The taxmen competeth: Bush vs. Trump vs. your wallet (Updated)

Donald Trump and Jeb Bush interact during the Republican candidates’ debate, Sept. 16. Whittaker / The New York Times)

Donald Trump and Jeb Bush interact during the Republican candidates' debate, Sept. 16. Whittaker / The New York Times)

Donald Trump and Jeb Bush interact during the Republican candidates’ debate, Sept. 16. Whittaker / The New York Times)

Donald Trump has been many things in this election campaign, but specific about policies he’d pursue as president isn’t one of them. So it was newsworthy Monday that he laid out a (somewhat) detailed plan to reform the tax code.

As Trump’s most common foil in this race has been Jeb Bush, let’s take a look at how the two men’s plans compare. First, the statutory individual income-tax brackets:

Bush v Trump Taxes 1

Sources: Bush and Trump campaign websites

As you can see, the so-called headline rate is lower pretty much across the board in Trump’s plan than in Bush’s. But as we all know, one’s actual tax liability can vary greatly from these statutory rates because of other factors. So let’s also look at some of those:

Bush v Trump Taxes 2

Sources: Bush and Trump campaign websites

 

That bottom line about overall revenue effect is a telling one. Whereas Bush says he “want(s) to lower taxes,” Trump describes his plan as “fully paid for.” Of course, we’ll need some third-party analysis to confirm each man’s narrative about his own plan — and so far, most of what we have is mind-numbingly simplistic. (“Trump/Bush would lower tax rates! The rich will save trillions! Never mind I have no idea what the effect of all the other changes to the tax code would be!”)

UPDATE: We now have something more substantial than back-of-the-envelope calculations to go by. The Tax Foundation estimates Trump’s plan would not, in fact, be “fully paid for” — not by a long shot. Rather, it would reduce revenues by $10 trillion to $12 trillion over 10 years, depending on whether one accounts for the additional economic growth and job creation the plan likely would stimulate. (Expect Trump to calling the Tax Foundation a “bankrupt” non-profit run by “losers,” or some such, any minute now.) By comparison, the Tax Foundation said Bush’s plan would reduce revenues by $1.6 trillion to $3.7 trillion over 10 years. (The rest of the post has been edited to reflect this estimate.)

But before we decide which candidate is being more fiscally responsible, let’s wait to see what each one says he’d do about the other part of the equation, spending. If either Bush or Trump wants to balance his tax reduction with reduced spending, shrinking the size of the federal government as a whole, that’s better than keeping both taxes and spending the same. (Although it’s hard to see how federal spending could shrink by $1 trillion or more per year, given rising costs for Social Security and Medicare, among other things.)

And as Kevin Williamson explains at National Review, a plan to keep spending the same is really a plan to let spending grow:

“Every Republican tax-reform plan should be rooted in this reality: If you are going to have federal spending that is 21 percent of GDP, then you can have a.) taxes that are 21 percent of GDP; b.) deficits. There is no c.

“If, on the other hand, you have a credible program for reducing spending to 17 or 18 percent of GDP, which is where taxes have been coming in, please do share it.

“The problem with the Growth Fairy model of balancing budgets is that while economic growth would certainly reduce federal spending as a share of GDP if spending were kept constant, there is zero evidence that the government of these United States has the will or the inclination to enact serious spending controls when times are good (Uncork the champagne!) or when times are bad (Wicked austerity! We must have stimulus!). So even if we buy Jeb Bush’s happy talk about growth, or Donald Trump’s, the idea that spending is just going to magically sit there, inert, while the economy zips forward and the tax coffers fill up, is delusional.”

The reverse, of course, is true about Democratic plans to, say, spend trillions and trillions more dollars: If you are going to have federal spending that approaches 30 percent of GDP, then you can have a) taxes that are 30 percent of GDP or b) deficits. There is no c.

Not that I’m disagreeing with Williamson here. He’s right: Candidates should show how the ledger balances, preferably at a lower level.

Reader Comments 0

53 comments
FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Well, we all know how Trump is going to handle spending. He's gonna make it the responsibility of other countries.

schnirt

I take issue with "your wallet" thingy, Kyle.

AS A WOMAN, I DO NOT CARRY A WALLET! I CARRY A PURSE!

STOP BEING SUCH A MISOGYNIST!

J/K.

And never make the mistake of calling a man bag a purse. It's a MAN BAG!

