Thursday, February 21, 2019

Who Pays for the Green New Deal (GND)? Income Tax Rates and Income Inequality Rise with GND

Democrats, including presidential candidates Senators Warren, Harris, and Booker, have endorsed the Green New Deal (GND), a federal spending program to address income inequality, and climate change with an estimated cost between $2 trillion and $5.7 trillion. New York Democrat Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) seeks to include basic income programs, and universal health care programs into GND, thus pushing the cost of the program to the higher limits.

Rep. AOC also advocates a 70% tax on high income earners to pay for this diverse program. She argues, incorrectly, that this would return tax brackets to the pre-Reagan tax cuts. According to the Tax Foundation, the latest income tax data show that:

 the top 50% of income earners paid 97.3% of income taxes with the bottom half of income earners paying only 2.7% of income tax collections.
 Furthermore, the top 1% of income earners paid an individual income tax rate of 27.1%, which was more than seven times higher than that of the bottom 50% of earners that had an average individual income tax rate of 3.5%.

Thus, a tax to support the GND that differentially supports low, and middle-income taxpayers would further distort a tax system that already punishes educational achievement, innovation, and entrepreneurship which lead to income growth.

The GND list includes goals like “eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from the manufacturing, agricultural and other industries” and “meeting 100% of national power demand through renewable sources by 2030.” Contrary to its advocates’ rhetoric, an increase in income tax rates on high incomes will increase, not reduce income inequality. In 1980, the top 10% of income earners paid 49.3% of total individual income tax collections, while the bottom 50% paid 7.1% of collections. More than three decades later, the share of income taxes paid by the top 10% soared to 70.9%, as the bottom half’s share sank to 2.8%. What happened to income inequality during that time span? As measured by the Gini coefficient, income inequality climbed by 12%.

Thus, empirical economic data indicate that the proposed GND will increase taxes, discourage educational attainment, and increase income inequality.

Ernie Goss

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