Trump's GOP-Supported Corporate Tax Cuts Don't Produce Jobs

Posted Sept. 13, 2017

MP3 Interview with Sarah Anderson, director of the Institute for Policy Studies' Global Economy Project, conducted by Scott Harris


During the 2016 election campaign, Donald Trump promised to pass the biggest tax cut since Ronald Reagan’s $200 billion tax reduction in 1981. While the administration hasn’t yet produced a detailed proposal, analysis of the broad outlines of the plan found that their tax cuts would disproportionately benefit the wealthiest Americans and the billionaire and millionaire members of Trump’s own Cabinet. While Trump has refused to release his federal tax returns, it’s a safe bet that he himself – as well as his luxury real estate development company would be primary beneficiaries of the tax reform plan.

In line with long-standing Republican dogma, the rationale for cutting corporate taxes is to make more capital available to companies so they can invest, create more jobs and boost the economy for all Americans. The only trouble is that the standard GOP “trickle-down” philosophy has for many years been solidly debunked by economists who have researched the real world impact of tax cuts on job creation.

While Trump and Republicans denounce the current top U.S. tax rate of 35 percent as being the highest in the world, the Government Accountability Office found that between 2008 and 2012, profitable large corporations paid on average an effective tax rate of only 14 percent, due to built-in loopholes within the federal tax code. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Sarah Anderson, director of the Institute for Policy Studies' Global Economy Project. Here, she talks about why corporate tax cuts don't produce more jobs, as detailed in Anderson’s recent New York Times op-ed piece. [Rush transcript]

SARAH ANDERSON: Many people have looked at this question of whether slashing the corporate tax rate will be good for job creation. But our research is a little different in that we looked at specific companies that have already been paying next to nothing in federal income taxes. And AT&T jumped out as really an extreme example of a company that has been avoiding paying their fair share of taxes and using the tax savings not to create jobs – but putting a lot of it into executive compensation. We looked at companies that were profitable every year, over the period 2008-2015 and yet we're paying an effective tax rate of less than 20 percent. The official rate is 35 percent, and AT&T was actually paying only an 8 percent effective federal tax rate during that period.

What did they do with the tax savings? Instead of creating jobs, they laid off nearly 80,000 people and their CEO Randall Stevenson has made quite a fortune during this period. And what amazed me is that he is out there very vocally promoting Trump's tax cut plan and bemoaning how burdensome the current tax code is and how much competitive it could be if only they had to pay less taxes. And, they're already paying next to nothing in taxes. So, I think with these specific examples, it will be even more clear to people that this is just a hoax, this idea that cutting the corporate tax rate will lead to more jobs.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Sarah, what do you make of the media coverage of this very narrow part of the debate where an advocate of cutting taxes for the wealthy and big corporations always tell us that the United States has the highest tax rate in the entire world? Which sounds, "Oh my god, how could we be doing such a horrible thing to our corporate brothers and sisters?" So how do you think that's generally handled by the hosts of these talk shows, particularly on cable news, where a lot of people get their information?

SARAH ANDERSON: Yeah, they usually eat it right up, so I'm really appreciative of shows like yours, where we get to dispel some of these myths. The official corporate tax rate in the U.S. is 35 percent at the federal level. But the rate is meaningless because there are so many loopholes in the tax code that most big corporations don't pay anywhere near that. So, even though the rate might be high relative to a lot of countries, the amount of revenue that our government gets from corporate taxes is lower than the average for industrialized countries.

So that is another huge myth you're going to hear over and over again from President Trump, from House Speaker (Paul) Ryan. It's another mantra of the Republican party that our corporations are just being strangled by these high taxes that are so much higher than anywhere else in the world.

BETWEEN THE LINES: And Sarah, I wanted to ask you, with the discussion we see now unfolding in Washington, about tax reform and the need to create a fairer system, what are some of the proposals that you would recommend for genuine tax reform that would benefit the majority and not just the wealthiest one percent and the most profitable corporations?

SARAH ANDERSON: The focus should really be on closing up the loopholes that are currently allowing these big, profitable corporations to get away with paying so little in taxes. And this whole game around hiding profits offshore is one that would raise tremendous amounts of revenue and also even the playing field between these big multinational corporations that have the ability to hide their money in tax havens and domestic-rooted companies and small businesses that don't have that option.

But I think we also need to look at additional ways to make sure that the wealthy and big corporations and Wall Street are paying their fair share. And the one that I decided to highlight in the New York Times op-ed is a small tax on Wall Street speculation, which, at a very, very low rate that would really just target the real high-flyers in the financial casino, the ones who are flipping stocks and making trades thousands of times a day – even a tax at very small rate on each one of those trades of derivatives and so forth, could really add up on these high-flying traders in the market, but have very little effect on ordinary folks and their pension funds or whatever investments they might have.

And that would just be one way that I think we could make our system more fair. It's amazing to think that ordinary Americans pay their taxes every year, they pay taxes when they buy a gallon of gasoline and often if you buy basics like a new winter coat – but people who are trading millions of dollars and derivatives every minute don't pay any kind of sales tax when they're doing that kind of activity.

Related Links:

Subscribe and get Between The Lines' Weekly Summary in your inbox!