Are Trump’s tax cuts working?
Even small increases in economic growth – especially if sustained over time – can translate into meaningful improvements in living standards.
But there are several reasons why it won’t be easy to “prove” that last year’s tax reform boosted the economy.
- It takes time for investment to increase, so the resulting improvements in productivity and wages don’t occur immediately.
- Other policy changes (most notably, growth-stifling trade barriers) can partially or fully offset the beneficial impact of tax reforms.
And there are probably other factors to mention as well.
The takeaway is that the nation will enjoy good results from the 2017 tax changes, but I fully expect that the class-warfare crowd will claim that any good news is for reasons other than tax reform. And if there isn’t good news, they’ll assert this is evidence against “supply-side economics” and totally ignore the harmful effect of offsetting policies such as Trump’s protectionism.
That being said, some of the benefits of tax reform are already evident and difficult to dispute.
Let’s start by looking at what’s happening Down Under, largely driven by American tax reform.
The Australian government announced Monday that the Senate will vote in June on cutting corporate tax rates after an opinion poll suggested the contentious reform had popular public support. …Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s conservative coalition wants to cut the corporate tax rate by 5 percent to 25 percent by 2026-27… Cormann said the need to reduce the tax burden on businesses had become more pressing for future Australian jobs and investment since the 2016 election because the United States had reduced its top corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. “Putting businesses in Australia at an ongoing competitive disadvantage deliberately by imposing higher taxes in Australia … puts Australian workers at an oncoming disadvantage and that is clearly the point that more and more Australians are starting to fully appreciate,” Cormann told reporters. Cormann was referring to a poll published in The Australian newspaper on Monday that showed 63 percent of respondents supported company tax cuts.
What’s remarkable is not that Australian lawmakers are moving to lower their corporate rate. The government, after all, has known for quite some time that this reform was necessary to boost wages and improve competitiveness.
The amazing takeaway from this article is that ordinary people understand and support the need to engage in tax competition and other nations feel compelled to also cut business tax burdens.
All last year, I kept arguing that this was one of the main reasons to support Trump’s proposal for a lower corporate rate. And now we’re seeing the benefits materializing.
Now let’s look at a positive domestic effect of tax reform, with a feel-good story from New Jersey. It appears that the avarice-driven governor may not get his huge proposed tax hike, even though Democrats dominate the state legislature.
Why? Because the state and local tax deduction has been curtailed, which means the federal government is no longer aiding and abetting bad fiscal policy.
New Jersey’s new Democratic governor is finding that, even with his party in full control of Trenton, raising taxes in one of the country’s highest-taxed states is no day at the beach. Gov. Phil Murphy…has proposed a $37.4 billion budget. He wants to raise $1.7 billion in new taxesand other revenue… But some of his fellow Democrats, who control the state legislature, have balked at the governor’s proposals to raise the state’s sales tax and impose a millionaires tax. State Senate President Steve Sweeney has been particularly vocal. …Mr. Sweeney previously voted for a millionaire’s tax, but said he changed his mind after the federal tax law was passed in December. The law capped previously unlimited annual state and local tax deductions at $10,000 for individual and married filers, and Mr. Sweeney said he is concerned an additional millionaire’s tax could drive people out of the state. “I think that people that have the ability to leave are leaving,” he said.
Of course they’re leaving. New Jersey taxes a lot and it’s the understatement of the century to point out that there’s not a correspondingly high level of quality services from government.
So why not move to Florida or Texas, where you’ll pay much less and government actually works better?
The bottom line is that tax-motivated migration already was occurring and it’s going to become even more important now that federal tax reform is no longer providing a huge de facto subsidy to high-tax states. And that’s going to have a positive effect. New Jersey is just an early example.
This doesn’t mean states won’t ever again impose bad policy. New Jersey probably will adopt some sort of tax hike before the dust settles. But it won’t be as bad as Governor Murphy wanted.
We also may see Illinois undo its flat tax after this November’s election, which would mean the elimination of the only decent feature of the state’s tax system. But I also don’t doubt that there will be some Democrats in the Illinois capital who warn (at least privately) that such a change will hasten the state’s collapse.
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