I know how confusing it can be, Kyle. One man's wallet is another man's billfold. 

It was all the numbers, Kyle...what else could I do? 

M H Smith
M H Smith

Blue smoke and mirrors, voodoo economics. 

DeborahinAthens
DeborahinAthens

There are many reasons we have such a massive deficit. The previous decades of politicians have made promises that, in many cases, must be kept. These are the promises to our elderly and indigent that they will not be tossed into the gutter. Then, we have the discretionary costs--again, made by our politicians--to fund a bloated military. A military that has told Congress that there are ludicrous war toys that they do not need. Yet, because a particular toy might be manufactured in a politician's district, he or she brings the rest of the politicians into line to keep funding these useless toys that, sometimes never work or are put into mothballs to rust into oblivion. But NO ONE, not even the most obtuse Republican can deny the fact (a fact is a fact--not a fiction spun for a constituency's gullible consumption) that, when GW Bush came out with his abhorrent tax plan with the "Bush Tax Cuts". He was told by many economists and his own, hand picked Treasury Secretary that it would cause massive deficits. He fired that Treasury Secretary and the next one said the same. He fired him and hired Hank Paulson, the most criminal of yes men who rubber stamped every thing Bush came up with. Theirs did indeed cause massive deficits. Then, Bush slammed Medicare Part D through--the most expensive entitlement program ever--with absolutely NO CURBS on the costs charged by drug companies. Then, we have two senseless wars that have now lasted over 11 long, expensive years. Bottom line, the Repubs do not want the deductions to go away--especially ones that benefit corporations. They are bought and paid for. When any politician tells you they want tax reform, it is a lie. The present system benefits too many money grubbing politicians of both parties.

Dusty2
Dusty2

@DeborahinAthens 


Dear Deborah the DEMOCRAT,


Spoken like a true follower.  Past leaders are the problem  It is Bush Bush Bush and the present administration is so angelic they could not do a thing but raise more debt!


To ease the pain, I suggest we change to a Republican Administration with conservative values.  The country would give a big sigh.  I would give a big sigh.  And Jeb Bush will give a big sigh as he  cleans up the mess left for him. 


What a good feeling!  A responsible person in charge again.  (NOw now!  No more lies!  That has already been tried by Dems.).) 



M H Smith
M H Smith

@DeborahinAthens 

The previous decades of politicians have made promises that, in many cases, must be kept.

Now you know why the Constitution should be amended before passing promises into law. Amendments cannot be easily repealed like laws. Progressives always get the cart before the horse. If the ACA was an Amendment it would never be repealed no matter how many Republicans ruled government. However, SS,Medicare etc. are just laws too and they are taxes on payrolls. In truth if the government wanted to pay out no benefit from the trust funds it could because the promises or just that, promises. 

The rest you got pretty much right. People are going to get the message to assure money is spent on the right things the American people want to get done, put them in the Constitution. Like a balanced budget amendment with only two spending excepts in cases of disasters and/or "declared" wars and those two should be limited and subject for review to stop funding    

DeborahinAthens
DeborahinAthens

@Dusty2 @DeborahinAthens Remember what I said about facts as opposed to fictions you keep repeating?  Yes, Dusty, hate to break it to you, but Bush is responsible for most of our deficit problems. He slashed taxes to the bare bones, he started two endless wars buy telling the country carefully constructed lies, he bamboozled Congress into passing Medicare Part D ( a criminal piece of legislation if ever there was one).  Until we figure out a way to fix everything he broke, it isn't going to change.  We know FOR A FACT that cutting taxes will cause more deficits, yet, the Rebublicans can't see to come up with any other ideas.  Like a broken record, they keep repeating.  And the definition of doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result is insanity. The Republicans have proven time and again they cannot govern, and they know nothing about economics.  Every major market crash and major recession has occurred on the Republican's watch.  Reagan had a biggie--the Crash of '87.  Dubya the Dumb, with his voo-doo economics, and Reagan trickle down, presided over two major stock market crashes and two major recessions--the last on, the Great Recession almost brought this country to its knees.  So, dear Dusty, who do we blame?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@DeborahinAthens Bush has nothing to do with our deficits, which are annual figures. But even assuming you meant "debt," it is a fact that the debt has increased more during Obama's tenure -- even if you (wrongly IMO) don't count 2009 (big deficit) OR 2001 (small surplus) on his ledger. It's not even close: The deficits from 2010-2014 exceed those of 2002-2009 by $1.3T if we don't adjust for inflation, $904B if we do. Those numbers will only grow once the just-ended 2015 is counted, not to mention 2016. And again, that's giving Bush the worst of assumptions on each end.

