The Obama campaign has at long last lifted the veil of mystery that has surrounded the Democratic presidential candidate’s tax increase plans. Mr. Obama’s two economic advisers, Jason Furman and Austan Goolsbee, have an op-ed piece in today’s Wall Street Journal, and it isn’t pretty. To begin with, they propose bringing back the 39.6% top income tax bracket, an increase from the 35% current top rate. On top of that, he’d impose a new payroll tax on those top earners of 2% to 4%, bringing their marginal tax rate to as high as 43.6%. Add to that the top New York City income tax rate of 3.648% and the top New York State income tax rate of 6.85%, and the nominal marginal income tax rate mounts to a staggering 54%. Because Mr. Obama proposes to put the capital gains and dividend tax rate at 20% even for the “rich” — a mere 33% increase over the current 15% rate — expect to see plenty of high earners scurrying to find creative ways of structuring their income as capital gains or dividends rather than as earned income.
Meanwhile, the most astonishing sentence in the op-ed is this one: “His plan would not raise any taxes on couples making less than $250,000 a year, nor on any single person with income under $200,000.” It amounts to a declaration of war on two-income families, a marriage penalty of punitive proportions. If those two single persons with income just under $200,000 get married, Mr. Obama is going to hammer them with a huge tax increase. If the second earner, who in many cases is the woman, is going to have to give 54% of what she earns to the government, she might as well stay home with the children. Mr. Obama may be able to get away with symbolic slights to women, such as not picking Senator Clinton as vice president. But punishing them with confiscatory taxes for participating in the workforce at a high income level moves the slight into the realm of substance.