Republicans want a tax cut, but they don’t want to fully pay for it and may be willing to increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion over 10 years. This would continue a troubling cycle, economist Jared Bernstein writes, in which supposed fiscal conservatives “use the deficit argument to block spending, promote fiscal austerity, and small government, conveniently tossing deficit concerns aside when it comes to tax cuts.”
You’ll hear arguments about how increased economic growth will make up for the budgetary effects of the tax cuts, but don’t believe them. “Our fiscal history on this point is clear: Cutting taxes loses revenues, which, unless offset by higher taxes elsewhere or spending cuts, increases the budget deficit, which in turn raises the debt.” When this happens again, and the promised growth effects don’t materialize, the tax cutters will go back to pushing for spending cuts.
The country faces a number of serious challenges, including an aging population that by itself will require increased government spending, and we need a tax policy that does more than drive up the deficit. “The problem with structural deficits — ones that go up even in good times — is that they reveal that we’re unwilling to raise the necessary revenues to support the government we want and need. This enables those who whose goal is to shrink government to point to deficits and debt as their proof that we can’t afford it, whatever ‘it’ is, except when ‘it’ is tax cuts.” (New York Times)
The finance ministers of Europe’s five largest economies — Germany, France, the U.K., Italy and Spain — warned that the Republican tax plan could have “a major distortive impact” on international trade and may violate international treaties. "The inclusion of certain less conventional international tax provisions could contravene the U.S.'s double taxation treaties and may risk having a major distortive impact on international trade," the ministers wrote in a letter to Mnuchin.
Politico reports: “The White House is quietly preparing a sweeping executive order that would mandate a top-to-bottom review of the federal programs on which millions of poor Americans rely. And GOP lawmakers are in the early stages of crafting legislation that could make it more difficult to qualify for those programs. … The president is expected to sign the welfare executive order as soon as January, according to multiple administration officials, with an eye toward making changes to health care, food stamps, housing and veterans programs, not just traditional welfare payments.”
President Trump signed a short-term continuing resolution today to fund the federal government through Friday, December 22.
Bloomberg called the maneuver “a monumental piece of can kicking,” which is no doubt the case, but at least you’ll be able to visit your favorite national park over the weekend.
Here's to small victories!
The Republican tax cuts won’t do much for economic growth, former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan told CNBC Wednesday, but they will damage the country’s fiscal situation while creating the threat of stagflation. "This is a terrible fiscal situation we've got ourselves into," Greenspan said. "The administration is doing tax cuts and a spending decrease, but he's doing them in the wrong order. What we need right now is to focus totally on reducing the debt."