Joe Biden on Tax Reform
Former Vice President; previously Democratic Senator (DE)
BIDEN: About $1.3 trillion of the $2 trillion in his cuts went to the top one-tenth of 1%. That's what I'm talking about eliminating, not all the tax cuts. You have 91 out of the Fortune 500 companies not paying a single solitary penny. If you raise the corporate tax back to 28%, which is a fair tax, you'd raise one trillion, three hundred billion dollars. If you made sure that people making over $400 grand paid what they did [under] Bush, 39.6%, you would raise another $92 billion.
TRUMP: Our corporate taxes were the highest in the world, and now they're among the lower taxes. They're not the lowest, but they're among the lowest. That means jobs. If we get in, we're going to do the middle income tax package. If [Biden] comes along and raises rates, all those companies that are coming in, they will leave the U.S. so fast your head will spin. We can't let that happen.
[OnTheIssues fact-check: Is that true? No]: Kiplinger.com analysis (9/18/20) of Biden's tax plan: He wants to raise the highest personal income rate back up to 39.6% (it was lowered to 37% by the 2017 tax reform law), cap itemized deductions for wealthier Americans, limit "like-kind exchanges" by real estate investors, and phase-out the 20% deduction for qualified business income for upper-income taxpayers. He won't raise taxes for anyone making less than $400,000, though.
FactCheck: "The Biden tax plan is highly progressive, increasing taxes for the top 1 percent of earners by 13 to 18 percent of after-tax income, while indirectly increasing taxes for most other groups by 0.2 to 0.6 percent," wrote the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, an independent bipartisan nonprofit, in a recent report.
BIDEN: It's smart to tax businesses that are in fact are making excessive amounts of money and paying no taxes.
Q: Will you raise taxes on small businesses?
BIDEN: No. You have 90% of the businesses--mom and pop businesses--that employ less than 50 people. There will be no raising taxes on them. We have to provide them with the ability to reopen. We have to provide more help for them, not less help.
Q: Will you raise income taxes?
BIDEN: I will raise taxes for anybody making over $400,000. It's about time they start paying a fair share of the economic responsibility we have. The very wealthy should pay fair share, corporations should pay a fair share. The fact is, there are corporations making close to a trillion dollars that pay no tax at all. I'm not punishing anybody. This is about everybody paying their fair share.
Q: No new taxes $400,000 and down?
BIDEN: No new taxes, there would be no need.
BIDEN: The middle class will pay less, and people making a million dollars or more will begin to contribute slightly more. Let me give you one concrete example: the continuation of the Bush tax cuts. We're arguing that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy should be allowed to expire. $800 billion of that goes to people making a minimum of a million dollars. They're patriotic Americans; they're not asking for this continued tax cut; they're not suggesting it; but [the Republicans] are insisting on it. 120,000 families, by continuing that tax cut, will get an additional $500 billion in tax relief in the next 10 years, and their income is an average of $8 million. We want to extend permanently the middle-class tax cut. These guys won't allow us to. They're holding hostage the middle-class tax cut to the super wealthy.
RYAN: Our entire premise of these tax reform plans is to grow the economy and create jobs.
BIDEN: You think these guys are going to go out there and cut those loopholes? The biggest loophole they take advantage of is the carried interest loophole and capital gains loophole. They exempt that. The only way you can find $5 trillion in loopholes is cut the mortgage deduction for middle-class people, cut the health care deduction for middle-class people, take away their ability to get a tax break to send their kids to college. That's why they [won't provide specifics].
Q: Is he wrong about that?
RYAN: He is wrong about that. You can cut tax rates by 20% and still preserve these important preferences for middle-class taxpayers.
BIDEN: Not mathematically possible.
RYAN: It is mathematically possible. It's been done before.
BIDEN: It has never been done before.
During the very first meeting, Biden made clear that Obama would only sign on to a deal that included revenue increases. Cantor did not object. Biden repeated publicly the stipulation that "revenues are gonna have to be in the deal," while Cantor publicly said the opposite: "Tax increases are not going to be something we're going to support in the House."
PALIN: When you talk about Barack’s plan to tax increase affecting only those making $250,000 a year or more, you’re forgetting millions of small businesses that are going to fit into that category. So they’re going to be the ones paying higher taxes thus resulting in fewer jobs being created and less productivity. Patriotic is saying, government, you’re not always the solution. In fact, too often you’re the problem so, government, lessen the tax burden and get out of the way and let the private sector and our families grow.
Actually, the most affluent 1% of taxpayers will get about a $67 billion tax break this year, compared with what they would have paid without the Bush tax cuts. But the total is getting bigger each year as incomes grow. The estimated breaks for the top 1% will reach $76 billion in 2008 and $95 billion in 2010.
Imagine if we eliminate the tax cut just for those people in the top 1%. The average income in that group is $1,485,000 a year. You’ve got to make $435,000 minimum to get into that bracket. You know what their tax cuts are gonna cost over the next 10 years? $600 billion.
