Grassley on Biden’s Tax Plan: Cold Comfort for Middle-income Families
Oct 21, 2020
Prepared Floor Remarks by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Chairman, Senate Finance Committee
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
In about two weeks, the American people will go to the polls to determine the direction of our nation. There are many important issues voters will consider as they decide which way they’ll vote. Their decisions will ultimately determine who’s President and the makeup of their representatives in Congress.
One issue that’s always front and center in any election is the economy and the economic policies of the respective candidates. This election is no different.
There are many differences in the economic policies that would be pursued by a Republican-led administration or Congress versus the path my Democrat colleagues would take if they’re in charge. One particularly stark difference is the tax policies that both sides can be expected to pursue.
Over the past four years President Trump and Republicans in Congress have enacted historic tax cuts, particularly for middle-income Americans, as part of a long overdue revamp of our tax code. This included reducing tax rates across-the-board, significantly increasing the standard deduction, and doubling the child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000.
As a result of these changes, a typical family of four earning $70,000 saw their tax bill reduced by around $2,000.
While my Democrat colleagues have done their best to distort this reality, IRS tax-return data for 2018 confirms middle-income Americans saw significant tax reductions. In fact, taxpayers in the middle of the income distribution saw their tax bill reduced on average by more than 13 percent.
My Democratic colleagues and former Vice President Biden have made no bones about their plans for tax reform. If they prevail in the upcoming elections, they’ll seek to undue the 2017 tax law and impose trillions of dollars in tax hikes on individuals and businesses.
The former Vice President has sought to deflect accusations that he would raise taxes on low- and middle-income taxpayers by promising he only plans to increase taxes on businesses and on individuals with annual income over $400,000.
There are many reasons to be skeptical of the Vice President’s promise.
For one, a similar assurance was made by the Obama-Biden administration. Many will recall the Obama-Biden administration promised not to raise taxes on married couples earning less than $250,000 or $200,000 for single filers.
That promise was tossed out the window when a host of new taxes that fell directly or indirectly on middle-income Americans were enacted to pay for Obamacare. That included the individual-mandate penalty tax, 80 percent of which was paid by taxpayers earning less than $50,000. This is exactly why Republicans repealed it as part of the 2017 tax law.
A second reason low- and middle-income Americans should take little comfort in the former Vice President’s promise only to tax the rich and businesses is that such taxes too often get passed along. There is a well-documented principle in tax policy that simply because the law imposes a tax directly on an individual or business entity doesn’t mean the ultimate burden of that tax won’t fall on others indirectly.
Every analysis of Mr. Biden’s tax plan by independent third parties, from the liberal Tax Policy Center, to Penn Wharton, to the American Enterprise Institute, shows taxpayers earning less than $400,000 will shoulder at least a portion of Mr. Biden’s proposed tax increases.
This largely reflects the economic consensus that a significant portion of the corporate income tax falls on workers in the form of reduced wages and benefits. Our non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated that 25 percent of corporate tax increases are borne by workers.
Mr. Biden of course has promised to increase the corporate income tax from 21 percent to 28 percent. According to the Penn Wharton Budget Model, this business tax hike will mean that over 90 percent of households with income between $45,600 and $121,000 will see an increase in their total tax burden.
With the bulk of Mr. Biden’s tax agenda targeted at hiking taxes on capital, the consequences will be felt throughout the economy in the form of lower wages, fewer jobs and slower economic growth.
According to a study out of the Hoover Institution this week, the Biden plan holds the promise of reducing per capita gross domestic product by more than 8 percent when compared to current law with the 2017 tax law made permanent.
And that raises an additional important issue: Taxpayers should take Mr. Biden’s promise not to raise their taxes with a grain of salt because the vast majority of Americans will see a tax increase beginning in 2026 unless the 2017 tax cuts are made permanent.
A top priority for President Trump and Congressional Republicans has been to secure the middle-class tax cuts enacted in 2017. President Trump has called for making the tax cuts permanent as part of each of his budget submissions to Congress. However, Democrats have refused to work with Republicans to make that a reality.
And keep in mind that the middle-class tax cuts enacted in tax reform are not just about lower tax rates for middle-income workers and families. They are also about small business owners and the family farmers. For the millions of small family-owned businesses, tax reform provided the 20-percent deduction for qualified business income under section 199A.
According to the recently released 2018 IRS data, in Iowa alone, nearly 215,000 small businesses and farms across the state benefitted from the 199A deduction.
Republicans are committed to making that provision permanent as an important tool for those businesses to grow, invest and provide critically needed jobs in our communities.
However, Mr. Biden’s tax plan doesn’t include any proposal to make permanent, or even extend, the middle-class tax cuts enacted under President Trump. Indeed, every independent third-party review of his tax proposal assumes his intent is to allow the tax increases to come into effect. And with good reason.
On the campaign trail Mr. Biden has stated, “On day one, I will move to eliminate Trump’s tax cuts.” It can’t be both that he will only raise taxes on those with incomes over $400,000 and repeal the Trump tax cuts in their entirety.
So who can blame taxpayers for being skeptical when Mr. Biden says he won’t raise their taxes? Every indication is that he will.
Under a Biden administration, middle-income individuals can expect the Biden plan that rolls back the Trump tax cuts. This means he will increase their tax rates, increase the amount of their income subject to tax and reduce tax benefits for families.
Similarly, small business owners and family farmers can also expect him to tax a larger share of their business income.
While Mr. Biden has tried to position himself as a centrist, his tax and economic agenda is not all that different from his far left opponents in the Democrat primaries.
His sales pitch may be different, but his agenda will have the same detrimental effects.
As the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board summed it up, the problem with the Biden policies is, “they will have a long-term corrosive impact by raising the cost of capital, reducing the incentive to work and invest, and reducing productivity across the economy. Americans will pay the price in a lower standard of living than they otherwise would – and that they deserve.”