxes one iota.

To my mind, Democrats don’t shove this in their faces nearly often enough. They could win almost any debate with their opponents by saying, “We had two tests of my Republican friend’s economic theories in the last two decades. They were called the Clinton administration and the Bush administration. And they both proved him wrong.”

Roger that. Within reason, high taxes don’t hinder growth and low taxes don’t stimulate it. We hardly need a pile of sophisticated Greek-letter econometrics papers to tell us this. Just a slightly better memory than I apparently have.

Anyway, keep this in mind now that Obama has said that he wants to pay for his jobs plan with higher taxes on the rich. We’ll hear all the usual wailing from the right about this, but it’s based on nothing. If going back to Clinton-era taxes dooms us to Clinton-era growth, sign me up.

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