Economics Online Tutor
|Taxing the 'Job Creators':
What Is the Truth?
Raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, or on corporate America. This
is a very important subject today. With elections coming up very soon,
candidates everywhere are campaigning on the subject. "If you raise
taxes on job creators, it will destroy the economy". At the same time, they
demonize the opposition and anybody who dares suggest raising taxes on
the richest 1%, or 10%, or whatever. Even raising revenue for the
government by closing tax loopholes for the wealthiest is considered
heresy - it is "raising taxes on job creators". Candidates for president are
saying this. Candidates for Congress are saying this. Many have taken a
pledge not to raise taxes. Never mind that such a pledge is
unconstitutional. What are the merits of such a claim? Would raising
taxes on the rich cost jobs, because that is what happens when you tax
The first question to ask is this: are the rich really job creators? For the
sake of argument, let's just assume for now that they are. So will raising
taxes on these job creators really kill jobs?
That is what happens for any given tax rate. What happens when the tax rate changes, such as with
proposals being put forth in Congress?
If you increase the tax rates on these job creators, then the tax that they pay on everything EXCEPT
jobs will go up. They still won't have to pay taxes on the money that they spend for employee
compensation. A tax increase will give them an incentive to invest in the business, because it is the
cost of NOT investing that goes up, not the cost of investing. It won't give them an incentive NOT to
invest in job creation. This will not be an incentive for killing jobs - this will be an incentive for creating
jobs - take money out of the column that is taxable, put it in the column that is not taxable. Simple
mathematics. Not political rhetoric, but mathematics.
If you decrease the tax rates on these job creators, then there will be no added incentive to create
jobs. The taxes paid on employee benefits for these job creators is zero either way. What this does is
decrease the taxes that they have to pay on the money that they aren't using to create jobs anyway.
The cost of paying for jobs does not go up, but the cost of NOT creating jobs goes down. It is an
incentive for them to keep more profits that are taxable. It is in no way an incentive for them to spend
the money on job creation. Again, mathematics, not rhetoric.
If you don't understand the previous four paragraphs, please re-read them, because this is important to our
economy today. It explains to a large degree how we have been spending so much time struggling
through a "jobless recovery" even as large corporations are reporting record cash levels. These
corporations already have more cash than they are investing back into their businesses. Interest rates
for them to finance job creation through borrowing are at historical lows, near zero. Yet they aren't
investing this money on jobs. With this amount of cash and job-creating ability already, why do we have
so many unemployed people? The political rhetoric is that if they get even more money, on top of their
record cash reserves, in the form of lower taxes, they will create jobs, and that the millions of
unemployed Americans are all lazy anyway. Or that somehow, these workers aren't qualified to take
back the jobs that they were laid off from.
That is the political rhetoric. The reality is something different entirely. The reality is that: (1) raising
taxes on the rich doesn't kill jobs, and lowering taxes on the rich doesn't create jobs, as explained above;
and (2) the rich are not the real job creators, as explained below.
For the above explanation about taxes, I left in the assumption that the rich are the ones that create
jobs, so that the focus can be on the effects of the tax rates for the richest Americans. But the truth is
that consumers are the ones that create jobs. Tax rates for the rich have nothing to do with it. If a
business of any size sees a way to increase before-tax profits, it would be to their advantage to do so.
They want to keep their tax bills at a minimum, of course, but raising before-tax profits will also raise
after-tax profits. Very little money for rich individuals, and ABSOLUTELY NONE for corporations, will be
caught up in the margin where the additional before-tax profits will be lower than the additional taxes.
If any business decision-makers worry about the taxes more than the actual effects on the bottom line,
then they aren't making wise decisions. Increasing before-tax profits for all practical purposes is the
same thing as increasing after-tax profits.
If a business or a potential business sees a demand for their products and/or services that will
generate a profit, they will do what they can to get that profit. If it means hiring more workers in order
to meet that demand, and the cost of additional workers is lower than the addition to potential profits,
then they will hire more workers. The tax rate on the business has nothing to do with it. What is
needed to make it all happen is consumer demand. The people who will do the buying in the economy
are the ones who need the buying power to make it all happen. It is a consumer-driven economy.
More income for the middle class, for the working poor and even for the non-workers will create
demand. Consumer income and consumer confidence in the economy create jobs.
I mentioned consumer confidence. What about business confidence? Business confidence starts with
consumer demand. If the masses in the population aren't buying, then there won't be any business
confidence. Businesses prefer stable government policies for sure, but most of them won't tell you
that stable higher taxes will create more business confidence, in terms of creating jobs, than stable
lower taxes. But that is the truth. Eliminating loopholes will create more stability than anything,
because it levels the playing field. Businesses will quit scrambling around, paying expensive tax
lawyers and accountants, looking for loopholes if the loopholes no longer exist.
So, you don't want to raise taxes on 'job creators'? Then quit demanding that the poor pay more taxes.
Quit backing policies that have been destroying the middle class for the past 30 years. Prior to 1981,
incomes for all classes rose together as the economy grew. The upper classes got more than the
lower classes, but all gained at equivalent rates. Since then, the top 10% have received more than the
rest. Even the gains of the top 10% have paled in comparisons to the gains of the top 1%. Those are
economic facts that are readily available to anybody who cares to fact-check any of this. All of this is
the result of changes in economic policies in Washington. These policies have created a situation
where income that would have been distributed evenly based on policies that were in effect
throughout the 1950s all the way through 1980 is now all going directly to the top. Wealth has been
redistributed. But not from rich to poor, like the political rhetoric says. Wealth never gets
redistributed from rich to poor in the United States today. It always gets redistributed from poor to
rich. Another economic fact that you can verify if you choose to.
