Bush tax cuts work? Is Clinton’s approach better? (Part 3)

The Laffer Curve, Part III: Dynamic Scoring

A video by CF&P Foundation that builds on the discussion of theory in Part I and evidence in Part II, this concluding video in the series on the Laffer Curve explains how the Joint Committee on Taxation’s revenue-estimating process is based on the absurd theory that changes in tax policy – even dramatic reforms such as a flat tax – do not effect economic growth. In other words, the current system assumes the Laffer Curve does not exist. Because of congressional budget rules, this leads to a bias for tax increases and against tax cuts. The video explains that “static scoring” should be replaced with “dynamic scoring” so that lawmakers will have more accurate information when making decisions about tax policy. For more information please visit the Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s web site: http://www.freedomandprosperity.org


Bush tax cuts work? This is a series of posts aimed at answering that question.

Setting the Tax Record Straight: Clinton Hikes Slowed Growth, Bush Cuts Promoted Recovery

By Curtis Dubay
September 6, 2011

Abstract: Despite evidence to the contrary, President Obama and his supporters insist that a tax increase will not impede economic recovery. They claim that the Clinton tax hikes spurred the boom of the 1990s and that the subsequent Bush tax cuts hurt the economy. Members of Congress must reject this faulty notion—and reject the President’s call for burdening Americans with higher taxes and an even slower economy.

President Barack Obama and his allies in Congress and elsewhere continue to press for tax increases, whether as part of a deal to raise the government’s debt ceiling, or for any other reason. Even though common sense would dictate not raising taxes in the face of a badly weakened economy and almost non-existent job growth, the President and his supporters argue that tax hikes will not imperil the still-nascent recovery because the economy grew during the 1990s after President Bill Clinton raised taxes. The inference being that today’s economy could also absorb the blow of tax hikes and grow despite them. They also argue the converse: that the tax cuts passed during President George W. Bush’s tenure slowed growth and cost jobs.

This cursory and errant analysis of recent history has serious implications for policymaking today. If Congress raises taxes based on the faulty notion that tax hikes have no ill effects on economic growth, it will impede the still-struggling recovery and keep millions of Americans on the unemployment rolls far too long.

Lessons for Today

It is vitally important for the millions of Americans looking for work today that Congress and President Obama learn and accept what really happened when President Clinton raised taxes and President Bush lowered them. The evidence is clear that the Clinton tax hikes stifled what should have been remarkable economic growth and the Bush tax cuts cleared the way for the economy to grow despite growing obstacles in its way.

President Obama insists that tax hikes must be part of a “balanced” approach to reducing the deficit. He defends his tax hike desires by pointing to the Clinton tax hikes as evidence that the economy can withstand higher taxes.

But if the Clinton tax hikes were powerful enough to slow an economy that had everything going in its favor, what would tax hikes today do to an economy that has everything working against it? The unemployment rate remains stuck over 9 percent and there appears to be little hope for it to fall in the near future.[10] The President should not be looking for policies the economy can withstand, but for policies that will encourage it to grow.

At best, tax increases would slow the already stalled recovery, and at worst, would reverse it altogether. A slowed recovery or double-dip recession would further reduce the chances that the more than 14 million Americans currently looking for work would find a job in the near future.[11]

The best way to grow revenues is to promote faster economic growth, which will increase the number of taxpayers and taxable income more rapidly. Tax hikes—whether through higher tax rates or slashing credits, deductions, and exemptions without offsetting reductions elsewhere—will not do the job. Under President Obama’s current policies, spending will continue to grow at a faster rate than can be paid for by tax hikes—even assuming the huge tax increases the President insists upon. To add insult to injury, as history has shown, tax hikes would slow economic growth and make it even harder for unemployed Americans to find a job.

—Curtis S. Dubay is a Senior Analyst in Tax Policy in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.

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