Sorry, but those are the facts you keep talking about but getting wrong.

Source: http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxfacts/displayafact.cfm?Docid=200


LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@DeborahinAthens

"President Barack Obama on Monday unveiled a $4 trillion fiscal year 2016 budget that will add more than $6 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years, lifting spending limits on national security and discretionary domestic spending."

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/02/02/7-numbers-to-know-from-obamas-2016-budget

Your president proposes making it worse.

If we're lucky, Real Americans running the House and Senate will keep the budget caps adopted several years ago.  That's probably the best we can hope for until we elect a president whose primary concern isn't shoveling money out the door to Democrat losers as fast as possible.

Our President Bush's last budget proposal was $3.1 trillion, for comparison.

Dusty2
Dusty2

My first post  @7:45 just disappeared.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Dusty2 It has happened to other commenters, and even myself. I'm sorry, there's nothing I can do about it. I know some people have taken to writing in Word or cutting and pasting their comment in Word if it's a long one that would take awhile to rewrite. I wish I had a better answer for you.

Dusty2
Dusty2

@Kyle_Wingfield @Dusty2 


It's OK, Kyle.  My comment has gone to the happy hunting ground!  Probably a good place for it.  If you find it, send it home.  I shall mete the proper punishment!

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Would anybody on here mind paying 50% federal income tax with no deductions if they still brought home $500, 000 per year?

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@AvgGeorgian

Real Americans should be embarrassed that any person has more than 10% of their income taken from them by government.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

One big problem with both plans is that they excuse millions more from "paying their fair share" (or paying anything at all) to keep their government running.  Bush gives 15 million deadbeats a pass, Trump over 70 million.

Unacceptable.

Growed-up responsible Real Americans have skin in the game and pay income tax.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@Jefferson1776 @LilBarryBailout

I doubt you'd like to return to the rates paid when the US income tax levy first came into being.  It would lower the rates quite drastically for people who aren't like you, and do nothing at all to improve your own self-interest.

DaveFrancis
DaveFrancis

The dishonor that has been brought upon our great nation is at times too much to bear. Obama has demonstrated complete disrespect for the law and We the People throughout his presidency. And now he has shown the same utter disregard and disrespect for rule of law and the US Constitution. These administration  Big Lies are getting tougher to cover up. With the future help of patriotic citizens like you, less Democratic and liberalized press outlets are publicizing treacherous tactic this government attempts and exposing Obama's anti-American agenda showing  Americans the wilting economy and bad policies.

People, this man has blood on his hands. Remember Kate Steinle--the American woman allegedly killed by an illegal alien with SEVEN felony convictions and FIVE deportations! He'd found protection in the "sanctuary" city of San Francisco--which openly defies cooperation with federal immigration enforcement. Righteously indignant elected officials advanced "Kate's Law" to reveal the truth and deny sanctuary cities federal funding.

But this is just one blood drop in the ocean of the pain and suffering of unknown numbers of citizens an lawful residents murdered by illegal aliens and the facts hidden from us all by the mainstream press or some lesser known state law. I think the national Press whose encompassing presents dominates the internet and hide the truth about the mayhem on city streets or highways by illegal immigrants.

However, friends this is one of the most important messages that's  ever delivered--we have a major problem that's even bigger than Obama's lax enforcement at the border or in the interior of our country. Lurking in the shadows is an even greater risk to liberty. That through Obama's executive orders and the failure of the judiciary to stop the illegal alien amnesty, we will be inundated with even more illegal aliens trying to gain entrance through illegal means, knowing that once here, deportation will be out of the question especially women with children.

Government already feeds the needs of business owners with 1 million plus most legal immigrants a year, so we can least afford to allow more when we have 90 million American in part time, unemployed situations. The only I see for a less reckless future that is entertained by both the GOP establishment and Democrats is the emergence of Mr. Donald Trump. My family and friends see that ONLY Senator Ted Cruz that is willing to stop another path to citizenship as was unfortunately granted in 1986.

