Hand the wealthiest Americans a tax cut and history suggests they will save the money rather than spend it.
Tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 under President George W. Bush were followed by increases in the saving rate among the rich, according to data from Moody’s Analytics Inc. When taxes were raised under Bill Clinton, the saving rate fell.
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The findings may weaken arguments by Republicans and some Democrats in Congress who say allowing the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to lapse will prompt them to reduce their spending, harming the economy. President Barack Obama wants to extend the cuts for individuals earning less than $200,000 and couples earning less than $250,000 while ending them for those who earn more.
“I would tend to wonder how much the tax cut actually influences spending behavior,” said Chris Cornell, an economist who mined government reports back to 1989.
“Spending by the top 5 percent of households seems much more closely tied to business-cycle issues than it does to tax-cut issues.”
The research covering couples earning more than $210,000 found that spending by the wealthy is more likely to be influenced by the ups and downs of the stock market than changes in income tax rates.
Stock market performance is the “primary factor that is driving the savings of the top 5 percent of households,” said Mustafa Akcay, economist and co-researcher of the savings data.