Imagine you put that tax cut into homeland security and healthcare. For $26 billion, we could provide healthcare for every one of the 9 million uninsured children in the US. For $14 billion we could fund No-Child-Left-Behind. For $10 billion we could implement every one of the 9/11 Commission recommendations.
Biden was correct only to the extent that the resolution Obama supported would not by itself have increased taxes; it was a vote on a budget resolution that set revenue and spending targets. But he’s wrong to say McCain voted the same way. The Obama campaign attempted to justify Biden’s remark by pointing to a different vote, on a Senate amendment, that took place March 13. That vote would have preserved some of Bush’s tax cuts for lower-income people. The vote on the budget resolution in question, however, came in the wee hours of March 14 and was a mostly party-line tally, 51-44, with Obama in favor and McCain not voting.
FactCheck by Rocky Mengle in Kiplinger newsletter, Feb. 3, 2021: He wants to raise the highest personal income rate back up to 39.6% (it was lowered to 37% by the 2017 tax reform law), cap itemized deductions for wealthier Americans, limit "like-kind exchanges" by real estate investors, and phase-out the 20% deduction for qualified business income for upper-income taxpayers. He won't raise taxes for anyone making less than $400,000, though. As a candidate, Biden's tax policy proposals also included eliminating the step-up in basis for inherited capital assets, which means more taxes on wealth passed to heirs, and ending favorable tax rates on capital gains for anyone making over $1 million. Also look for the federal estate tax exemption to be increased back to pre-tax reform levels.
SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Sen. SANDERS: The wealthiest people in the country have not had it so good since the 1920s. Their incomes are soaring, while at the same time the middle class is shrinking, and we have by far the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country. The time is now to begin changing our national priorities and moving this country in a different direction.
This amendment restores the top income tax bracket for households earning more than $1 million a year, it raises $32.5 billion over 3 years, and invests that in our kids, including $10 billion for special education.
OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO:Sen. KYL: The problem is we are spending the same dollar 3 or 4 times, it appears. The Sanders amendment is paid for by raising taxes another $32.5 billion, ostensibly from the rich; that is to say, by raising taxes on people who make over $1 million a year. Here is the problem with that. The budget on the floor already assumes the expiration of the current tax rates; that is to say, the rates on the highest level go from 35% to 39.6%, and that money is spent. If you took all the top-rate income, you would come up with $25 billion a year, not even enough to meet what is here, and that money has already been spent. The reality is somewhere or other, somehow, more taxes would have to be raised. I don't think the American people want to do that, particularly in the current environment.
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment rejected, 43-55
SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Sen. GRASSLEY: The Senate voted to make sure that middle-class America didn't pay the AMT, and we did it without an offset, by a vote of [about 95%]. So here we are again with an opportunity to say to middle-class America that we are not going to tax the people who were not supposed to be hit by the AMT. This amendment gives us an opportunity to get over that hurdle that is in this budget resolution that, under pay-go, you would have to have an offset for the AMT. Unless my amendment is adopted, the 25 million families who will be hit by the AMT increase will get a tax increase of over $2,000 apiece. They deserve a guarantee of relief.OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO: Sen. CONRAD: If you want to blow a hole in the budget as big as all outdoors, here is your opportunity--a trillion dollars not paid for, a trillion dollars that we are going to go out and borrow from the Chinese and Japanese. That makes absolutely no sense. I urge my colleagues to vote no.LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment rejected, 47-51
SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES:Sen. KYL: This amendment is a reprise of what we did last year in offering to reform the estate tax, sometimes referred to as the death tax. Now, in the budget itself, there is a provision to allow the death tax to be changed from the current law to a top rate of 45% and an exempted amount of $3.5 million, and there are some other features. My amendment would reduce that top rate to no higher than 35% so that if you had more than one rate, at least the top rate could not exceed 35%, and both of the two spouses would have a $5 million exempted amount before the estate tax would kick in. Now, the reason for my amendment is: current law [is] getting up to a high rate of 55% and an exempted amount of either $2 million or $1 million, probably $1 million--a continued unfair burden on primarily America's small businesses and farms.
OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO:Sen. CONRAD: This amendment would virtually eliminate the estate tax. Let me say why. Let me first say there is no death tax in the country. Of course, if you poll people and you ask them: Do you want to eliminate the death tax? they will say sure. But you are not going to pay any tax when you die unless you have $2 million. There is no death tax in America. There is a tax on estates. At today's level of $2 million, that affects only 0.5% of estates. When the exemption reaches $3.5 million in 2009, 0.2% of estates will be taxed. If the amendment is agreed to, we would be borrowing money in the name of 99.8% of the American people, borrowing primarily from China & Japan, to give it to the Warren Buffets, the Paris Hiltons, & others of enormous wealth in this country.
LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Amendment rejected, 50-50
Proponents recommend voting YES because:
This amendment repeals the AMT. Except for the telephone tax, the alternative minimum tax is the phoniest tax we have ever passed. The AMT, in 1969, was meant to hit 155 taxpayers who used legal means to avoid taxation, under the theory that everybody ought to pay some income tax.
This very year, more than 2,000 people who are very wealthy are not paying any income tax or alternative minimum income tax. So it is not even working and hitting the people it is supposed to hit. Right now, this year, 2007, the year we are in, there are 23 million families that are going to be hit by this tax. It is a phony revenue machine, over 5 years, $467 billion dollars. We are going to have to have a point of order this year to keep these 23 million taxpayers from paying this tax. We might as well do away with it right now, once and for all, and be honest about it.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
The reality of the budget resolution is this may not have anything to do with eliminating the alternative minimum tax. The one thing it will do is reduce the revenue of the Government over the next 5 years by $533 billion, plunging us right back into deficit. Look, we can deal with the AMT. We have dealt with it in the underlying budget resolution for the next 2 years. There will be no increase in the number of people affected by the AMT for the next 2 years under the budget resolution, and that is paid for. Unfortunately, this amendment is not paid for. It would plunge us back into deficit. I urge my colleagues to vote no.
Proponents recommend voting YES because:
It is disappointing to many family businesses and farm owners to set the death tax rate at what I believe is a confiscatory 45% and set the exemption at only $3.5 million, which most of us believe is too low. This leaves more than 22,000 families subject to the estate tax each year.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
You can extend all the tax breaks that have been described in this amendment if you pay for them. The problem with the amendment is that over $70 billion is not paid for. It goes on the deficit, which will drive the budget right out of balance. We will be going right back into the deficit ditch. Let us resist this amendment. People could support it if it was paid for, but it is not. However well intended the amendment is, it spends $72.5 billion with no offset. This amendment blows the budget. This amendment takes us from a balance in 2012 right back into deficit. My colleagues can extend those tax cuts if they pay for them, if they offset them. This amendment does not pay for them; it does not offset them; it takes us back into deficit. It ought to be defeated.
Proponents recommend voting YES because:
The permanent solution to the death tax challenge that we have today is a compromise. It is a compromise that prevents the death rate from escalating to 55% and the exclusion dropping to $1 million in 2011. It also includes a minimum wage increase, 40% over the next 3 years. Voting YES is a vote for that permanent death tax relief. Voting YES is for that extension of tax relief. Voting YES is for that 40% minimum wage increase. This gives us the opportunity to address an issue that will affect the typical American family, farmers, & small business owners.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
Family businesses and family farms should not be broken up to pay taxes. With the booming economy of the 1990s, many more Americans joined the ranks of those who could face estate taxes. Raising the exemption level and lowering the rate in past legislation made sense. Under current law, in my State of Delaware, fewer than 50 families will face any estate tax in 2009. I oppose this legislation's complete repeal of the estate tax because it will cost us $750 billion. Given the world we live in today, with clear domestic needs unmet, full repeal is a luxury that we cannot afford.
To add insult to this injury, the first pay raise for minimum wage workers in 10 years is now hostage to this estate tax cut. We are told that to get those folks on minimum wage a raise, we have to go into debt, so that the sons and daughters of the 7,000 most fortunate families among us will be spared the estate tax. We must say no to this transparent gimmick.
Every year National Taxpayers Union (NTU) rates U.S. Representatives and Senators on their actual votes—every vote that significantly affects taxes, spending, debt, and regulatory burdens on consumers and taxpayers. NTU assigned weights to the votes, reflecting the importance of each vote’s effect. NTU has no partisan axe to grind. All Members of Congress are treated the same regardless of political affiliation. Our only constituency is the overburdened American taxpayer. Grades are given impartially, based on the Taxpayer Score. The Taxpayer Score measures the strength of support for reducing spending and regulation and opposing higher taxes. In general, a higher score is better because it means a Member of Congress voted to lessen or limit the burden on taxpayers. The Taxpayer Score can range between zero and 100. We do not expect anyone to score a 100, nor has any legislator ever scored a perfect 100 in the multi-year history of the comprehensive NTU scoring system. A high score does not mean that the Member of Congress was opposed to all spending or all programs. High-scoring Members have indicated that they would vote for many programs if the amount of spending were lower. A Member who wants to increase spending on some programs can achieve a high score if he or she votes for offsetting cuts in other programs. A zero score would indicate that the Member of Congress approved every spending proposal and opposed every pro-taxpayer reform.
OnTheIssues.org interprets the 2005-2006 CTJ scores as follows:
Citizens for Tax Justice, founded in 1979, is not-for-profit public interest research and advocacy organization focusing on federal, state and local tax policies and their impact upon our nation. CTJ's mission is to give ordinary people a greater voice in the development of tax laws. Against the armies of special interest lobbyists for corporations and the wealthy, CTJ fights for:
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