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 Great Recession hit state budgets hard, but nearly half are now prepared to weather the next modest downturn. Moody’s Analytics says that 23 states have enough reserves to meet budget shortfalls in a moderate economic contraction, up from just 16 last year, Bloomberg reports. Another 10 states are close. The map below shows which states are within 1 percent of their funding needs for their rainy day funds (in green) and which states are falling short.
The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act signed in August included 77 F-35 Lightning II jets for the Defense Department, but Congress decided to bump up that number in the defense spending bill finalized this week, for a total of 93 in the next fiscal year – 16 more than requested by the Pentagon. Here’s a look from Forbes at the evolving per unit cost of the stealth jet, which is expected to eventually fall to roughly $80 million when full-rate production begins in the next few years.
Average hourly earnings last month rose by 2.9 percent from a year earlier, the Labor Department said Friday — the fastest wage growth since the recession ended in 2009. The economy added 201,000 jobs in August, marking the 95th straight month of gains, while the unemployment rate held steady at 3.9 percent.
Analysts noted, though, that the welcome wage gains merely kept pace with a leading measure of inflation, meaning that pay increases are largely or entirely being canceled out by higher prices. “The last time unemployment was this low, during the dot-com boom, wage growth was significantly faster — well above 3.5 percent,” The Washington Post’s Heather Long wrote. The White House Council of Economic Advisers this week issued a report arguing that wage gains over the past year have been better than they appear in official statistics.
“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