I am a job creator.
I am not a job creator in the sense that I actually create jobs. I have never knowingly created a job, and my long-term business plan, approved unanimously by my board of directors, does not call for the creation of a single one.
But I am a job creator in the sense Republicans mean when they say “don’t tax our job creators more” (House budget committee Chairman Paul Ryan) or “we cannot increase taxes on the job creators” (House Speaker John A. Boehner). This is because, in the eyes of the government, I am a small business — and, as the House Republicans liketosay, “small businesses are the job creators.”
Like the overwhelming majority of small businesses, I am a one-man operation. And, like most small businesses, I would not hire anybody even if the government dropped my tax rate to zero.
According to Small Business Administration statistics, based on 2009 Census data, 21.1 million of the 27 million small businesses in the United States are “non-employer firms,” which have no workers other than the owner. Of those, 18.7 million are “sole proprietors,” 950,000 are partnerships and 1.4 million are corporations, like me.
When lawmakers talk about small businesses as the engine of growth, they bring to mind entrepreneurs building start-ups from their garages. But when officials talk about protecting the “job creators” from tax hikes, they are mostly protecting a bunch of doctors, lawyers, freelancers, contractors and the like.
On the advice of my accountants, I formed a “C corporation,” which means that, as a legal entity, I am pretty much the same as General Motors and Google. But I run a lean operation. While my business, Ink-Stained Inc., produces the occasional book, TV appearance and speech, it is probably not going to win any best-practices awards.
Disagreement is rare during board meetings at Ink-Stained Inc. world headquarters (my house), because I am the chairman, chief executive, president, treasurer, secretary, chief technology officer and mail-room clerk. Occasionally board members complain about environmental regulations, not because these regulations affect us but because that is what we have heard corporations are supposed to do.
We administer a modest pension plan for our sole employee, and we reimburse a few health-care expenses. We have big, professional-looking checks, and we attempt to keep our accounts balanced, although our chief financial officer (also me) is a lagging performer. We once considered hiring our wife as a consultant to help us organize our finances, but the HR department was unable to come to terms with her. We have so far repelled all attempts at unionization.
I should add that I am in no danger of being caught in the net of President Obama’s proposed millionaires’ tax. I pay the accountants a few thousand dollars, and they make sure I am not paying more in taxes than I should be. (Note to the IRS: They do this in ways that are conservative, entirely above-board and so innocuous that they should not attract your interest in the slightest.)
While there is something absurd about being a one-man corporation, it’s a rational response to an irrational tax code. If lawmakers got serious about tax reform that removed loopholes, the money spent on accountants and actuaries (valuable though they are) could instead be used to grow the economy or to pay the federal debt. But that’s a matter for another day.
At the moment, the Ink-Stained Inc. case study, should the Harvard Business School wish to study it, is a reminder to be skeptical of the “job creator” argument in the tax debate. “It’s a good example of the murkiness of what we mean by small business and the connection to jobs,” William Gale, co-director of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution’s Tax Policy Center, told me. “There’s sort of this notion of small-business innovation and job creation that just doesn’t necessarily hold.”
That’s even more so with Obama’s “Buffett Rule,” under which millionaires would have to pay a higher tax rate than a typical middle-class worker. As a practical matter, most already do. Gale said the rule would raise the taxes on only a few thousand people, perhaps as few as 1,000.
In a nation of more than 300 million, that’s not going to make a dent in job creation. Even the data analysts at Ink-Stained Inc. could figure out that one — that is, if we had any data analysts.
By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 21, 2011
One wonders why Congress convened its budget-reforming “supercommittee” at all; House Speaker John Boehner (R) on Thursday announced that he’d done all its members’ work for them.
At a speech to the Economic Club of Washington, Boehner articulated a hard-right line on taxes that even the most moderate of Democrats could never accept. Remove loopholes from the tax code, he argued, but “not for the purpose of bringing more money into the government.” Tax increases? Not a chance — they “are off the table,” Boehner said, repeating the dubious argument that planning to raise revenue many years down the road would hurt job creation now. If you’re looking for deficit reduction, Boehner barked, “the joint committee only has one option — spending cuts and entitlement reform.”
