Op-Ed: Biden and the 1 Percent

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Politics on June 2, 2021.


In a speech last week introducing his proposed $6 trillion 2022 budget, President Biden claimed that the benefits of the Republican Party’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act “went to the wealthiest 1% of America.” It’s not the first time he’s made this claim. In his first speech to a joint session of Congress, Biden described the TCJA as a “huge windfall” for “those at the very top.” To right that wrong, he proposes getting rid of loopholes and raising the top tax rate from its current 37% to 39.6%. Why? So that “the wealthiest 1% of Americans” will “pay their fair share,” a phrase that the president and his fellow Democrats repeat with abandon.


But there’s a big problem with Biden’s claims: They are simply untrue. It’s time Republicans started more aggressively pointing that out.


Let’s start with that supposedly “huge windfall” that went to the “wealthiest 1%” of America. While the TCJA reduced effective income tax rates for all income groups in 2018, the top 1% experienced no windfall. Rather, according to the most recent IRS income tax data, the top 1% of taxpayers paid $616 billion in 2018, roughly the same amount they paid in 2017. But the bottom 99% paid $65 billion less. Some “windfall.” If the TCJA was a tax cut for the rich, it was the weirdest one in the history of tax cuts for the rich.


But did those evil 1-percenters pay their fair share? Turns out they did – and certainly a larger share than when tax rates were last at Biden’s proposed 39.6%.


In 2018, while the top 1%’s share of adjusted gross income declined slightly to 20.9% (from 21.0% in 2017), its share of the income tax burden increased to 40.1% from 38.5%. “Fair” is in the eye of the beholder, but consider: The top 1%’s share of taxes paid nearly doubles its share of income. For more “fair share” perspective, consider that in 2018, the top 1% paid more in income taxes than the bottom 90% of taxpayers – combined.


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