The New York Times reported on Thursday that Senate Republicans applied pressure to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) in September, successfully persuading it to withdraw a report finding that lowering marginal tax rates for the wealthiest Americans had no effect on economic growth or job creation.
“The pressure applied to the research service comes amid a broader Republican effort to raise questions about research and statistics that were once trusted as nonpartisan and apolitical,” the Times reported. Democrats in Congress, however, have resurfaced the report and published it in full. It can be read below.
Republicans told the Times they had issues with the tone, wording and scope of the report, but they clearly objected most strongly to its findings, which undermine the governing fiscal philosophy of the party, that tax cuts for the wealthy will spur growth and benefit everybody.
GOP officials told The Times that the decision by the CRS came after a cooperative discussion, but Democrats have suggested that the move is part of a broader effort by Republicans to squelch legitimate research that runs counter to their economic principles.
The CRS concluded:
The results of the analysis suggest that changes over the past 65 years in the top marginal tax rate and the top capital gains tax rate do not appear correlated with economic growth. The reduction in the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment, and productivity growth. The top tax rates appear to have little or no relation to the size of the economic pie.
However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution. As measured by IRS data, the share of income accruing to the top 0.1% of U.S. families increased from 4.2% in 1945 to 12.3% by 2007 before falling to 9.2% due to the 2007-2009 recession. At the same time, the average tax rate paid by the top 0.1% fell from over 50% in 1945 to about 25% in 2009. Tax policy could have a relation to how the economic pie is sliced¡©lower top tax rates may be associated with greater income disparities.
Rep. Sandy Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, demanded the CRS explain its decision. “The impartial research and advice provided by CRS experts informs and strengthens the work of Congress. However, this valuable role hinges on the impartiality of CRS analysts and their freedom from political pressure. As with other non-partisan institutions, subjecting CRS analysts to political considerations undermines the legislative process and the American people‚s trust in it,” Levin wrote in a letter to CRS. “Therefore I was deeply disturbed to hear that Mr. Hungerford‚s report was taken down in response to political pressure from Congressional Republicans who had ideological objections to the report‚s factual findings and conclusion.”
The report is extensive, but the reasoning behind its conclusion is fairly straightforward. The richest Americans are the least likely to spend extra money they get as a result of a tax cut, and are more likely to save it or invest it offshore. Those on the lower end of the economic spectrum, meanwhile, are the most likely to spend transfer payments they receive from the government.
A release by the Democratic Policy & Communications Center on Wednesday accused Republicans of attempting to bury the report because its “findings undermine a central tenet of Republican party orthodoxy on taxes.” They included a copy of the original report, which is available below: