Dennis Kucinich Says Tax System Redistributes Wealth Upward

October 30, 2007

In tonight’s Democratic Presidential Debate, Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich (whose chances of winning the nomination are about the same as the Miami Dolphins winning the Super Bowl this year) made the following statement on national television: “Right now. It’s all about a redistribution upwards. The tax system is about redistributing the wealth upwards. The health care system redistributes the wealth upwards. Our energy policies redistribute the wealth upwards.”

Regardless of Kucinich’s normative views on economic issues (they sound a lot like they were taken out of a socialist party platform) which can be debated elsewhere, is he even correct in these claims he makes? Regarding the tax system, unless these taxes going “upward” are somehow flowing to extra-terrestrial creatures, the answer is undoubtedly no.

The federal tax system is progressive, meaning the richest Americans pay a larger percentage of their income in federal taxes than lower-income Americans and thereby the tax system redstributes income downward relative to what a flat rate tax would. This isn’t a question of whether that is right or wrong. It’s just fact.

Now whether or not the tax system has gotten more or less progressive (redistributive) since Bush took office, that is another question, and the answer to that depends on how one measures changes progressivity. In fact, both sides can claim to be right on this question, again, depending upon how one measures it, but two commonly used measures can have this problem, yet always lead to identical answers to the binary question of whether a tax is progressive or not. (It’s measuring the change in progressivity where they differ.)

Elsewhere in the debate, Senator Clinton and Barack Obama refused to adopt Charlie Rangel’s new tax bill, despite the fact that conservatives have tried in recent days to portray Hillary as a supporter of this plan. (In reality, she hasn’t said much substantive on how she would fix AMT, about like every other candidate in the race, Republican or Democrat, except for the two FairTax supporters, Gravel and Huckabee.)


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