GOP presidential hopefuls compete on tax cut plans
By Brooks Jackson/CNN
June 24, 1999
Web posted at: 5:45 p.m. EDT (2145 GMT)
WASHINGTON (June 24) -- It's a Republican bidding war as GOP White House hopefuls rush to propose tax cuts.
"We can provide relief," says Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona).
"I've a tax cut plan here," insists Texas Gov. George W. Bush.
But who would benefit? Let's see.
Nearly all Republicans oppose the current so-called "marriage penalty." That's $1,380 per family -- but only for some two-income families. In all, just 44 percent of couples now pay a penalty and nearly two-thirds was paid by those making more than $50,000 a year.
Citizens for Tax Justice's Michael Ettlinger said, "That's basically and upper middle income, upper income tax cut."
Most Republican hopefuls also would end the estate tax -- or "death tax" as they call it.
That would benefit just over 49,000 estates this year -- the richest two percent of those who die with an average of more than $500,000 each, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.
But those cuts are just for starters.
"The really expensive proposals are the big rate reductions," GOP tax expert Ken Kies explains.
The top tax rate now is 39.6 percent. Lamar Alexander and Dan Quayle would slash that to 28 percent.
Steve Forbes wants one flat rate of 17 percent. Gary Bauer and Pat Buchanan would make it a flat 16 percent.
The rich pay the most so they naturally would benefit the most. But these huge cuts stand little chance.
Ettlinger said, "The notion that you can just cut out hundreds of billions of dollars from the budget and come up with a working budget is just not realistic."
Presidents have had a way of breaking tax-related campaign promises. President George Bush broke his word when he said "Read my lips, no new taxes" at the 1988 Republican convention. And President Bill Clinton broke his when he pledged in 1992 to deliver a middle-class tax cut.
This time, no specific promises are coming from the Republican front-runners Bush and Elizabeth Dole. Not yet anyway.
In general, the lower the candidates are in the polls, the lower the tax rate they're promising. So take that for what it's worth.