Created: 2000-03-05
Last Modified: 2000-03-05
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Barlett and Steele, Who Pays the Taxes?

J. Bradford DeLong


Barlett and Steele's Who Pays the Taxes? has been dug out of the basement. Let me start on page 20, with

"[Single parent] Jacques Cotton [paid] 19.8 percent of his income [of $33,500] in taxes. George and Barbara Bush's tax rate, remember, was 18.1 percent."

--As we noted before, this is the only year of the Bush presidency
during which the Bushes paid such a low average tax rate. The cause is
that the denominator includes royalties from _Millie's Book_, which
the Bushes declared as income, gave away, and took a charitable deduction

Our tax system is not as progressive as I would like. But it is progressive.
And Barlett and Steele are trying to mask the fact that it is progressive.


Page 21: "[The Federal Government] encourages people to secure an advanced education to qualify for jobs at companies that are not hiring or are paying wages that make the degree a poor economic investment."

--In fact, the educational wage premium today is higher than at any time
since the end of World War II: getting a college education is an extremely
good economic investment.


Page 21: "[The Federal Government] talks of retraining the newly unemployed to fill high-tech jobs that don't exist."

--Stagnant real wages are--according to Janet Yellen--the result not of
the fact that new jobs are by and large bad, low-wage, low-skill jobs, but
the result of declining real wages at old, already-existing jobs.


Page 23: "Squeezing the American Family--Part One"

--No mention of the fact that the Earned Income Tax Credit more than
makes up for the decline in the relative value of personal exemptions
for a typical family making less than median income.


Page 25: "If you are a middle-income [California] family, you may pay nearly as much in real estate taxes as a wealthy family whose home has a market value ten to fifteen times what yours is worth."

--No mention of the fact that this is a result of the overwhelmingly-
popular Proposition 13: as long as you don't sell your house, your
property taxes do not rise as your house's value appreciates. Proposition
13 was not the result (as Barlett and Steele imply) of nasty politicians
in smoke filled rooms eager to give the rich a break while the rest of us
aren't watching, but of a *voter* *referendum*.


Pages 30-4: "Every so often Congress... extends a benefit reserved for the privileged to everyone. It never lasts. A case in point: retirement savings plans.... When the Tax Reform Act of 1986 was finally signed into law, the tax-deductible IRA disappeared for millions of workers."

--Barlett and Steele don't seem to understand that the tax deductible IRA
as it existed between 1981 and 1986 was a *regressive* piece of the
tax code.


But once again, enough. Barlett and Steele are *unreliable.* They don't *understand* what they are talking about.


Brad DeLong

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Professor of Economics J. Bradford DeLong, 601 Evans Hall, #3880
University of California at Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720-3880
(510) 643-4027 phone (510) 642-6615 fax

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