The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Obama administration has cut taxes

In his convention speech, Ohio Gov. John Kasich highlighted his tax cuts as one reason his state is recovering while the broader economy languishes. Fair enough, I guess. But the implicit contrast with President Obama doesn't make a lot of sense. Obama has, after all, cut taxes since coming into office.

As Dylan Matthews has written, the Obama administration has passed three major bills affecting the taxes people paid over the last four years. The stimulus, which included $289.6 billion in tax cuts; the 2010 tax deal, which included more than $800 billion in tax cuts; and the payroll tax deal, which extended the payroll tax cut and a handful of other policies through 2012. They also passed the Affordable Care Act, which included lots of tax cuts to help poorer people buy insurance and lots of tax increases to help pay for the tax cuts, but those changes don't really take effect for a few years yet.

For these reasons -- and because the economy tanked -- tax receipts have hovered around their lowest level since the Eisenhower era. Here's the graph:

Now, it's true that Obama wants to raise taxes on rich people in the future. But that hasn't happened yet. So far, it's been tax cuts, just like it was in the Bush era. If tax cuts were enough to assure growth, we should have seen a rocketing economy over the last decade. To put things delicately, we did not. Conversely, the Clinton era, which started with a big tax increase, featured a boom.

To be clear, that doesn't mean tax increases lead to economic growth. But it's hard to look at the evidence and see much reason to believe that tax cuts will fix what ails us, or that tax increases can't be part of a balanced budget and a booming economy. And yet, speaker after speaker is attacking Obama on taxes, and calling for tax cuts.