The One Chart That Destroys the GOP Tax-Cut Message

Charts are wonderful things. Like a photograph, a good chart is worth a thousand words.

The chart below, for example, can destroy the Republican tax-cut message in a single image. We wish every Democrat running for office would print this chart on a foamcore poster—as big as they can fit in their car—and carry it with them as they knock on doors and to every house party, speech, and debate.

Here is the chart, and the talking points that go with it:

Chart showing disparity in incomes between top 1% and middle class

Click to enlarge



  • Conservatives say they want another huge tax cut for wealthy people in the top tax bracket, and they want to slash corporate taxes. They say that will stimulate the economy and everyone will benefit. It’s called “trickle-down economics,” and conservatives have been telling us that since Ronald Reagan was elected 35 years ago.
  • If anyone thinks that’s a good idea, I have a chart I’d like to show you. Let’s take a look at what’s happened in the last 35 years when we give huge tax cuts to people who already have lots of money.
  • As you can see from the chart:
    • The incomes of the richest 1% in America have tripled.
    • Corporate profits have nearly quadrupled.
    • Even the incomes for the rest of the top 20% have risen almost 70%.
    • And these figures are after taxes and adjusted for inflation, so they show the real increase in income.
  • But what’s happened to average Americans? For everyone else, their incomes have stayed essentially flat. And the small increase the chart does show has been eaten up by costs that have risen faster than inflation (like health care and college tuition) and by expenses families didn’t have in the 1980s (like monthly bills for Internet access, cable TV, and wireless phones).
  • Clearly, the “trickle-down” effect isn’t working. The middle class is hurting, or at least not getting ahead. So what do Republicans say we should do about this? Give more huge tax breaks to the rich!
  • Does that make sense to anyone? Saying you’re going to help the average worker by giving more money to the rich is like saying you’re going to feed the hungry by giving rich people more food, so there will be more crumbs and leftovers for the poor.
  • Supply-side economics—or trickle-down economics—is a bogus theory. It doesn’t work. Giving tax breaks primarily to the wealthy not only doesn’t help the middle class, it will explode the national deficit. How do we know? Because it’s happened twice before, under Reagan and Bush.
  • Creating huge deficits by tax giveaways to the rich, and then using those deficits as a reason to cut food stamps and social services to the poor is immoral, irreligious, and contrary to American values. It is not who we are as Americans. It is not what this country stands for.
  • Why doesn’t trickle-down economics work?
    • Corporations don’t give raises to workers just because they have lots of money. That cuts into profits. Profits go to shareholders and executives, not to employees.
    • Corporations also don’t increase production or build more factories just because they have lots of money. They need to have demand for their products.
    • The rich don’t drive the economy—consumers do.
  • So what do Democrats propose instead? Policies that directly help American workers, such as:
    • Tax breaks aimed at the middle class
    • A raise in the minimum wage
    • Support for unions, so workers can bargain for raises from a position of strength
    • Affordable health care for all workers
    • Paid sick leave
    • Affordable college tuition (including refinancing student loans and Pell grants for low-income students)
    • Affordable child care
  • We need to get the bottom line of this chart moving again. To do that, we can’t use the same failed economic theory that created this chart in the first place.
  • The path to prosperity starts from the bottom up, not from the top down. Instead of doing more favors for people who are already rich, you need people in Washington who will start doing favors for you.


The underlying data and notes about his chart are available here (Excel file).

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