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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, October 07, 2015

 

Are they ever NOT going to fall for that?

by Tom Sullivan

Late in The Avengers, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) takes a run at his evil brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), dives through a false image of him and gets locked in a S.H.I.E.L.D. prison. Loki smirks, "Are you ever NOT going to fall for that?"

Which brings up massive tax cuts that pay for themselves. Sen. Marco Rubio expects Republican primary voters will fall for it again. Ezra Klein explains the Rubio tax plan succinctly at Vox:

The basic idea here is that massive tax cuts boost growth so much that they pay for themselves, and so there's no actual trade-off between lower taxes and balanced budgets. In this telling, eating your cake leads your body to burn calories so fast that it's like you end up thinner than you started!

Basically no serious economists believe this. Careful efforts to quantify whether tax cuts boost growth have led to estimates that they have a modest negative effect, a modest positive effect, or not much effect at all, depending on what assumptions you use. Mankiw, the former Bush adviser, described the idea that cuts boost growth so much that they pay for themselves as the province of "cranks and charlatans" in his economic textbook.

What is more amazing is that Cranks and Charlatans is not already the name of a popular Washington, D.C. watering hole. (Have at it.) Maybe near the offices of the Tax Foundation. Klein continues:

Rubio's tax plan is a massive suite of tax cuts so large even many conservatives have blanched at its cost. As Jonathan Chait wrote, the skeptical reception Rubio's plan got among many on the right spoke to a problem almost without precedent in the modern GOP: Rubio had designed a tax cut "so gargantuan that nobody in the party actually believes it."

But the Tax Foundation believes it. The foundation scored it using its Taxes and Growth Model and found that while the plan costs trillions of dollars during its first 10 years, by the end of those 10 years it begins to generate surpluses through economic growth. The foundation concluded that over the long run, the "plan would increase the size of the economy by 15 percent over the long run," which is ... hopeful.

You have heard the rest before. Rubio is, as Charlie Pierce observes, "a mile wide and an inch deep on almost every issue you can name." Jonathan Chait deconstructs Rubio's interview with John Harwood:

What’s stranger is Rubio’s claim that his issues — actually, issue, singular, is completely novel to anything considered by Bush or Romney because “they were not part of the 20th century debate.” The gambit here is to wall off any association between Rubio and previous Republican failures by drawing a line at the century mark, after which all intellectual continuities stop. The trouble with this little trick is that the Bush administration took place from 2001 to 2009. Romney ran for president in 2008 and 2012. All these things took place during the 21st century.

When it comes to economics all things moldy are new again. Just hose them off, swap out the "sell by" date on the packaging and put the cheap cuts back in the meat case.

What is interesting is the GOP's enthusiasm for reforming every sector of the economy except the economy itself. Rubio says, for example, higher education is due for an upgrade: "So you’ll hear me spend a tremendous amount of time talking about higher-education reform. Our higher-education model is outdated. And I proposed concrete bipartisan ideas about how to fix some of those things." But when Harwood asks him if he agreed with Ben Bernanke, that "more corporate executives should have gone to jail for their misdeeds" that led to the financial crisis, Rubio begs off. "I'm not necessarily a person that's looking for that sort of thing unless obviously it's an egregious case and a clear criminal violation. I'm not sure what that would have solved at the end of the day."

Guns don't kill people. People kill people. But when it comes to the finance industry, Wall Street corporate abstraction kill economies; people running them do not. Our business models are not overdue for an upgrade. They are working just fine for all the right people.

Are voters ever NOT going to fall for that?