Being honest is essential for the next President, as the American people have been lied to, by the political parties and Donald Trump is the ONLY one trusted alleviate the damage done to the American economy by illegal welfare recipients, who has paid nothing into the system. I do not even believe that their are only 12 million illegal aliens in the United States. Numbers I have heard range in the 30 million? The cost also I have heard is about $$100 billion annually, with taxes some people pay around $$13 Billion.

Like a lottery win I wish for Donald Trump to be President; to build his wall and being to an end to 'Optional' E-verify law. The American people must insist of the 100 Senators and 435 members of the House of Representatives introduce MANDATORY E-VERIFY, that nobody escapes in the workplace. Every person in any working environment must be screened--everybody, including ALL hires--not just new hires. That this is a crime against the American people of illegal immigrants stealing jobs in complicity with US companies. A reward and a need for informants to contact ICE, furnishing details of a felony being committed and not a misdemeanor. With heavy duty fines and even prison for untrustworthy business owners who pay no heed to the MANDATED law.  Just for once the law under Trump as President will be unable to manipulated by Special Interests and Cronyism.

During this campaign season John Boehner, McConnell and his fellow lapdog establishment Republicans promised to lay to rest Obama's proposals. Trust us, they whispered, we're with the American People, So they were voted back in there seats, as a majority. They waited for Americans to ease back to inanimate slumber. Then these calculating morons and white haired hacks scurried about to implement Obamacare, amnesty, tax hikes and gross deficit spending nervous that they might have to deal with a government shut down?  I think Americans realized they had been taken to the cleaners, because these career insider politicians have caught the wrath of promoting Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina to top of the polls. The analysis of Senate actions under McConnell shows the majority voting with Obama as high as 82 percent of the time. Once again the American People came last.

McConnell has the same behavior pattern as Harry Reid in more ways than one. Just like Reid, he's abusing Senate procedures to manipulate votes, policy and members of his own party. Thank God for Senator Ted Cruz who rightfully called McConnell a "liar." Some establishment Republicans condemn Cruz for the breaking of decorum, but he was right. We should applaud Ted Cruz his heroic self-control, under impossible circumstances.

Donald Trump could do no better than Senator Cruz as Vice President?

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Nice to know what they would like to do, but with a 60 vote majority needed in the Senate and the Dems locked on block voting against any GOP proposal, this is just wishful thinking.  


The only thing you can count on forever is that the Dems are always going to be in favor of spending 20% more than we bring in, no matter how much is brought in.

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

Both guys talk crap from both sides of their mouths and their butts at the same time.

alexander2
alexander2

"mind-numbingly symplistic"----the last 2 paragraphs....

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

What does spending have to do with comparing plans? Try math to compare one relative to the other. Under your guise, you would need the repub Congress to actually do their job and come up with a budget! Also any benefit should go to reduce the deficit.


Oh and isn't it the cons who want to go to war with Iraq? How much will that cost? Or would it even be on the budget? (Bush)

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@RoadScholar "What does spending have to do with comparing plans?"

Um, because we need to know how much each one would want to spend before knowing whether each tax plan is sound?

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@Kyle_Wingfield @RoadScholar Wouldn't comparing the actual anticipated revenue indicate the viability? Besides,  trickle down doesn't work. Yes the budget amount matters, but not with this repub Congress.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@RoadScholar "Wouldn't comparing the actual anticipated revenue indicate the viability?"

Once again: That depends on how much you want to spend. If you want to cut spending by, say, $500B a year, then a tax plan that cuts revenue by $400B a year would actually reduce the deficit. Both sides of the equation matter.

As for how the two plans compare absent the spending question, that's why I included the two tables in the post.

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

Here's an idea for both gentlemen and everyone else running for president: start by collecting the unpaid taxes (estimated @ $450 billion) and stop issuing fraudulent tax refunds (estimated @ $5 billion a year).

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@stogiefogey Collecting those "unpaid taxes" is a perennial favorite excuse for not cutting spending. It'll happen soon after we catch Bigfoot.

MANGLER
MANGLER

@stogiefogey Who would you suggest collect those unpaid taxes?  The IRS?  Better ask the GOP to quit de-funding them then.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@Kyle_Wingfield @stogiefogey Not paying your taxes is against the law and should be enforced. The Cons from complain about illegals crossing the border and not enforcing the law; but this is ok not to enforce?

