Former Bush Aide: It's The GOP's Fault So Many Americans Don't Pay Taxes

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Former Bush economist Keith Hennessey makes a lucid argument about why actually, Republicans are to blame for the 47% who don’t pay income tax.

Of course the tax day talking points are already dying down…

But the reason so many Americans don’t pay taxes is a credit — that is money back — for having children and having low wages. These credits were established by a Republican-majority congress in the late nineties, and expanded by George W.

Hennessey’s blog has the legislative timeline:

  • In 1997 every “normal” married couple with two children that earned $24,000 or more (in today’s dollars) had to pay at least some income taxes.  The top nonpayer threshold for a family of this size was just under $24,000.  This means there were some four-person families with income just below $24,000 that owed no income taxes.
  • In 1997 a Republican majority Congress and President Clinton enacted the Balanced Budget Act.  At the insistence of Congressional Republicans, this law created a $400-per-child tax credit which began in 1998.  This caused the top nonpayer threshold to jump more than $7,000, to about $31,300.  Millions of families with kids with incomes between $24,000 and $31,300 were “taken off the rolls” because the child tax credit wiped out the small income tax liability they owed.
  • As a result of the 1997 law, in 1999 the child tax credit automatically increased to $500 per child, and the threshold for a married family with two kids grew to $32,800 in today’s dollars.
  • In 2001 President Bush and the Republican Congress enacted a major tax law that increased the child tax credit to $600.  This law also introduced the 10% income tax bracket, which lowered by 5 percentage points the lowest income tax rate.  The combination of these two tax changes raised the top nonpayer threshold to $38,700.  That law further phased in over time increases in the child credit to $1,000 per child.
  • The 2003 tax law enacted by President Bush and the Republican Congress accelerated the $1,000 per child amount to be effective immediately.  This increased the threshold to $47,400 in 2003.  That’s a huge jump.  It was incredibly popular, and it helped create political impetus for the 2003 law which also accelerated rate reductions and cut capital gains and dividend rates.
  • The 2008 stimulus (President Bush + Democratic majority Congress) included stimulus checks of $1,200 per married couple, plus another $300 per child.  This increased the threshold to $56,700.  This was a one-time increase, however, and the non-stimulus threshold for 2008 was about $44,500.
  • In 2009 President Obama and a Democratic majority Congress increased this threshold to $51,400 with the new “making-work-pay” tax credit.  This was enacted on near party-line votes.  That threshold drops slightly to about $50,300 this year.

Keep that in mind for next year’s tax day furor.

Don’t miss: 20 More Tax Facts That Will Make Your Head Explode

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