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Studies Examine Effect Of Tax Increase On Wealthy


Elsewhere in today's program, we've heard of President Obama's demand that the wealthy pay higher taxes. President Bush's tax cuts, you'll recall, expire at the end of the year, and tax rates for the wealthy would rise several percentage points, to 1990's levels. In fact, everybody's taxes would go up if nothing is done. Republicans counter that raising taxes on the wealthy would cost the economy 700,000 jobs. So let's look at the data they used to support that claim. NPR's John Ydstie reports.

JOHN YDSTIE, BYLINE: Mitt Romney raised the specter of 700,000 lost jobs during his first debate with President Obama in Denver.


YDSTIE: The day after President Obama won the election, House Speaker John Boehner made the same claim.


YDSTIE: While Speaker Boehner cites the Congressional Budget Office in making his case, he neglects to say that a couple of CBO reports last week came to a very different conclusion about the potential job losses from raising taxes on the rich.

MARK HOPKINS: Our view is that CBO is probably a more reliable estimate.

YDSTIE: That's Mark Hopkins, a senior economist at Moody's Analytics. Hopkins points out that the CBO says that in the short term, raising taxes on the wealthy would cost about 200,000. The jobs would be lost quickly in 2013, but the CBO says they'd likely be regained relatively quickly over the next few years.

HOPKINS: They also do a longer-run study, where they take account the positive effect of deficit reduction and savings that that would bring and the pro-growth effects of smaller deficits.

YDSTIE: And while the CBO is a nonpartisan organization, the Ernst and Young study cited by Republicans was financed by opponents of the president's proposal, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Businesses. The Ernst and Young study finds that over the long term, the economy will produce 710,000 fewer jobs as the higher taxes dampen job creation.

That sounds like a lot, but it is a relatively small portion of the over 12 million jobs that the economy is expected to add over the next 10 years. The Ernst and Young study also has a significant shortcoming. It assumes that none of the added tax revenue collected from the wealthy will go to deficit reduction, even though that's the main reason the president is calling for the tax hike. Instead, says Mark Hopkins, it assumes that the added revenue will simply be spent by the government.

HOPKINS: It's an incomplete picture, and I think that the result is that it tends to skew the results a little bit too negatively in terms of the impact in the long run.

YDSTIE: The CBO has made a calculation weighing the negative effects of higher tax rates on the wealthy against the benefits of lower deficits. It concludes that in the long run, the benefits of lower deficits would outweigh the negatives of higher taxes, and the net impact on the nation's long term output and income would probably be positive. John Ydstie, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

John Ydstie has covered the economy, Wall Street, and the Federal Reserve at NPR for nearly three decades. Over the years, NPR has also employed Ydstie's reporting skills to cover major stories like the aftermath of Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina, the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. He was a lead reporter in NPR's coverage of the global financial crisis and the Great Recession, as well as the network's coverage of President Trump's economic policies. Ydstie has also been a guest host on the NPR news programs Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. Ydstie stepped back from full-time reporting in late 2018, but plans to continue to contribute to NPR through part-time assignments and work on special projects.
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