How Do Republican Tax Plans Compare To George W. Bush’s?

Bill Scher

Someday, the Republican Party will accept that, if it wants to be taken seriously as a governing party, it needs to have a platform that breaks with the failed policies of President George W. Bush.

Today is not that day.

First, let’s recall some of the key components of what George W. Bush did.

35 percent rate for the top tax bracket: In 2000, Bush campaigned on the (arbitrary) principle that “no one in America should have to pay more than a third of their income to the federal government.” At the time, the top tax rate was 39.6 percent. Once in office, Bush settled for 35 percent.

Gradual elimination of the estate tax: The estate tax, which had been set at 55 percent for estates above $675,000, was reduced each year until it was eliminated in 2010.

15 percent rate for capital gains and dividends: These had been set at 20 percent and 39.6 percent respectively.

While all of these provisions were “supply side” cuts, designed to put more money in the hands of the investors who presumably would create jobs, Bush ended his presidency with the worst jobs record in modern history, losing 462,000 net private sector jobs.

President Obama, in contrast:

● Restored the top tax rate of 39.6 percent
● Raised the rate on capital gains and dividends to 23.8 percent
● Partially restored the estate tax to 40 percent, with an exemption on the first $5.43 million (indexed for inflation).

The tax increases have been followed by job growth. Obama has created more than 12 million net private sector jobs since the end of the Great Recession.

At minimum, the argument that tax cuts for the wealthy always creates jobs has been severely undermined.

And yet, the Republican candidates for president are all trying to cut taxes for the wealthy even more than George W. Bush did. Here’s the scorecard of those candidates with specific proposals:

Sen. Marco Rubio
● Top tax rate: 35 percent
● Estate tax: 0 percent
● Capital gains and dividends: 0 percent

Jeb Bush
● Top tax rate: 28 percent
● Estate tax: 0 percent
● Capital gains and dividends: 20 percent

Donald Trump
● Top tax rate: 25 percent
● Estate tax: 0 percent
● Capital gains and dividends: 20 percent

Rand Paul
● Top tax rate: 14.5 percent (flat tax paid on all income)
● Estate tax: 0 percent
● Capital gains and dividends: 14.5 percent

Every proposal goes farther than George W. Bush. Rubio matches “W” on the top tax rate and estate tax, and goes farther on capital gains. Jeb and Trump cut income taxes for the wealthy more than “W,” though they don’t go as far on capital gains, as both are trying to present themselves as independent of Wall Street. Still, capital gains still gets a cut from today’s rate.

All these Republican candidates should be asked: After the George W. Bush tax cuts to the wealthy failed to create jobs, why are you proposing more tax cuts for the wealthy than he did?

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