Last month, a handful of prominent Republican lawmakers tried to advance the false claim that the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 — which are scheduled to expire at the end of the year — actually increased government revenue. “There’s no evidence whatsoever that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue. They increased revenue, because of the vibrancy of these tax cuts in the economy,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Republicans need to invent this fantasy world in order to justify complaining about the federal deficit while simultaneously advocating an extension of tax cuts that would blow an $830 billion hole in the budget, all for the benefit of the richest two percent of Americans. Today, Bush White House adviser and GOP operative Karl Rove appeared on Fox News, where he not only claimed that the Bush tax cuts increased revenue, but that the cuts resulted in the highest amount of government revenue ever collected:
The Bush tax cuts led to a couple of things. They led to first of all, the largest amount of revenue being received by the government. They helped encourage economic growth and grew tax revenues…At the top, half of small businesses are going to pay higher taxes because they file at the personal rate, and they’re going to get hit.
Any way you slice it, Rove’s claim is wildly inaccurate. In terms of total dollars, in 2001 the government collected about $1 trillion in income tax receipts, according to historical tables compiled by the Office of Management and Budget. This fell below one trillion for the next five years, not climbing above that level again until 2006.
But maybe Rove meant taxes collected as a percentage of GDP, since that would make more sense as an accurate measurement? Well, in 2000, the government collected 10 percent of GDP in personal income taxes, a percentage that has never again been reached. Either way Rove wants to look at the data, his claim just doesn’t add up.
Factcheck.org has called the assertion that the Bush tax cuts increased revenue “highly misleading.” In all, the Bush tax cuts will cause $3.4 trillion in deficits between 2009 and 2019. Debt-service costs alone amount to “$1.7 trillion over the 2009–2019 period” and more than $330 billion in the 2019 fiscal year.
Rove also made the astoundingly inaccurate claim that 50 percent of small businesses will be affected if the Bush tax cuts for the rich expire. However, fewer than two percent of small businesses file in either of the top two income tax brackets. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, only three percent of filers with any business income at all will be affected if the Bush tax cuts for the rich expire.