Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Progressives Take Aim at Bush Tax Cuts

No surprise Ed Schultz is mouthing talking points from the Soros-funded Think Progress smear machine. Schultz just came back from his suspension after attacking Laura Ingraham as a "right-wing slut." And here he is going off about exploding deficits and lost jobs, blah, blah. Is there a prize for being too obvious? The Anthony Weiner ethics disaster is just some foul topping for all the horrendous economic news of late, and Democratic prospects for 2012 are simply getting hammered. It's the smell of desperation, and it stinks.


Here's Think Progress, "Ten Years Of The Bush Tax Cuts." And here's Joan Walsh, who just got beaten up on Twitter over her attacks on Andrew Breitbart and Weinergate, "Happy anniversary: Bush tax cuts turn 10." Folks can go back and forth on this forever. The truth is that higher taxes stifle initiative and entrepreneurship, and small businesses are among the hardest hit. Besides, no single variable explains current growth trends, least of all the first round up Bush tax cuts on 2001. As Mark Murray points out, "Judging the Bush tax cuts -- 10 years later":
Chris Edwards, the director of tax policy studies at the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute, has a different take on the Bush tax cuts.

Edwards says the 2001 cuts (which included lower individual tax rates) turned out to be less effective than the later ones enacted in 2003 (on dividends and capital gains). "Bush's cuts were half and half in my view."

He also contends that it's too simplistic to extrapolate from the last 10 years that tax cuts -- in general -- don't work. "So much goes on in the economy," Edwards said, referring to external events, trade policies, and spending. "Clinton's higher tax rate doesn't prove any kind of relationship."

The current crop of Republican presidential hopefuls are continuing to bet on lower taxes. In his speech at the University of Chicago today, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposed decreasing individual income-tax rates to just two levels: 10% and 25%; 35% is the current top level. And he also called for a lower corporate-tax rate.

"Growing at 5% a year -- rather than at the current level of 1.8% -- would net us millions of new jobs," Pawlenty said. "How do we do it? In short, we create more economic growth by creating more economic freedom."
See also Martin Feldstein, at Wall Street Journal, "The Economy Is Worse Than You Think":
The policies of the Obama administration have led to the weak condition of the American economy. Growth during the coming year will be subpar at best, leaving high or rising levels of unemployment and underemployment.

The drop in GDP growth to just 1.8% in the first quarter of 2011, from 3.1% in the final quarter of last year, understates the extent of the decline. Two-thirds of that 1.8% went into business inventories rather than sales to consumers or other final buyers. This means that final sales growth was at an annual rate of just 0.6% and the actual quarterly increase was just 0.15%—dangerously close to no rise at all. A sustained expansion cannot be built on inventory investment. It takes final sales to induce businesses to hire and to invest.

The picture is even gloomier if we look in more detail. Estimates of monthly GDP indicate that the only growth in the first quarter of 2011 was from February to March. After a temporary rise in March, the economy began sliding again in April, with declines in real wages, in durable-goods orders and manufacturing production, in existing home sales, and in real per-capita disposable incomes. It is not surprising that the index of leading indicators fell in April, only the second decline since it began to rise in the spring of 2009.

The data for May are beginning to arrive and are even worse than April's. They are marked by a collapse in payroll-employment gains; a higher unemployment rate; manufacturers' reports of slower orders and production; weak chain-store sales; and a sharp drop in consumer confidence.

How has the Obama administration contributed to this failure to achieve a robust and sustainable recovery?

The administration's most obvious failure was its misguided fiscal policies: the cash-for-clunkers subsidy for car buyers, the tax credit for first-time home buyers, and the $830 billion "stimulus" package. Cash-for-clunkers gave a temporary boost to motor-vehicle production but had no lasting impact on the economy. The home-buyer credit stimulated the demand for homes only temporarily.

As for the "stimulus" package, both its size and structure were inadequate to offset the enormous decline in aggregate demand. The fall in household wealth by the end of 2008 reduced the annual level of consumer spending by more than $500 billion. The drop in home building subtracted another $200 billion from GDP. The total GDP shortfall was therefore more than $700 billion. The Obama stimulus package that started at less than $300 billion in 2009 and reached a maximum of $400 billion in 2010 wouldn't have been big enough to fill the $700 billion annual GDP gap even if every dollar of the stimulus raised GDP by a dollar.

In fact, each dollar of extra deficit added much less than a dollar to GDP. Experience shows that the most cost-effective form of temporary fiscal stimulus is direct government spending. The most obvious way to achieve that in 2009 was to repair and replace the military equipment used in Iraq and Afghanistan that would otherwise have to be done in the future. But the Obama stimulus had nothing for the Defense Department. Instead, President Obama allowed the Democratic leadership in Congress to design a hodgepodge package of transfers to state and local governments, increased transfers to individuals, temporary tax cuts for lower-income taxpayers, etc. So we got a bigger deficit without economic growth.
More at the link.

The bottom line is that the economy will continue to stagnate until the Democrats cut spending and lower taxes to spur entrepreneurship and investment.


Bruce Hall said...

Pawlenty's proposal is still too complicated. Here is the solution:

Think it through before you object.