Monday, December 5, 2011

A Republican Who Doubts the Laffer Curve?

Congressman David Schweikert of Arizona suggests that the payroll tax holiday will increase the deficit:

The simple fact is that this sort of temporary tax stimulus has repeatedly shown that without offsets, they only stimulate bigger federal deficits.

OK – but Republicans also want us to believe that tax cuts for well to Americans pay for themselves. The original Laffer curve was a proposition that even in a full employment economy, tax rate cuts so increase economic activity that tax revenues go up. Laffer described this in terms of reducing the wedge between the demand for labor and the supply of labor, which a reduction in the payroll tax would accomplish.

But to be fair to the Congressman – I should mention two points: (1) few labor economists ever bought the assumption that the labor curve was that elastic; and (2) we are not currently in a full employment economy. Point (2) would have us think in terms of the Keynesian marginal propensities to consume for households receiving the tax cut. If the household were very well to do, one would think the marginal propensity to consume would be low, which would lead to the conclusion that “tax stimulus” would “only stimulate bigger federal deficits”. But tax cuts for the working poor – which is what this payroll tax holiday is designed to accomplish – could lead to an increase in economic activity.

Conclusion – by any economic model, the Congressman has this exactly backwards. But what else is new?


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