The Trump economy was extraordinary for wage earners

 Foundation for Economic Education:


Government statistics, which use the Consumer Price Index to measure inflation, show that from 2002 through 2015 median weekly earnings didn’t budge at all, but surged between 2018 and 2020.
I’m not the first person to notice this stunning wage growth. Writing in Bloomberg, economist Karl W. Smith describes the growth in income using a slightly different metric, real median household income.

“In 2016, real median household income was $62,898, just $257 above its level in 1999,” writes Smith. “Over the next three years it grew almost $6,000, to $68,703.”

Indeed, median household incomes increased from $64,300 to $68,700 in 2018 alone—an increase of $4,400. To put it another way, US incomes increased more in 2018 than the previous 20 years combined. (Household incomes were $61,100 in 1998 and $64,300 at the end of 2017.)

The question, of course, is why did US incomes suddenly explode after decades of tepid growth? The answer is not difficult to find.

The year 2017 saw massive deregulation and passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). Estimates placed the deregulation savings at $2 trillion. But what was likely even a bigger factor was the cut businesses saw in corporate taxes.

Prior to 2017, the US had the highest corporate tax in the developed world (if not the whole world). With a top bracket of 35 percent, its corporate tax rate was higher than Communist China and socialist Venezuela.

This was a terrible policy on a number of levels. For starters, the revenue-maximizing rate of a corporate tax is 15-25 percent, which means anything above that isn’t even generating more revenue, it’s simply punitive and economically harmful. (Evidence bears this out. The United Kingdom, for example, reduced its corporate tax rate and saw revenues grow.)

Second, high corporate taxes actually hurt workers more than "Big Business." Tax experts point out that roughly 70 percent of what businesses earn in profits gets paid to workers in the form of wages and other benefits. So it’s no surprise to see that studies show that workers bear between 50 and 100 percent of the brunt of corporate income taxes.

But the reverse is also true: cutting corporate taxes leaves companies more capital to grow and invest.

“Lower corporate taxes increase rewards for improving techniques, technology, and increasing capital investments, which increase worker productivity and earnings,” writes economist Gary Galles. “They expand rewards for risk-taking and entrepreneurship in service of consumers. They reduce the substantial distortions caused by the tax. And those changes benefit others, such as workers and consumers.”

So in 2017, when the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed into law, companies saw their tax rate fall from 35 percent to 21 percent. Just that fast, businesses suddenly had more capital to spend to grow their business, improve productivity, and hire more workers—and few things attract workers more than higher wages.

Media scoffed at the possibility that corporate tax cuts would actually result in wage increases for US workers. But the data speaks for itself: Families saw incomes increase faster than at any time in generations.

Moreover, though median wages surged, showing the benefits were broad-based, every segment benefited from these wage gains.

“The lowest quintile increased their pay more than the upper quintile,” Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist recently pointed out in a conversation with FEE’s Brad Polumbo.

There is more.

Of course, Biden wants to raise taxes.  His proposed corporate is higher than China's.  It is one of the dumb things greedy Democrats do when they have power.  Fortunately, their grasp on power is tenuous.  They should have a hard time passing a big tax bill.  What these statistics do demonstrate is that Trump's tax cuts were an important factor in the increased wages of workers.  Those workers had good reason to vote for him in 2020 and they should have been enough to put him over the top if not for the intercession of Big Tech and some shenanigans in swing states.


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