Conservative group: Stock buybacks benefit workers and the economy

Conservative group: Stock buybacks benefit workers and the economy
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The National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) is arguing in a new paper that stock buybacks benefit workers and the economy, pushing back on criticisms from Democrats that the recent uptick in buybacks shows that the tax law predominantly benefits the wealthy and corporations.

"Shareholder distributions such as share buybacks and dividend yield increases are not the economic sinkhole that some pundits suggest," Andrew Wilford, an associate policy analyst at the fiscally conservative group, wrote in the paper.

"They provide meaningful income boosts to the majority of Americans with a financial interest in the state of the stock market, as well as a means of making capital investment more productive and efficient throughout the stock market," he added. "The benefits of the [Tax Cuts and Jobs Act] will be realized over the long term, and dismissing tax reform as a failure because of an uptick in stock buybacks would be a mistake."

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The tax law passed Congress in December without support from any Democrats. Since the law was enacted, Democrats have repeatedly highlighted companies' stock buybacks, arguing that they mostly benefit wealthy shareholders and executives and dwarf the amount of bonuses businesses are giving their employees.

Ahead of President TrumpDonald TrumpSenate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale Crenshaw slams House Freedom Caucus members as 'grifters,' 'performance artists' Senate confirms Biden's nominee to lead Customs and Border Protection MORE's visit to West Virginia on Thursday to tout the tax law, Senate Democrats sent out a news release focused on stock buybacks.

"These corporate buybacks overwhelmingly help corporate executives and wealthy shareholders — not workers," they said. "It’s no wonder the American people aren’t buying the GOP spin on their giveaway to corporate executives and wealthy shareholders."

But NTUF argues that it will take some time for wages to increase due to the tax law, "as businesses invest in improvements that allow each worker to produce goods or services more efficiently."

The group also said many Americans will benefit because they own stocks, and that "dividend payments and share buybacks can contribute meaningfully to seniors’ income."

Additionally, the group says that stock buybacks are a way for companies to avoid wasting capital.

"This is good for the economy as a whole as well," NTUF said. "Rather than wasting capital on less productive investments, companies return it to investors by engaging in shareholder distributions. Investors can then redistribute this income to businesses seeking to raise capital for more economically useful investments." 

Liberals have been skeptical of the argument that middle-class people will benefit from stock buybacks. They have pointed to a paper from a New York University professor finding that 84 percent of all of the value of stocks is owned by the richest 10 percent of Americans.

Tim Hogan, spokesman for the liberal group Not One Penny, called the arguments in the paper "ridiculous."

"These buybacks line the pockets of CEOs whose pay is tied to corporate stock prices and shareholders already benefiting from record corporate profits," he said. "This is just another reminder that the Trump tax overwhelmingly benefits the top 1 percent at the expense of the middle class."

Updated at 2:04 p.m.