Happy New Year: Corporate Profits Up, Taxes Down

If you’re looking for hard economic news, this year-end mindbender from the Bureau of Economic Analysis ought to do the trick: corporate profits surged in the third quarter while corporate taxes fell.

And more hard news: on average folks who work in financial services make 52 percent more than you do.

“Corporate profits with inventory valuation and capital consumption adjustments) increased $32.5 billion in the third quarter,” said the BEA. So if company profits are on the rise should that not mean the government will collect more tax revenue and reduce the deficit? Er, no, said the BEA:

“Taxes on corporate income decreased $9.1 billion in the third quarter, compared with a decrease of $1.8 billion in the second.”

Well wait a minute. There must be some accounting in there which shows that for some reason corporate profits are down and therefore taxes should be lower.

Nope. That’s not it.

The domestic profits of financial corporations — banks, financial holding companies, etc. — increased $9.2 billion in the third quarter. Non-financial corporations saw profits grow by $17.9 billion.

You’ll Earn More In Banking

Notice that profits rose by $27.1 billion — of which 34 percent was earned by banks and financial companies.

In terms of income, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the median wage of someone in the financial services field is $67,690 versus the general wage of $44,410. That’s a 52% premium.

Income, of course, is very important. The more you earn the more likely you are to get a good FHA, VA or conventional mortgage at a good rate — and the less likely you are to be foreclosed.

For the past few weeks the government has been debating the issue of whether to raise the payroll tax by 2 percent — but there has been little or no debate regarding an increase in effective corporate taxes. For all the yelling and screaming of those who claim that business is over-regulated and over-taxed, the plain fact is that while corporate revenues are rising corporate taxes are not — meaning Uncle Sam has less money from the very businesses it nurtures and protects until they are large enough to take jobs overseas, buy back their own stock and lay-off workers within our borders.

Today the top marginal tax rate is 35 percent for individuals. Under President Reagan the top marginal rate was 69% and it was 92% under President Eisenhower, 91% under Kennedy, 77% under Nixon and Johnson, and 39.6% under Clinton.

Deficit Interest

The real cost of the deficit lies ahead. Right now Uncle Sam has a mountain of debt but pays virtually no interest. As one example, Treasury inflation-protected securities, or TIPS, reached a record yield of minus 0.877% in mid-December.

Imagine the deficit if interest rates increase…and then try to imagine a world where interest rates will not go up at some point….

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