In a new piece published at Project Syndicate, the conservative economist, who led President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers from 1982 to 1984, writes that pro-growth tax individual and corporate reform will get done — and that any resulting spike in the budget deficit will be temporary:
“Although the net tax changes may widen the budget deficit in the short term, the incentive effects of lower tax rates and the increased accumulation of capital will mean faster economic growth and higher real incomes, both of which will cause rising taxable incomes and lower long-term deficits.”
Doing tax reform through reconciliation — allowing it to be passed by a simple majority in the Senate, as long as it doesn’t add to the deficit after 10 years — is another key. “By designing the tax and spending rules accordingly and phasing in future revenue increases, the Republicans can achieve the needed long-term surpluses,” Feldstein argues.
Of course, the big questions remain whether tax and spending changes are really designed as Feldstein describes — and whether “future revenue increases” ever come to fruition. Otherwise, those “long-term surpluses” Feldstein says we need won’t ever materialize.
“Tax revenue as a percentage of gross domestic product is expected to be 16.5 percent next year. The long-term average in a full-employment economy is 18.5 percent of GDP; if revenue were at that level for the coming decade, debt would be $3.2 trillion lower and the 10-year fiscal gap would be halved. Returning to past revenue levels, however, will be inadequate over time, because an aging population will increase Medicare and Social Security costs. This need not pose a problem: Revenue was roughly 19 percent of GDP in the late 1990s, and economic conditions were excellent.”
– Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Richard E. Rubin, writing in The Washington Post
“You … often hear the claim that a lot of tax cuts will ‘pay for themselves,’ that they’ll cause so much additional economic activity that the revenue feedback from that activity will fully offset the direct revenue loss caused by the tax cut so that you end up making money for the federal government, or at least not losing any money. Now, of course that is theoretically possible and it would happen at extreme rates. I mean if a country had a 99 percent flat rate income tax and lowered it to 98 percent, I believe that they almost certainly would collect more revenue at the 98 percent rate than they did at the 99 percent rate. But the idea that this type of effect would occur at today’s tax levels just requires responses that are much bigger than statistical evidence would support and I think much bigger than common sense would indicate if you just ask people how they themselves would react to the tax cut.”
It’s summertime and the driving is anything but easy if you want to get to your favorite beach or mountain cabin for a well-deserved break. As lawmakers consider a plan to raise federal fuel taxes by 15 cents a gallon, here’s a look at the current state-level taxes on gasoline, courtesy of the Tax Foundation:
The New York Times’ Jim Tankersley tweets: “In order to raise enough revenue to start paying down the debt, Trump would need tariffs to be ~4% of GDP. They're currently 0.2%.”
Read Tankersley’s full breakdown of why tariffs won’t come close to eliminating the deficit or paying down the national debt here.