This white paper outlines concrete policy measures that can restore equitable and sustainable economic growth in the United States, in the context of the country’s recurring budgetary crises. Effective policies are within our grasp, because these budgetary crises are the result of political and not economic failings. Tax reform in particular offers a path toward both resolving budgetary impasses and making the kinds of public investments that will strengthen the fundamentals of the economy. The most obvious reform is an increase in the top marginal income tax rates – this would both raise needed revenues and soften America’s extreme and harmful inequality. But there are also a variety of other effective possible reforms related to corporate taxation, the estate and inheritance tax, environmental taxes, and ensuring that the government gets full value when it sells public assets. This white paper describes the gravity of the economic situation in the United States, but also shows that there is a way out…
From the Citizens for Tax Justice summary:
When anti-tax groups working in the states need a data point to help them argue in favor of their newest tax cutting idea, they often look to the Beacon Hill Institute (BHI). BHI is housed in the economics department at Suffolk University, but its mission is more ideological than academic: providing research to voters and policymakers that promotes a “limited government” and “free market” perspective. The cornerstone of BHI’s research is a computerized economic model it calls the State Tax Analysis Modeling Program (STAMP).
To a casual observer, STAMP may appear to be a rigorous model worthy of consideration. But new research from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) explains in great detail the myriad ways in which STAMP is rigged to portray tax cuts as hugely beneficial to state economies, and tax increases as an inefficient drag on economic growth.
The broad ways in which STAMP fails to accurately gauge the impact of taxes on state economies include:
– STAMP underestimates the economic importance public service such as education and infrastructure to both the short- and long-term health of state economies.
– STAMP assumes that workers, consumers, and businesses are hypersensitive to tax changes, causing private sector economic activity to boom (or bust) as a result of modest changes in after-tax incomes and prices.
– STAMP depicts tax changes as having an instantaneous impact on the economy, even when that impact involves long-run issues such as migration, property value changes, and business formation.
– STAMP assumes a simplistic, perfectly efficient marketplace where everybody who wants a job already has one. This assumption simplifies the math behind the model, but is a poor reflection of the economy that actually exists today.
ITEP’s report also describes a number of instances where STAMP’s findings have been contradicted by academic researchers and state revenue officials. In one particularly implausible analysis, for example, STAMP actually found that cutting Rhode Island’s sales tax rate by more than half would not only benefit the state’s economy—it would actually raise $61 million in tax revenue.
In another analysis, STAMP predicated that roughly 40,000 jobs would be created by a tax cut enacted in Kansas. Since that analysis was released, Kansas’ economy has underperformed and the state actually saw its credit rating downgraded because of slow economic growth and lagging tax revenues….
From the summary:
American Fortune 500 corporations are likely saving about $550 billion by holding nearly $2 trillion of “permanently reinvested” profits offshore. Twenty-eight of these corporations reveal that they have paid an income tax rate of 10 percent or less to the governments of the countries where these profits are officially held, indicating that most of these profits are likely in offshore tax havens.
While congressional hearings over the past few years have focused attention on the tax avoidance strategies of technology corporations like Apple and Microsoft, this report shows that a diverse array of companies are using offshore tax havens, including U.S. Steel, the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, the apparel manufacturer Nike, the supermarket chain Safeway, the financial firm American Express, and banking giants Bank of America and Wells Fargo.
Download the Company by Company PRE Data (XLS)
Nationally, total state tax revenue has recovered from its plunge during the Great Recession, thanks to factors such as North Dakota’s oil boom and tax increases in Illinois, California, and elsewhere. But the recovery is uneven. Tax collections in 26 states had not fully rebounded by the final quarter of 2013, after adjusting for inflation.
