The largest burden of corporate taxes is borne by workers. We discover that by asking a simple question, such as: Which workers on a road construction project earn the higher pay, those employed moving dirt with shovels and wheelbarrows or those doing the same atop giant earthmovers? You'd guess the guys operating the earthmovers, but why? It's not because they're unionized or because construction contractors have a fondness for earthmover operators. It's because those workers have more capital (tools) to work with and are thereby more productive. Higher productivity translates into higher wages.
Tax policies that raise the cost of capital formation -- such as capital gains taxes, low depreciation allowances and corporate taxes -- reduce capital formation. As a result, workers have less capital, lower productivity and lower wage growth. In 1980, Joseph Stiglitz, now a Nobel laureate, said that workers share the highest corporate tax burden in the form of lower wages. A number of economic studies, including that of the Congressional Budget Office, show that workers bear anywhere from 45 to 75 percent of the corporate tax burden. Adding to the burden is the fact that capital has the kind of mobility that labor doesn't. Corporate capital can flee to other countries easily, but workers cannot.
Politicians and leftist elite get away with corporate tax demagoguery because economists haven't done well in making our subject understandable to ordinary people, not to mention that we have derelict news media people with little understanding.
Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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