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Sunday, June 18, 2017

More on Taxes, Still No Death...

This is part 2 of the taxes and economy. If you have not read Part one (the post immediately prior to this one) you may want to. It can be read either before or after reading this one)

To quickly catch you up in case you have not read the other, I was commenting on the issue of people posting so vehemently and positively about cutting taxes and the effect that has on the tax revenues. What amazed me is that the belief runs BOTH ways! It would seem to me that this is nothing more than a math problem. Now, although I hated math in school, I have always loved it for research and problem solving. Because, Open Core and Modern Math be damned, 2 + 2 should ALWAYS = 4! The same is true for complex problems. If you can distill it down to math, the answer is indisputable.

In the spirit of disclosure I did go into this with the hypothesis that cutting federal income taxes would increase tax revenues when given enough time for those with increased after-tax incomes to do something with it - spend it, invest it in a new business, add growth to an existing business, or just put it in a bank - then let them do the above. However, I did go into this needing to find proof of my hypothesis or to disprove it.

The first thing I found is that is is VERY difficult to find historical economic figures WITHOUT commentary or "adjustments". I was looking for raw data as well as different opinions. I found a lot of the latter and after research, enough of the former. With more disclosure I also found this issue, like a lot of complex issues with strong held opinions on both sides, is very hard to pin down. As I looked at tax rates, tax receipts, and the economic figures for the same period I realized just how complex this issue is! I also found that nowhere on the internet (at least that I can find and I am somewhat legendary for my ability to find things on the internet!) is a compilation of all or even most of the economic data over history. So, I made my own. Below is a spreadsheet I made to help me see the "big picture". (most entered by hand or cut and pasted by me when I could find data that allowed that!)

I hope you will be able to click on this and see it larger. If not, and you have an interest in the file - email me and I will send it to you.
The columns are: Tax rates at certain income levels by year for every year from 1960 through 2014. The income levels and the start and stop dates were arbitrarily picked by me early on when I realized I had to limit my data somewhat. Income taxes started in earnest in 1913, but to include that much data and to find corresponding data was too large a task. The "modern" tax cut did not start until JFK (implemented by Johnson after his death) in the mid-60s, so that is why 1960. These are at the rates with incomes NOT indexed by inflation. I struggled with that as well and have figures that are indexed but it did not make much difference in my evaluation.
Then we have Total Government Revenue for the same years, followed by Spending. These are indexed to either 2009 or 2012 dollars (sorry I lost my notes  - there is not a lot of difference between those two luckily) The main takeaway I got from these figures is WE SPEND TOO DAMN MUCH! Our revenues have grown tremendously. But, our spending has grown even more!
That is followed by the Income Tax Revenue for the period. The first revenue number included all government revenue. This is just that portion that is collected from individual income taxes. Since that is the point of my study, it was critical that I find these figures.
Then we have GDP with the percentage increase/decrease year to year.
Next is the Median Household Income for each year. To refresh your memory, a median of a group of numbers is that number which has half the numbers above it and half below it. This and the other household income numbers start in 1967 as I cannot find these figures from years before.
Then is the Mean (average) Household Income for each quintile of population (fifth).
Again, for explanation for those of you that do not use math often, it is important to look at Medan and Mean when comparing a large group of data. Take a group of seven incomes - 10K, 12K, 16K, 25K, 28K, 30K, & 50K. The median = 25K. The mean is 28.5K. That is a close approximation of the same. Then use the same numbers but let's say the top wage earner makes 500K instead of 50. There are still six of the numbers exactly the same but the mean goes to 103.5K. That is not at all reflective of the 25K which is still the median. Both have relevance, so I found and posted both.
Lastly I found the Unemployment Rate for each of the years.

I have just decided to do this in three installments. You can study the figures above if you like and see what you see. I have already put my thoughts in the first post at a high level. I will do some more detailed analysis in the next post.

FYI, I have tried to be as thorough as possible. I have tried to look at this with an open mind and from as many "angles" as possible. Also, these figures were gathered from many, many sources. I did use .gov sources wherever possible. Every figure was found on in at least two places before I used it. Other than rounding errors, they all did so. There could be errors here, if so they are mine and totally unintentional. As I said above I did have to manually enter most of these numbers. They have been checked and rechecked but errors are possible. You are welcomed and invited to try to find conflicting numbers. Just remember I used numbers that were adjusted for inflation to 2009/2012 figures with the exception of the incomes on the tax tables.

More to come...

