Marco Rubio doesn’t want to be judged by one abysmal debate performance, and that’s understandable. Instead, he sells himself to his fellow Republicans as someone able to reach out to people whom the Republican Party may not otherwise reach. As he put it in Iowa, “we’re going to grow the conservative movement. We’re going to reach out to the people struggling paycheck to paycheck, to the students living under the burden of student loans, to the families struggling to raise their children with the right values.”
In light of that ambition, let’s take a look at the impact of Rubio’s proposed tax-reform package, as analyzed in a report issued Thursday by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center in Washington. What does the Rubio plan offer to those people “struggling from paycheck to paycheck,” as he puts it?
Overall, the Rubio plan would raise the national debt by $6.8 trillion in the first decade in which it is implemented. That’s over and above the deficits that are already projected. And how would the benefits of that $6.8 trillion be distributed?
- The bottom 20 percent — those making less than $26,101 in 2015 dollars — would get 1.9 percent of the tax savings.
- The bottom 80 percent — those making less than $148,458 — would see a grand total of 28.4 percent of the total tax savings.
- The top 1 percent — those making more than $846,843 — would collect 40 percent of the tax savings.
- And those in the top 0.1 percent — those with incomes of $5.2 million or above — would collect 22.8 percent of the savings and see their tax burden fall on average by $1.22 million.
I could be wrong, but I’m not sure those living paycheck to paycheck will be all that impressed by that breakdown.
At the risk of pulling a Rubio, let me make two additional points that I’ve made before in such discussions:
1.) The theory behind such tax changes is that by allowing wealth concentration at the top, we encourage investment that will then produce good-paying jobs and rising incomes for everyone else as well. The problem is that we have been running that very experiment for more than 30 years now, and it shows no sign of working. Through a variety of means, including but not limited to changes in the tax code, wealthy Americans control a much higher percentage of national wealth and income than they did in 1980, and contrary to supply-side theory, it has not resulted in the promised changes for their less prosperous fellow citizens. Quite the contrary. The concentration of wealth and income seems to be leading to still more concentration of wealth and income.
2.) To attempt to offset that $6.8 trillion increase in debt caused by his tax plan, Rubio and his fellow Republicans promise to enact major spending cuts. Almost without exception, those spending cuts are targeted for Social Security, Medicare, tuition assistance and other programs that benefit Americans “struggling from paycheck to paycheck.” In short, under the Rubio plan, and under every other tax plan proposed by Republican candidates, spending on programs that provide a basic level of health care and economic security to millions of Americans will be slashed to finance tax cuts for those Americans already doing quite well.
Why? Because they aren’t allowed to think in any other way, I suppose.