Comparing Income Taxes: Clinton vs. Bush

by: Mark J. Perry

Despite all of the political rhetoric about "tax cuts for the rich" and the "middle class squeeze," a recent analysis by the Tax Foundation shows that federal income taxes have fallen for groups at all income levels as a result of the Bush tax cuts, compared to the 1999 tax rates under Clinton (see chart above). And in fact, the group in the chart above that experienced the largest percentage decrease in taxes were the married taxpayers with $50,000 of household income (clearly middle class by most definitions) - they paid 21% less in taxes under the Bush tax rates compared to the Clinton rates. By contrast, "rich" single taxpayers with income of $125,000 paid only 10% less in taxes. In other words, some middle-class taxpayers received twice the tax cut on a percentage basis as some of "the rich." .....So much for the claim that "the Bush Administration and Congressional policies are failing middle-class Americans."
Both Hillbamas want to extend the tax cuts for the middle-class but not for "the wealthy."

Here's my challenge to Hillbama: Both of them are clearly part of "the wealthy," and pay federal income taxes at the highest current marginal income tax rate of 35%. Obama's income in 2007 was about $1 million, and just one or two speeches by Bill Clinton at $200,000 puts the Clinton household income into the top tax bracket (in 2006, Clinton earned $10 million in speaking fees).

If they want to end the tax cuts for "the wealthy," they don't have to wait for the Bush tax cuts to expire at the end of 2010, they can voluntarily pay taxes right now at the old 1999 rates under Clinton. In other words, if the highest marginal rate of 35% is too low for the wealthy Hillbamas, they could make a strong, personal statement right now by voluntarily paying their 2007 taxes at the old highest marginal rate of 39.6%. In fact, Hillbama, Warren Buffet and anybody else opposed to the Bush tax cuts, can voluntarily pay taxes this year under
the 1999 Clinton tax rates, instead of the current tax rates (see chart below, click to enlarge). If higher taxes on the wealthy in the future are good, shouldn't they also be good right now?

Here's an idea: Why doesn't TurboTax introduce tax preparation software based on previous years' higher marginal tax rates, to easily allow people like Hillbama, Warren Buffet and other anti-Bush tax cut advocates to pay at their preferred higher rates, instead of the new lower rates. Alternatively, The Tax Foundation has historical income tax rates back to 1913 here. If 39.6% from 1999 is too low, Buffet et al. could file under the 1960s highest marginal tax rate of 91%, the 1970 tax rate of 70%, or the 1980s tax rate of 50%.