Monday, February 9, 2009

The Affect of Tax Cuts

I found an interview with noted economist Robert Barro talking about the stimulus and the effect of this on the overall economy. One part of the interview discusses tax cuts and their history on the growth on the economy.

Here is the link.

And I take it from the Wall Street Journal piece you wrote last week... well, the piece is just specifically about measuring multipliers, but I take it that you are fairly skeptical in general that fiscal policy will boost aggregate demand.

Right. There's a big difference between tax rate changes and things that look just like throwing money at people. Tax rate changes have actual incentive effects. And we have some experience with those actually working.

What would you say is the best empirical evidence there?

Well, you know, it worked to expand GDP for example in '63 and '64 with
the Kennedy/Johnson cuts. And then Reagan twice in '81 and '83 and then in '86. And then the Bush 2003 tax-cutting program. Those all worked in the sense of promoting economic growth in a short time frame.

I'm the middle of a study where I am trying to estimate this overall, going back to 1913 -- sort of constructing some measure of the overall effect of the tax rate at the margin, at the moment. I'm just looking at that now, actually...

You're talking about the multiplier on a dollar of...

Well both things, but here I'm talking about the tax rate stuff. Get some measure of the effect of marginal tax rate that comes from the government -- federal, state, local. And then you can see what it looks like going down or going up and how the economy responds. And then, in addition to that, the government might be spending more or less money on either military stuff or not on military stuff. And we can estimate that at the same time. With the government spending stuff, the clearest evidence is in wartime. It's not that it's the most pertinent, but it's the clearest in terms of evidence because it's the dominating evidence at those times, especially during the world wars.

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