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Charlie Sykes: Sykes Writes

Tax the rich! A 62% Tax Rate?

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 Should the government take nearly 2/3 of everything you make? 

That appears to be the democrat agenda, as Stephen Moore points out in today's Wall Street Journal.

Media reports in recent weeks say that Senate Democrats are considering a 3% surtax on income over $1 million to raise federal revenues. This would come on top of the higher income tax rates that President Obama has already proposed through the cancellation of the Bush era tax-rate reductions.

If the Democrats' millionaire surtax were to happen—and were added to other tax increases already enacted last year and other leading tax hike ideas on the table this year—this could leave the U.S. with a combined federal and state top tax rate on earnings of 62%. That's more than double the highest federal marginal rate of 28% when President Reagan left office in 1989. Welcome back to the 1970s.

Here's the math behind that depressing calculation. Today's top federal income tax rate is 35%. Almost all Democrats in Washington want to repeal the Bush tax cuts on those who make more than $250,000 and phase out certain deductions, so the effective income tax rate would rise to about 41.5%. The 3% millionaire surtax raises that rate to 44.5%.

But payroll taxes, which are income taxes on wages and salaries, must also be included in the equation. So we have to add about 2.5 percentage points for the payroll tax for Medicare (employee and employer share after business deductions), which was applied to all income without a ceiling in 1993 as part of the Clinton tax hike. I am including in this analysis the employer share of all payroll taxes because it is a direct tax on a worker's salary and most economists agree that though employers are responsible for collecting this tax, it is ultimately borne by the employee. That brings the tax rate to 47%.

Then last year, as part of the down payment for ObamaCare, Congress snuck in an extra 0.9% Medicare surtax on "high-income earners," meaning any individual earning more than $200,000 or couples earning more than $250,000. This brings the total tax rate to 47.9%.

But that's not all. Several weeks ago, Mr. Obama raised the possibility of eliminating the income ceiling on the Social Security tax, now capped at $106,800 of earnings a year. (Never mind that the program was designed to operate as an insurance system, with each individual's payment tied to the benefits paid out at retirement.) Subjecting all wage and salary income to Social Security taxes would add roughly 10.1 percentage points to the top tax rate. This takes the grand total tax rate on each additional dollar earned in America to about 58%.

Then we have to factor in state income taxes, which on average add after the deductions from the federal income tax roughly another four percentage points to the tax burden. So now on average we are at a tax rate of close to 62%

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