Ari Fleischer, the White House Press Secretary for U.S. President George W. Bush, has been trying to make the case on Twitter that the wealthy are taking on more of the tax burden than ever. Here’s a sample of his tweets:@AriFleischer The share of total federal tax paid by bottom 60% dropped from 22.5% in ’79 to 14.4% today. Source: CBO
@AriFleischer The share of total federal tax paid by middle income dropped from 21% in ’79 to 16.5% in ’07.
@AriFleischer The share of total federal taxes paid by top 10% rose from 40.7% in ’79 to 55% in ’07.
@AriFleischer The share of total federal taxes paid by top 1% rose from 15.4% in ’79 to 28.1% in ’07
Of course, the argument is incomplete without knowing how the share of income changed over these years. He uses the CBO as a source, so I’ll use the same data to put his observations in perspective. CBO finds that, between 1979 and 2007, income grew by:
- 275 per cent for the top 1 per cent of households,
- 65 per cent for the next 19 per cent,
- Just under 40 per cent for the next 60 per cent, and
- 18 per cent for the bottom 20 per cent.
The share of income going to higher-income households rose, while the share going to lower-income households fell.
- The top fifth of the population saw a 10-percentage-point increase in their share of after-tax income.
- Most of that growth went to the top 1 per cent of the population.
- All other groups saw their shares decline by 2 to 3 percentage points.
Let’s take the top 1% first. Between 1979 and 2007 income for this group grew by 275 per cent, and the share of income doubled from around 10 per cent to around 20 per cent of total income. However, the share of taxes for this group less than doubled. Thus, a doubling of income resulted in less than a doubling of taxes. Given that income growth outpaced tax growth, it’s hard to see how we can describe this as an increase in the tax burden for the top 1%.