On Sunday, the second highest ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate, Jon Kyl, said, “The payroll tax holiday has not stimulated job creation. We don’t think that is a good way to do it.” Asked why he opposes letting the Bush tax cuts end for the rich or imposing a surcharge on millionaires while also opposing this particular measure to keep taxes low, he replied, “The best way to hurt economic growth is to impose more taxes on the people who do the hiring. As a result, the Republicans have said, ‘Don’t raise the existing tax rates on those who do the hiring.’”

In other words, keep taxes low for the rich. A new report from CTJ shows that the Bush tax cuts supported by Senator Kyl will provide $231 billion in benefits to the richest fifth of taxpayers in 2012 and just $3 billion to the poorest fifth of taxpayers during that same year.

The payroll tax cut proposed by President Obama and Senate Democrats is more evenly distributed but is not particularly progressive. The CTJ report shows that it would provide $83 billion to the richest fifth of taxpayers and $7 billion to the poorest fifth of taxpayers.

Most economists agree that government spending measures are the most effective way to put more money in the hands of consumers to spend and thereby reduce unemployment. But if lawmakers insist on using tax policy instead, they should enact tax cuts that are targeted to those low- and middle-income consumers who are likely to immediately spend any new money they receive.

The Senate Democrats’ payroll tax cut proposal, which would be offset by a surcharge on millionaires (see related story), won a majority of votes yesterday (50 Democrats and one Republican voted in favor) but was blocked by the remaining Senators. Republican leaders offered their own payroll tax cut that would be offset by cutting back federal government positions and pay, but this did not even receive support from a majority of Republicans in the chamber.

The CTJ report points out that a better option would be to revive the Making Work Pay Credit that expired at the end of last year, which has been discussed by some Senators but ignored by leaders of both parties.

The report finds that if the Making Work Pay Credit was in effect in 2012, the richest fifth of taxpayers would receive $11 billion while the poorest fifth of taxpayers would receive $7 billion, making it a less costly and more targeted tax cut.

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