Monday, January 30, 2017

A Three-Point Tax Reform

Consider the following tax reform:

1. Impose a retail sales tax on consumer goods and services, both domestic and imported.
2. Use some of the proceeds from the tax to repeal the corporate income tax.
3. Use the rest of the proceeds from the tax to significantly cut the payroll tax.

Before moving on, ask yourself: Do you like this plan?

As I understand it, this plan is, in effect, what the Republicans in Congress are proposing.

Note the words "in effect."  There are a few differences, which are more important administratively than in their economic effect. One is that the consumption tax is not collected at the retail level but rather along the chain of production (much like a value-added tax). Once this is done, you need border adjustments to ensure the tax is really like a retail sales tax: imports must be taxed, and exports have to get a rebate. In addition, the payroll tax is not cut but rather firms get a deduction for labor payments, but that deduction is much the same as a payroll tax cut.

Personally, I like the three-point plan listed above, and I therefore like the reform proposal being discussed in Congress. A lot of confusion about things like border adjustments might disappear if commentators realized that what is being discussed is largely equivalent to this three-point plan.

Addendum: I don't think it is quite right to say, as Paul Krugman does, that this plan is a shift from taxing profits to taxing consumers. That ignores part 3 of the three-point plan.  It is more accurate to say it is a shift from taxing profits to taxing consumed profits. Moreover, I think the reform would promote economic growth and rising living standards. A large literature suggests that taxing consumption is preferred to taxing income, especially capital income. So a shift from a profits tax to a consumed profits tax is a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Euclidean Index

Motty Perry and Philip J. Reny propose a way to rank economists by citations (published AER September 2016), and now RePEc implements it here.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

You are not entitled to your own facts

Readers of this blog will surely want to know about a new website:, a "non-partisan publication designed to bring key facts and incisive analysis to the national debate on economic and social policies. It is written by leading academic economists from across the country who belong to the EconoFact Network, and published by the Edward R. Murrow Center for a Digital World at The Fletcher School at Tufts University."

Check it out.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Careless Headline Writing

I have noticed over the years that headline writers often try to make stories more sensational than they really are. This one at Yahoo News and Time, however, got me chuckling. The story tells us:
The gap between the super-rich and the poorest half of the global population is starker than previously thought, with just eight men, including Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg, owning as much wealth as 3.6 billion people.
That fact is not really surprising, as many people live hand-to-mouth with hardly any accumulated wealth at all. But the headline makes a stronger claim:
Half of the World’s Wealth Is In the Hands of Just Eight Men
Of course, this conclusion does not follow from the fact reported in the story and is not even close to being true.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

History of Econ Summer Camp

Graduate students with an interest in the history of economic thought should consider this opportunity.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Challenges Facing the New President

You can watch the AEA session I chaired by clicking here.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Parting Words