A new Bloomberg poll on Thursday reconfirmed voter anger at Washington’s inability to compromise — on budgets, on jobs policy, on long-term deficits. On the same day, the speaker gave a lesson by example of why it’s been so hard.
True, Boehner’s speech followed news that President Obama is scaling back the entitlement reforms he would favor in a long-term budget reform package, retreating from concessions he was willing to make over the summer to strike a debt deal. Both sides, then, are hardening their positions. But Obama’s remains politically braver than Boehner’s, since the president says he still wants to achieve some balance between raising revenue and cutting spending through reforms to Medicare, the protection of which Democrats are desperate to use as a campaign issue.
That is the key to deficit-cutting, drilled home in study after study: You can’t expect to fix America’s finances with tax increases alone or with spending cuts alone. Plans that lack this essential balance would fail either because their math doesn’t add up (the GOP’s Ryan plan) or because they would be reversed the second the other party took control of the government (the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s proposal…and the Ryan plan).
A deficit plan must also be balanced in another way — against premature budget austerity while the economy is sluggish, which Obama designed his latest jobs plan to avoid. Boehner said on Thursday there might be room for limited agreement with Obama. But not much, signalling disapproval of even the sorts of temporary tax cuts that would have been an obvious choice for Republicans for decades — until now.
Boehner might just be gearing up for further negotiations. But the speaker’s demonstration that he and his party are still in thrall to the ideological fantasies he described on Thursday aren’t going to enhance Americans’ confidence — in their leaders, or in their economic future.
By: Stephen Stromberg, The Washington Post, September 15, 2011
This week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) released a memo outlining the House GOP’s supposed “jobs agenda.” In addition to being an assault on organized labor and recommending the elimination of environmental regulations that save tens of thousands of lives every year, the document proposes reviving some of the GOP’s favorite tax cuts, including the so-called “20% Small Business Tax Deduction.”
This particular idea made an appearance in both an “economic plan” that Cantor and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) presented to President Obama in 2009 and the GOP’s 2010 Pledge to America. The policy would allow businesses to deduct 20 percent of their income from their taxes, and in Cantor’s words, “immediately free up funds for small business people to retain and hire new employees, and reinvest in and grow their businesses.”
However, as Citizens for Tax Justice pointed out in 2009, there is little reason to think this tax break would be anything but a boondoggle:
The Republican plan proposes to allow a “small business” to take a tax deduction of 20 percent of its pretax income, whether the small business is a corporation or a sole proprietor. The plan defines a “small business” as one with 500 or fewer employees. It makes no distinction based on income. A “small business” making $100 million would get to deduct $20 million of its income right off the top. (Apparently, a company with slightly more than 500 employees would have an incentive to lay off staff to qualify for the tax break!) [...]
A business tax cut is just about the least effective stimulus measure Congress could possibly enact. The tax cuts put more money in the hands of business. But there is very little correlation between a corporation’s cash position and its plans for investment—whether expanding capacity or hiring new employees. Businesses invest in expansion when they believe there will be an increase in the demand for the goods and services they provide. If they don’t anticipate a sales increase, they won’t expand no matter how many tax breaks the federal government gives them.
And the Center for American Progress’ Christian Weller noted in 2010 that, while the credit is restricted to business with fewer than 500 employees, it’s still “an ‘upside-down’ tax break that gives the largest benefits to those who already have the highest incomes” because the amount of the deduction is contingent on which tax bracket a business files in (the higher the tax bracket, the more the deduction is worth):
A deduction reduces the taxable income and thus the taxes that somebody has to pay. A business owner with lots of business and other income will thus get a government subsidy of 35 cents for each dollar in deduction, while a small business owner in the 15 percent tax bracket will get 15 cents for each dollar in deductions…Larger businesses could easily use this windfall to outcompete smaller businesses. A larger business owner with a 35 percent marginal tax rate will get a benefit that is 133 percent greater than the benefit that a smaller business owner with a 15 percent marginal tax rate gets for each dollar in tax deduction.
But for the GOP, this idea is so good that it’s worth bringing up over and over again.
By: Pat Garofalo, ThinkProgress, September 3, 2011