A 50-state ranking shows that tax receipts in five states were more than 15 percent below their previous adjusted peak level: Alaska (-59.9 percent), Wyoming (-27.6), Florida (-20.2), New Mexico (-17.9), and Louisiana (-15.2). Where tax revenue remains below its previous peak, policymakers are more likely to face tough tradeoffs in balancing state bud
Corporate “inversion,” in which an American corporation reincorporates itself as a “foreign” company to avoid U.S. taxes, is in the news again. In 2004, Congress enacted a bipartisan law to prevent inversions, but a gaping loophole allows corporations to skirt this law by acquiring a foreign company.
This is what the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer hopes to do if its bid to acquire AstraZeneca, a U.K. company, is successful. A group of hedge funds that own stock in Walgreen Co. want the company to acquire a larger stake in Switzerland-based Alliance Boots for the same reason.
From the abstract:
This paper reviews historical trends in economic inequality and tax policy’s role in reducing it. It documents the various reasons why income inequality continues to rise, paying particular attention to the interplay between regressive and progressive federal and state taxes. The report also considers the trade-off between the social welfare gains that a more equal distribution of incomes would provide, and the economic costs of using the tax system to reduce inequality, highlighting the fact that income inequality reflects an amalgam of factors. The optimal policy response reflects that complexity.
From the summary:
Each year, U.S. state and local governments spend tens of billions of dollars to lure or retain business investment. The subsidies waste scarce taxpayer dollars that could better be used to strengthen public services such as education and infrastructure, or to lower overall tax burdens to create a more favorable investment climate. No state wants to dole out such subsidies, but most fear losing jobs to competing states if they refuse. States should take steps to curb subsidies, beginning with greater disclosure and cost-benefit analyses, and building up to a multistate agreement that creates strong disincentives for continuing subsidies. Existing international arrangements provide models and tools for achieving this….
….Rarely do the benefits of these subsidies exceed the costs. In highly mobile industries, like film production, the subsidies do lure business from other states, but any job creation is short-term and film crews are usually imported. In many other industries, subsidies have less influence on location decisions; manufacturers, in particular, require local networks of suppliers and employees with specialized training. Local governments usually lack the sophistication to negotiate successfully with big companies, so they end up subsidizing businesses that would have invested in the state regardless. Public money is wasted that could have gone to lower the overall corporate tax rate or to more productive investments like education and infrastructure—assets that matter more for most business location decisions than one-off tax breaks…..
At the same time states are looking to beef up corporate tax collections, they are also cutting corporate taxes.
Pending before Congress is legislation (S. 1737 and H.R. 1010) that would raise the federal minimum wage from its current $7.25 per hour to, ultimately, $10.10 per hour. The minimum wage would be adjusted for inflation thereafter. Whether the minimum wage or alternative policies, namely government-funded earnings supplements such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), are more effective in addressing poverty has been long debated. … The impact of an increase in the minimum wage on the well-being of minimum wage workers depends in great part on whether the wage increase would cause a loss in employment. Some economic studies have found that increases in minimum wages cause job loss; other economic studies have found no such job loss. A previous consensus that increasing the minimum wage reduces employment, at least among teenagers, has been challenged by numerous recent studies suggesting little or no dis-employment effects of minimum wage increases. However, the debate over the employment effects of the minimum wage is likely to continue. There are also some considerations to expanding government-funded earnings supplements, such as the EITC, child tax credit, and SNAP. Expanding these earnings supplements would result in costs to the federal budget. In addition, these programs too might affect the labor market, albeit in ways different from a minimum wage increase. Research has provided evidence that the EITC has increased the number of workers in the labor market. Through the operation of supply and demand, this could suppress wage rates. Since all workers do not qualify for earnings supplements through the EITC, the child tax credit, or SNAP, lower-wage workers who do not receive them might be harmed economically. There has been some recent attention to considering minimum wage policies and earnings supplements as complementary, rather than alternative, policies. ….
It’s interesting how “pro-business” policies do not appear to be conducive to rapid employment growth. Employment in Governor Walker’s Wisconsin, as in Governor Brownback’s Kansas, has lagged behind that of the United States (and behind that of Governor Dayton’s Minnesota and Governor Brown’s California). …