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Larry Kudlow: Obama’s Class-Warfare, Tax-the-Rich Budget

Raising taxes to raise spending would sabotage our nation's future economic growth

If you shake out President Barack Obama’s budget in terms of bold headlines, it’s really a class-warfare, tax-the-rich budget. Layer upon layer of tax hikes are piled on successful investors, small-business owners and corporations.

The capital-gains tax goes from 15 percent to 24 percent (including Obamacare). The dividends tax goes from 15 percent to nearly 40 percent, and that’s not including the double tax on corporate profits embodied in dividends and capital gains. The Bush tax cuts for top earners are repealed.

There’s the 30 percent Buffett-rule minimum tax on millionaires. The carried-interest tax for private equity, hedge funds and other investment partnerships goes from 15 percent to 39.6 percent. The estate tax jumps to 45 percent. State and local bond interest deductions are severely limited. Oil and gas companies get hit. So do banks. And there’s probably more stuff in there I haven’t read yet.

Rep. Paul Ryan’s press release calls it a $1.9 trillion tax hike, with $47 trillion in government spending over the next decade and the fourth straight year of trillion-dollar deficits.

Some kind of corporate tax reform may be released in a few weeks. But we don’t know much about it. And while it may lower the top rate, it’s going to penalize U.S. firms operating abroad by roughly $150 billion in tax hikes. All in all, the Obama budget raises corporate taxes by $350 billion. Just what business does not want or need.

Former Bush economist Keith Hennessey estimates that new proposals would create a ratio of at least 1.2 dollars of tax increases for every dollar cut in spending. Most of the spending cuts would slam Medicare doctors and other health providers. Unlikely to happen. And there is no overall entitlement reform.

Somehow, the Obama budget is being offered as a substitute for the $1.2 trillion in spending cuts from the supercommittee. But the slam down in defense remains a huge problem.

There is no $4 trillion in new deficit savings, because $1.2 trillion was already scored by the supercommittee. Plus, another $1 trillion was already counted as savings from the wind-downs in Afghanistan and Iraq. And $800 billion comes from interest savings, not program cuts.

So maybe there’s $1 trillion in spending reduction over 10 years. But as the details trickle out, that’s a big maybe. Compare that with $47 trillion of total spending increases and at least $1.5 trillion of tax hikes.

The deficit for the coming year, which is $1.3 trillion, would be 8.5 percent of gross domestic product. More important, budget spending remains at more than 24 percent of GDP. Debt held by the public for 2013 would be $12.7 trillion, or 77.4 percent of GDP. In terms of 10-year totals, spending would rise by $47 trillion and deficits by $6.7 trillion.

Really, this is a budget that says we must raise taxes in order to raise spending. It’s a 1 percent vs. 99 percent budget. But if these tax hikes ever went through, it would be a 100 percent whack at future economic growth.

Obama Chief of Staff Jack Lew was wrong this week to suggest that a budget passed in the Senate requires 60 votes. By law, budget reconciliation requires only 51 votes. But this budget is dead on arrival. All the Republicans and many of the Democrats are not going to vote for across-the-board tax hikes. That’s a good thing.

But the question now is: What happens next? The United States is in a heap of fiscal trouble — on the verge of bankruptcy. What are we going to do about it?

Larry Kudlow National Review Online’s economics editor, is host of CNBC’s The Kudlow Report and author of the daily web blog Kudlow’s Money Politic$. Click here for more information, or click here to contact him.

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