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Death and Taxes - OK, Just Taxes

I have been working on this one for a LONG time. I have studied and analyzed for hours. It is time to get something in print! I know my detractors think I just spout off figures and find facts to support my thoughts and ideas. Wrong lizard breath! I actually do research on every post I do here (or in my life) that involves facts and figures to be found. I come to my opinions AFTER research. Sure, I go in with ideas and sometimes even hopes of what I will find. However, I have sometimes found that my ideas are not supported. Rather than scream and cry or stick my head in the sand I change my opinion or ideas. Such is life.

This post is one concerning one of those "facts" that gets thrown out every so often - that cutting taxes raises (or lowers) government revenues. It amazes me that people have such steadfast and positive thoughts and opinions on this one. Most either believe it is a definite raising of revenue or a definite cutting of revenue. I can tell you after hours, and hours, and hours of studying numbers I have a good idea that my original thought that tax cuts bring more money into the federal coffers is marginally correct - more to come. I can say with almost absolute certainty that it does not lower revenues, except sometimes in the first year the cuts (or increases) go into effect. That makes sense as the people that have the money have to adapt and change their investment and spending strategies based on the tax codes. That takes some time to compute and execute. See next:

To me that is the issue with trying to determine what the effect of a tax change will be.The major tax collected by the federal government is the INCOME tax. (a LARGE portion of the money comes from payroll taxes like social security and medicare/aid - but that is another subject) Income and wealth are two entirely different things. A very wealthy person may have an income lower than yours. They can be worth millions upon millions and show a rather middle class income. That is because they do not necessarily work a job with a salary or draw a definite income. They own things - like companies, land, buildings, ideas, etc. We do tax those at certain rates and certain times, but not at the level of income and not consistently. So, a wealthy person can choose to only take the minimum amount of income that they need to exist at the lifestyle they desire. The rest of their assets are not taxed as income because it is not used to produce income. This is especially true when taxes are very, very high on the highest levels of income. That is also the reason the tax revenues do not go down, and have historically gone up within two years of a tax cut. They rich use their wealth to create income - then pay income taxes.

There is an old standard that says "I never got a job from a poor person" or variations of that. It is argued where it came from and who said it first. It has caused much argument, but there is definite truth there. To offer employment to someone, a business must have wealth, cash flow, and ultimately income. Now, one can work for themselves and not take a salary or at least much of one. One can work for a company and not take an income. Instead, you might take stock or stock options/ownership in the hopes that someday that will pay off. However, wealth provides income. So, the standard is true, at least at the base level. That is why lower taxes on those with higher incomes (and higher wealth) is good for the economy.

That brings up another part of this discussion. There are many that say that the "trickle down" economic theory does not work.There are just as many that say it does. What amazes me about those statements is that both will use Ronald Reagan's presidency as the proof. "Reagan found that out" is the defense for both sides of that argument. Amazing, to me at least. So, one of the reasons this took me so long to do was I included the following in my studies:

     1) income tax rates for the years of 1960 through 2013
     2) average household incomes for the years of 1967 through 2014
     3) the mean household incomes for each quintile for the years 1967 through 2015
     4) the mean income of the top 5% for the years 1967 through 2015
     5) the unemployment rate for the years 1960 through 2016

The dates vary because the sources varied. I used no figures that I could not find matching from at least two independent sources. I used the IRS.gov and the US Census figures where available.
I got this additional information due to a comment a friend of mine made about a post I did on Facebook critical of people saying tax cuts are bad. He expressed a valid point that the economy is extremely complex. Just looking a one part of it (or changing one part) is not a good measure of what is going on. We all know the story of the group of blind men that come upon an elephant. Depending on what part they are at, they all have a totally different "vision" of what it is they have come upon.

This is going on way too long. I will say this:
     1) I found that it can be said that tax cuts do NOT cut tax revenues. There is no case where the tax rates have been cut that two years later the revenue was not equal to before the cuts.
     2) In most instances there was growth in revenue within 2-3 years after every tax cut.
     3) Unemployment tends to go down three to four years after a tax cut in almost all cases.
     4) I am still evaluating incomes. That is a tough one. It appears that tax cuts have little to no effect on very low incomes. It does seem to help the middle and upper classes.
     5) Recessions, wars, etc are VERY hard to factor in or factor out. The complexity is crazy. The first three statements are ones that I think I can back up with figures. You can be the judge.
I will have more actual facts and figures in the following post. I will do my best to get it done in the next few days - a week at most.

Here is a two sentence take-away - if the tax cuts do not reduce revenue, do not hurt employment, and do not hurt household incomes; why would we not do them? Keeping money out of Washington and in the hands of those that earn it would seem to me to be THE superior goal.

More to come. If you stuck with me through this treatise - kudos!