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PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post US Tax Reform, Deficits, and Party "Branding"
Created by John Eipper on 12/05/17 1:30 PM

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US Tax Reform, Deficits, and Party "Branding" (Francisco Ramirez, USA, 12/05/17 1:30 pm)

If the point underlying the first three paragraphs of Tim Brown's post (5 December) is that selective moral outrage is not acceptable, I agree.

There are two differences: 1. First, and most obviously, the $1.6 trillion cut is more clearly designed to more directly benefit those who already are most comfortable. Note which part of the tax cuts are supposed to be permanent and which are time-sensitive and can expire. So, some of the outrage is not about the size of the deficit but about who mostly wins. So the issue is not $1.6 versus $6 trillion.

The second difference has to do with brand or identity and its relationship to policy. Concern about rising deficits is part of the GOP brand or identity. Indeed, WAISer conservatives are more likely to express fears regarding deficits than WAISer liberals. (I use the labels conservative and liberal in the American sense.) I would go further and suggest that the economists who advice Republicans are in general more likely to be deficit hawks than those who offer counsel to Democrats. (Consider the debate between John Taylor and Larry Summers here at Stanford on whether government was the problem, a very thoughtful debate.) So, the ease with which a Paul Ryan embraces $1.6 trillion in additional deficits is brand inconsistent. That raises obvious questions.

if the only basis for opposing the proposed tax bill is the size of the deficit and one did not oppose the deficits under Obama, that's selective moral outrage. But I think there are other grounds for opposition and I have indicated both the different distributional impacts of the tax cuts and the matter of brand consistency.

If you reflect on the undoing of the individual mandate, a feature in one version of the bill, then once again it should be obvious that some folks will be nailed and others not so. It is always easier to say "that's life" if the nails do have your name.

JE comments: Isn't it better when the other guy's name is on the nails?  Regarding party branding, deficits only matter when the other party owns them.  Frankly, has it ever been otherwise?

Francisco, when time permits, tell us more about the Taylor-Summers debate.


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