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

@MANGLER @stogiefogey  Bingo! Congress has been trying to starve the IRS out of existence, or to at least render it toothless, for years. Makes the voters back home happy, or so they think, but the aforementioned uncollected tax debt is the result.

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

Any rates short of the rates that were used under President Reagan will never pay the bills. Republicans are big spenders and only fools think different.   They prefer credit than cash.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

spending that is 21 percent of GDP, then you can have a.) taxes that are 21 percent of GDP; b.) deficits. There is no c."


This is what most people are missing. Taxes as a percent of GDP and spending as a percent of GDP.  How many years have we had taxes lower than spending as a percent of GDP in the past 50 years? 

One or two when Clinton got the budget under control and Bush trashed that by slashing taxes? 


The goal is a stable country, and deficit spending is needed during depressions and recessions. We can't rely on "tax cuts will cause growth" because we had record low taxes during the great recession.  Tax policy couldn't change that.  Any Republican tax plan that relies on unspecified future growth is known as "voodoo economics". 


Two things are needed. Increase revenue as a percentage of GDP and spending reductions as a percentage of GDP.  We can't just choose one and think the debt will be paid. It takes much more effort than that. 

WMD2
WMD2

Grover Norquist, the un-elected leader of GOP tax policy says otherwise.


The pledge has been signed by all but 16 of the incoming Republican members of the House of Representatives — and all but 12 of Republicans currently in Congress.

The key component of Republicans' willingness to compromise in any deal, however, includes capping deductions and/or closing loopholes in the tax code — two moves that would violate Norquist's pledge.


Norquist has pushed back this week with a series of television appearances, saying that Republicans will have to answer to constituents — not him — if they break the pledge.



Claver
Claver

@WMD2 For the very wealthy (like himself), Trump's new rates are so low that you could end all of their deductions and they will still be paying less.

Caius
Caius

The problem with presidential candidates, and actual presidents, submitting tax and spending plans is that to become law they must pass Congress.  What we get as a result of that  is, well, let Alice describe it, " 'If it had grown up,' she said to herself, 'it would have made a dreadfully ugly child; but it makes rather a handsome pig, I think.'"

straker
straker

The only thing you can count on in any Republican's tax plan is the rich getting richer.

M H Smith
M H Smith

Neither one of these plans will work, we are not going to see 4% or 6% growth in GDP. 

 

lvg
lvg

Not mentioned is government welfare for the working poor or earned income tax credits where IRS pays out money to subsidize low income workers with families. This a clever way that the  GOP endorses to allow employers to keep wages unrealistically low while the IRS subsidizes the worker. Another tax drain not mentioned is a mandatory minimum tax for large corporations like GE that pay little or no taxes. This currently  is a government subsidy for  shareholders and the big bonuses paid to top executives where the corporation avoids a fair share of taxes..


Spending and deficits are never  big issues for the GOP if they control the executive branch provided that there are huge appropriations for the  defense industry. Under W defense spending  went up four to five times the level in 2000 with a reduction in taxes. Kyle conveniently left that out.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@lvg "Kyle conveniently left that out"

I'd like to know what about this piece made you think I'm OK with deficit spending if it's for "the right things."

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

@Kyle

What do you or the GOP figure to be "the right things"?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@AnsweredTHIS That was my sarcastic rephrasing of Ivg's reference.

I think spending ought to match revenues. I think that means setting priorities for spending. I would prioritize defense spending over many, many other things the federal government concerns itself with, but outside a WW2-type situation I wouldn't support deficit financing of higher defense spending. Or, to be clear, anything else.

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

I can appreciate your comment but is it not true that because of defense spending we are in such a bad defecit? Is it not time we focus on more productive asset investments in infrastructure, energy, health technology, and other assets of the future.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@AnsweredTHIS "is it not true that because of defense spending we are in such a bad defecit"

No, it is not true. It is true that we run deficits because the federal government spends more than it takes in. Blaming it on one area of spending -- and not even the area that is growing the fastest; on the contrary -- is just politics.

It's fair game, though, to say you'd eliminate the deficit by cutting this item or that item.

bu2
bu2

@Kyle_Wingfield @AnsweredTHIS


Got to agree with Clever.  Trump's rates and brackets indicate lower taxes.  So it being balanced has got to be nothing but hot air.  More of the same from Trump.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@bu2 And when an actual, data-based estimate came out (from the Tax Foundation) showing just that, I updated the post to reflect that.