On our conference call for journalists this morning, former Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Alan Blinder made the case for letting President Bush’s tax cuts for those making more than $250,000 expire this year and using the savings over the next two years for measures that would better stimulate the economy, such as extended unemployment benefits and food stamps. Below is the audio and a cleaned-up transcript of the presentation portion of the call.
BEYOND THE NUMBERS
Even some key members of Congress who agree that President Bush’s tax cuts for people making over $250,000 are unaffordable have raised concerns that letting them expire in December would slow the already weak economy. Fortunately, Congress can boost short-term growth and help reduce long-term deficits: sunset the high-income tax cuts on schedule, re-channel the near-term revenues to far more efficient ways to generate growth and jobs, and use the long-term savings to reduce the deficit.
A couple of promising developments occurred on the estate tax front yesterday. The Senate soundly defeated (59-39) an effort by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) to repeal the tax permanently. (It expired at the end of 2009 but is scheduled to return in much larger form next year when the 2001 tax cut expires.) And at a teleconference sponsored by United for a Fair Economy, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin called on Congress to reinstate a robust estate tax.
Former Federal Reserve vice chairman Alan Blinder makes an excellent suggestion in today’s Wall Street Journal: Congress should let the Bush tax cuts for people earning over $250,000 expire in December and use the savings to pay for jobless benefits and other programs that “put more spending into the economy than the tax hike takes out, thus creating jobs.”
Tomorrow morning the Senate Finance Committee begins debate on what to do with the Bush tax cuts, which are set to expire at the end of the year. Here’s some homework to prepare for this important hearing:
My colleagues and I have written repeatedly (for instance, here, here, and here) about the need for Congress to enact another round of stimulus legislation that would extend unemployment benefits and provide additional fiscal relief to states, both of which would help strengthen the fragile recovery.
With the country facing high unemployment and a weak economy in the short term and severe budget problems in the long term, you’d think that senators negotiating a jobs bill would be trying to maximize both its short-term economic boost and its long-term budget savings. You’d be wrong.
The House-passed tax extenders legislation, which the Senate is now considering, would partially close a loophole that allows shareholder-employees of S corporations to avoid paying payroll tax. These people receive both wages from the firm and a share of the firm’s profits, but they pay payroll tax only on their wages, which gives them a huge incentive to underreport the share of their income that consists of wages in order to reduce their payroll tax liability.
Policymakers would be well-advised to read a new Tax Notes piece by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Cameron Smith, and Winston Stoody, which argues against closing a tax loophole that enables investment fund managers to pay taxes on their income – their “carried interest” – at the preferential capital gains rate rather than ordinary income tax rates.