Non-Partisan Congressional Tax Report Debunks Core Conservative Economic Theory-GOP Suppresses Study
What do you do when the Congressional Research Service, the completely non-partisan arm of the Library of Congress that has been advising Congress—and only Congress—on matters of policy and law for nearly a century, produces a research study that finds absolutely no correlation between the top tax rates and economic growth, thereby destroying a key tenet of conservative economic theory?
If you are a Republican member of the United States Senate, you do everything in your power to suppress that report—particularly when it comes less than two months before a national election where your candidate is selling this very economic theory as the basis for his candidacy.
Initially released on September 14, 2012, the study—authored by Thomas Hungerford who is a specialist in public finance at the C.R.S.—correlated the historical fluctuations of the highest income tax rates and tax rates on capital gains dating back to World War II with the economic growth (or lack of the same) that followed.
Lowering the tax rates on the wealthy and top earners in America do notappear to have any impact on the nation’s economic growth.
This paragraph from the report says it all—
“The reduction in the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment and productivity growth. The top tax rates appear to have little or no relation to the size of the economic pie. However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution.”
These three sentences do nothing less than blow apart the central tenet of modern conservative economic theory, confirming that lowering tax rates on the wealthy does nothing to grow the economy while doing a great deal to concentrate more wealth in the pockets of those at the very top of the income chain.
Not surprisingly, the results of the study caught the attention of a great many conservatives—so much so that, according to a New York Times piece, Republican’s in the United States Senate successfully pressured the Congressional Research Service to withdraw the report shortly after it was released. The withdrawal came over the objection of the CRS economic team and the author of the study.
The Times further reports that, according to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s spokesperson, Senator McConnell—along with additional GOP senators— “raised concerns about the methodology and other flaws,” adding that additional people outside of Congress were also criticizing the study.
The nature of these alleged flaws?
That the report included terms such as “the Bush tax cuts” and references to “tax cuts for the rich.”
Added Antonia Ferrier, spokesperson for the Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee, “There were a lot of problems with the report from a real, legitimate economic analysis perspective. We relayed them to C.R.S. It was a good discussion. We have a good, constructive relationship with them. Then it was pulled.”
While a spokesperson for the C.R.S. refused to comment on the discussions between the Senate Republicans and her agency, she did confirm that the report was no longer in ‘official circulation’. However, the New York Times reports that a source requesting anonymity confirmed that the decision to pull the study was done against the advice of the economics division and that the author, Mr. Hungerford, stood by the report’s findings.
On Thursday, Senate Democrats republished the study following a letter sent to the C.R.S. by the ranking Democratic tax expert in the House, Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI), which reads, in part—
“I was deeply disturbed to hear that Mr. Hungerford’s report was taken down in response to political pressure from Congressional Republicans who had ideological objections to the report’s factual findings and conclusion. It would be completely inappropriate for CRS to censor one of its analysts simply because participants in the political process found his or her conclusion in conflict with their partisan position. I would like your explanation as to why this report was removed from the CRS website, who made that decision and what considerations led to it.”
For almost 100 years, the Congressional Research Service has worked to assist Congress by providing well-researched and accurate data to be utilized in the creation of important public policy. It has done so when Congress was controlled by Democrats and when Congress has been under the control of Republicans. No matter what party was in charge, the C.R.S. has always endeavored to keep politics out of their work in the effort to provide data that would inform and advance our public policy.
Apparently, solid, well researched data no longer matters—at least not when it comes to the Congressional Republicans.
For those of you who believe that lowered tax rates on the largest earners contribute to an improved economy, I strongly recommend that you read the report. You’ll be able to do so by following this link—
If, after reading the results of the research, you can identify some error in methodology, then carry on with your assumptions regarding economic theory.
However, if—like me—you can spot no such error in the study, you might consider the importance of forming economic policy based on real data rather than political expediency.
Of course, if you still want to root for lower taxes for the wealthiest Americans—knowing that the research clearly shows that it does nothing to grow our economy—then do so with the understanding that the economic health of the nation is not what is driving your philosophy and that pretending otherwise is of no benefit to anyone.
At least that will be a far more honest response than what we are getting from the Congressional Republicans.