Economic Snapshot | Budget, Taxes, and Public Investment

The Bush Tax Cuts Disproportionately Benefitted the Wealthy

Ten years after their enactment, the Bush tax cuts remain expensive, ineffective, and unfair. As outlined in a new EPI policy memo, the Bush-era tax changes conferred disproportionate benefits to those at the top of the earnings distribution, exacerbating a trend of widening income inequality at a time of already poor wage growth.

A distributional analysis of the 2001-08 tax changes shows that the top 1% of earners (making over $620,442) received 38% of the tax cuts. The lower 60% of filers (making less than $67,715) received less than 20% of the total benefit of Bush’s tax policies.

The Bush-era tax cuts were designed to reduce taxes for the wealthy, and the benefits of faster growth were then supposed to trickle down to the middle class. But the economic impact of cutting capital gains rates and lowering the top marginal tax rates never materialized for working families. Inflation-adjusted median weekly earnings fell by 2.3% during the 2002-07 economic expansion, which holds the distinction for being the worst economic expansion since World War II.

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