According to a new report by the Congressional Research Service, cutting taxes for the wealthiest does not cause economic growth, despite constant conservative claims that it will. Instead, tax cuts for the rich merely exacerbate income inequality, CRS found:
Throughout the late-1940s and 1950s, the top marginal tax rate was typically above 90%; today it is 35%. Additionally, the top capital gains tax rate was 25% in the 1950s and 1960s, 35% in the 1970s; today it is 15%. The real GDP growth rate averaged 4.2% and real per capita GDP increased annually by 2.4% in the 1950s. In the 2000s, the average real GDP growth rate was 1.7% and real per capita GDP increased annually by less than 1%. There is not conclusive evidence, however, to substantiate a clear relationship between the 65-year steady reduction in the top tax rates and economic growth. Analysis of such data suggests the reduction in the top tax rates have had little association with saving, investment, or productivity growth. However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution.
As this chart shows, per capita GDP growth rates and the top tax rate have essentially no relationship:
This jibes with other recent studies that show little relationship between the top tax rate and economic growth. A new analysis by Owen M. Zidar, a former staff economist on President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers and a graduate student at California-Berkeley, found that “a one percent of GDP tax cut for the bottom 90% results in 2.7 percentage points of GDP growth over a two-year period. The corresponding estimate for the top 10% is 0.13 percentage points and is insignificant statistically.” GDP growth, business investment, and a host of other economic indicators were all stronger during the 1990s, after taxes were raised on the rich, than during the supply-side eras of Presidents George W. Bush and Reagan.