How does this affect the overall economy? What I am talking about has nothing to do with a sense of
"fairness" or "equality" or anything like that. I am talking about the overall economy. Here is how the
economy works in a nutshell:
The economy is comprised of people who buy, and people who sell. When enough goods and
services get bought and sold, then the economy thrives. When enough goods and services don't get
bought and sold, then the economy goes into a recession. The basic economy is the buyer and seller
relationship. When things are going well, then this relationship is going well. When things are not
going well, then this relationship is not going well. It's as simple as that. There are other things that
influence the economy in very big ways. These are all familiar actors in the economy: the government,
the banks, the import/export market, the Federal Reserve, even the weather. These are all things that
influence the economy for better or worse. But their influence, good or bad, only matters to the extent
that they affect the buyer / seller relationship. When you have 30 years of policies that are designed to
benefit only one side of this relationship, then the economy gets out of whack. You can't have a full
recovery from a deep recession without restoring the balance between buyer and seller. Free market
economics, capitalism, is based on free transactions in which both sides to every transaction are
equal. Continuously giving more to one side at the expense of the other side does not promote free
markets, it destroys them. I don't care what the rhetoric says. Free markets need both sides of all
transactions to have economic power. But, you may say, the rich spend their money just like the poor
and middle class do. Wrong! If they did, they would all be paying the maximum tax rate on all of their
income. But they don't even come close. Instead of spending their money on consumer goods that
everybody else does, they put much of it in tax shelters. Tax shelters that mostly do not create jobs.
The poor and middle-class, on the other hand, spend most of their incomes on goods and services that
the economy produces. In economics terms, this is called the marginal propensity to consume. The
poor have a very high one, the rich have a very low one.
Which brings up another hot issue that is driven by rhetoric: why raise taxes on the rich when they
already pay most of the taxes? Well, they pay most of the income taxes, but not most of the other
taxes. The other taxes are mostly regressive. The income tax used to be very progressive to balance
this out. But policies of the past 30 years have taken away much of the balance. The rich end up
paying more income taxes because the policies have given them a much larger share of the income,
and put more people under the taxable limit for income. Higher taxes on the rich didn't create a
situation where the rich pay more income taxes - lower taxes on the rich did. The share of total taxes
paid by the rich may have gone up due to the rich having a much higher share of the total income, but
the share of their income that is taken away in taxes has gone way down, to historically low levels.
Policies in Washington have created this situation. Taking away money from those who earn it in order
to give it to those who don't earn it? That has already been done. The working class has had their
wealth confiscated and given to the very rich. The wages paid to workers used to go up when their
productivity went up. The economy thrived when that happened. But for the past 30 years, workers'
wages have not gone up while the workers' productivity has skyrocketed. This is not some liberal rhetoric.
This is not some liberal theory. This is economic fact.
I have gathered together the "big picture" numbers for the past 100 years.
Click here to see them. These numbers have not been hand-picked, or
manipulated in any way, in order to agree with any particular position.
They are the real numbers of the performance and policies of the United
States economy. Go ahead and study them. 100 years of data is enough to
show any trends, any results of any policies. These numbers validate the
points that I have made here. I have not been writing from a
predetermined point of view. I came to my own conclusions only AFTER
examining all of the available information. The reason why I didn't go back
more than 100 years is that the data prior to that time is not available.
What is available for the earlier years is information about recessions and
depressions. They occurred much more often, were felt more deeply
throughout the economy, and lasted much longer than at any time
between the Great Depression and now, when the wealth gap has grown
to the largest that it has been since the 1920s, just prior to the Great
Depression. This increase in the wealth gap should concern us all. It
could very well be a leading indicator for an economic depression.
The question now should be: what is more important to you, making
important decisions based on the truth, or ignoring certain truths so that
you can stick to a predisposed political position? Myself, I choose the
truth because I care about the future of my country.
Think of the process of how this all works. Instead of relying on some
vague theory, or political rhetoric, think through the actual process. For
any given tax rate, people can use their BEFORE-TAX income on
something that can be written off on their tax return, thus reducing their
taxes, or they can use this income on something that WON'T reduce their
taxes. In that case, they will be paying taxes at the marginal rate on that
income. If they hire workers, and therefore "create jobs", then the
benefits that they pay out to workers becomes a business expense. They
won't pay taxes on this money because it is deducted from revenue
before computing taxable income. If they decide not to hire workers, and
keep the money as profits, then they WILL have to pay taxes on this
money. Unless they find somewhere else to invest the money, an
investment in something that does NOT create jobs, they will have to pay
taxes on this money. But if they hire workers with the money, then they
won't have to pay taxes on it. That is how the tax code works. Hire
workers, pay fewer taxes. Don't hire workers, and either pay more taxes
or invest in something other than job creation. To repeat: for any given tax
rate, hire workers, pay fewer taxes. Don't hire workers, and either pay more
taxes or invest in something that doesn't create jobs.
By Jerry Wyant for Economics Online Tutor