President Obama has successfully diverted discussion of the unanswerable question of fairness away from a frank conversation about spending (“Obama’s checkmate,” Commentary, Thursday).
Under the Obama administration, outlays have grown to 24.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) from a post-1950 average of 19.8 percent. Outside of World War II, never have we spent so much for so long. Spending under Presidents Bush and Clinton averaged 19.8 percent of GDP. Compare spending 24.4 percent with tax collections that, except for World War II and the dot-com boom (when they peaked at 20.6 percent), have never been higher than 19.7 percent, regardless of tax rates. Tax receipts during Mr. Obama’s tenure are just 15.4 percent of GDP, below the 17.9 percent average since 1950.
Instead of an honest policy debate, there is a false narrative that the Bush-era tax cuts were unfair when they actually made rates more progressive. The top 1 percent under George W. Bush paid 37 percent of personal income taxes (up from 32.75 percent under Mr. Clinton), the top 10 percent paid 68.4 percent under Mr. Bush (up from 63 percent under Mr. Clinton). The bottom 50 percent paid 3.23 percent under Mr. Bush (down from 4.36 percent under Mr. Clinton).
It would be wise to focus on the government’s unsustainable spending rather then an illusory solution in the name of tax fairness.
ADAM B. DAVIS