Republicans this week filibustered a Democratic plan to extend a soon-to-expire payroll tax cut, objecting to the fact that the extension was paid for by implementing a small surtax on income in excess of $1 million. To justify their objection to taxing the wealthy, Republicans have revived their false claim that taxing the rich amounts to taxing small business owners and job creators.
Bloomberg’s Al Hunt asked Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) — who represented the GOP on the fiscal supercommittee that failed to craft a deficit reduction package — to explain this viewpoint, considering that more jobs were created under the Clinton administration and its higher taxes on the rich than were created following the Bush tax cuts. Upton admitted that “I don’t know specifically the answer to that question,” nonsensically pointing to Friday’s jobs report instead of trying to argue the premise of Hunt’s question:
HUNT: Why under those pre-Bush tax cut tax rates did the economy do so well in the ‘90s? And why under the Bush tax rates, less for the wealthy, to do so poorly in this decade?
UPTON: Well, a couple things. One, spending went up, Al, the wars. I mean, that’s trillions of dollars. And also there was no change in the entitlements. And we also know –
HUNT: But that shouldn’t hurt the economy. That shouldn’t hurt economic growth.
UPTON: Yeah, but that impacts the debt and the deficit.
HUNT: But I’m asking, why did the economy grow a lot? Why were more jobs created in the previous decade under higher taxes than in this decade under lower taxes?
UPTON: I don’t know specifically the answer to that question. I can – I can maybe merit a guess. But, I mean, in large part is because our job – we lost jobs. I mean, look at the jobs report that came out this last week, three-hundred- some-thousand people actually stopped looking for jobs.
As Center for American Progress Director of Tax and Budget Policy Michael Linden found, “in the past 60 years, job growth has actually been greater in years when the top income tax rate was much higher than it is now.” In fact, “if you ranked each year since 1950 by overall job growth, the top five years would all boast marginal tax rates at 70 percent or higher.” The GOP, as Upton displays, simply has no explanation for these facts.
In a Bloomberg op-ed, wealthy investor Nick Hanauer also blew a hole in the GOP’s line of thinking, writing, “I can start a business based on a great idea, and initially hire dozens or hundreds of people. But if no one can afford to buy what I have to sell, my business will soon fail and all those jobs will evaporate. That’s why I can say with confidence that rich people don’t create jobs.” The GOP would do well to take note.