Joe Biden made a lot of promises during his truncated run for the White House. One of them, that he wouldn’t be Donald Trump, he’s kept. The others, most of which were grounded philosophically in the idea he was a moderate Democrat – an image the mainstream media cheerfully did its best to confirm, have gone out the window.
On economics, on cultural issues, even on foreign policy he’s not just reverting to the positions taken during the Obama years. No, he’s breaking new ground in so many areas it’s clear he’s trying to be a transformational president rather than the caretaker who brought us all together he suggested time and again that he’d be.
His latest foray into the grand schemes of central planning is his lately-much-discussed infrastructure proposal that’s starting to look like “the green new deal” – which he said repeatedly he wasn’t for – plus a lot of other things.
What he wants to do is bad enough. How he plans to pay for it is even worse. Now, the whole business is carrying with it an estimated $2 trillion price tag, a figure that is ambitiously modest. It’s going to cost a lot more and, as if the Democrats ever need a reason to do it, he’s going to suggest a slew of new taxes and tax hikes to get the money.
According to an analysis of the proposal released Tuesday by Americans for Tax Reform, the starting point for Biden will be an increase in the top corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent alongside the introduction of a 21 percent global minimum tax, an idea beloved by European advocates for enlarging the welfare state to end tax competition between nations.
If that were not bad enough, he’s also calling for a doubling of the capital gains tax to almost 40 percent, imposing a second death tax by ending step up in basis, and raising the top individual income tax rate to 39.6 percent.
What he wants is tax reform in reverse. The right way to do it is to broaden the base and cap or eliminate deductions the way Reagan and Trump did it. In both cases that acted as rocket fuel to a moribund U.S. economy. What Biden is proposing to do will choke off growth and reduce incentives to save and invest – making America more like Japan in the process, a big economy with no appreciable growth.
“Biden’s tax hikes,” ATR said, “will hit Main Street small businesses hard. Small businesses that are organized as pass-through entities (sole proprietors, LLCs, S-corps etc.) pay taxes through the individual code and will be hit by Biden’s plan to raise the top income tax rate to 39.6 percent.”
Moreover, the group said, the increase in the corporate rate – if Biden gets what he is said to want – will cause utility bills to go up. “Utility customers bear the cost of taxes imposed on utility companies. Utility companies pay the corporate income tax. Corporate income tax cuts drive utility rates down, corporate income tax hikes drive utility rates up. When Republicans enacted a corporate tax rate cut, utilities across the country lowered their rates.”
What that means is higher taxes for just about everyone, shattering his promise that those making less than $400,000 a year (even if that’s by household and not individually, a distinction the then-former vice president never made on the campaign trail) “Inclusive of state taxes and the Obamacare 3.8 percent Obamacare tax, Californians would face a capital gains rate of 56.7 percent, New Yorkers would face a capital gains rate of 52.2 percent, New Jerseyans would face a capital gains tax rate of 54.14 percent.”
That makes it clear why Democrats from those and other high-tax states are adamant about repealing the cap the Trump tax reform put on the deductibility of state and local taxes also called “SALT.”
Without the SALT cap, taxpayers in well-run red states end up subsidizing the inefficiency, bloat, and wasteful spending in the poorly run blue states like New York and Illinois. That may be outrageous but it’s also Biden policy – and what the Democrats stand for. Taking money from the people (and states) that have it and oversee it responsibly to subsidize those who manage what they have poorly if at all.
As ATR points out, the proposed Biden’s corporate tax hike would make the U.S. top rate higher than Communist China’s 25 percent, a nation not thought likely to join in the effort to establish a global minimum corporate tax. What the president is proposing is an incentive for American companies to move to China rather than bring their operations home, something the coronavirus pandemic demonstrated “IRL” might be a good idea whose time has come.
The Democrats used to criticize the GOP for supporting tax cuts for any reason. Now the worm has turned. Mr. Biden and the Democratic Party are now for higher taxes for any reason, the health of the U.S. economy be damned. His tax plan is a bad policy – bad for everyone, except maybe China.
Peter Roff is a former U.S. News & World Report contributing editor now affiliated with several Washington, D.C. public policy organizations. He appears regularly as a commentator on the One America News network. Reach him by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @PeterRoff.