Topic: Welfare Economics

Taxes: A Big Gun In The War on Poverty

By :: January 16th, 2014

When Lyndon Johnson declared his War on Poverty 50 years ago this month, he could not have imagined how many battles would be fought through the Tax Code. In the ‘60s and early ‘70s, the safety net was built almost entirely on spending programs.  Back then, policymakers created Medicare, Medicaid, student loan programs, and Head […]

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“Common Sense” Aside, What Do We Really Know About Capital Income Taxes and Growth?

By :: March 15th, 2013

If you’re discussing tax policy with someone who asserts that his or her point is “just common sense,” this could indicate one of two things: Either no deep thought is required—as the person would have you believe. Or no deep thought has been applied. The “common sense” notion that capital income taxes hinder growth seems […]

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Why Tax and Transfer Programs Often Discourage Work and Savings

By :: February 14th, 2013

Economists and many policymakers generally agree that our tax and transfer systems should promote opportunity, work, saving, and education rather than consumption. The problem is these programs often penalize people for earning that extra dollar of income. Rather than promoting work and savings, these implicit taxes punish such otherwise positive behavior. These penalties occur in […]

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New Ways to Think About a Tax on Public Companies

By :: December 30th, 2012

Suppose someone proposed a special tax on businesses that make their ownership shares publicly available in affordable, easy-to-sell units. Such an idea would probably generate a lot of push-back. Efficiency advocates might complain that it taxed the very attributes that make equity markets efficient. Progressivity advocates might object on the grounds that it taxed those […]

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Protecting the Child Tax Credit at the Fiscal Cliff

By :: October 25th, 2012

The Child Tax Credit (CTC), a key piece of the safety net for low- and moderate-income families, is in jeopardy as the nation hurtles towards the fiscal cliff. Not only could the 2001 expansion of the credit die, but so could provisions in the 2009 stimulus that made the credit much more available to low-income […]

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Reduce Tax Rates on Low-Income Families by Extending Tax Phase-Outs

By :: June 29th, 2012

An ominous announcement for a House Ways & Means Committee joint hearing on “how welfare and tax benefits can discourage work” seemed a set-up to attack programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) for their apparent disincentive to work. But that’s not what happened.  Rather than eliminate or downsize […]

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Why We Run Subsidies through the Tax System

By :: April 19th, 2010

I disagree with former IRS Commissioner Don Alexander. Sometimes the IRS is the best, most efficient agency to administer a subsidy. And if we want to encourage low-income families to work—a key premise of welfare reform—refundable tax credits make a lot of sense.

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Is the Corporate Tax Progressive?

By :: February 22nd, 2010

Economists can't seem to agree about whether the corporate tax falls on the rich or the poor. We pretty much concur that sales and payroll taxes are regressive and that income and estate taxes are progressive, but we argue endlessly about whether the burden of the corporate tax falls more on the wealthy or the middle class.

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Candidates, Marginal Tax Rates, and Economic Welfare

By :: October 2nd, 2008

Typically, TPC measures the impact of tax laws and proposals in terms of average tax rates. This gives a good measure of how taxes affect our pocketbooks, but economists also like to examine how taxes affect economic incentives. For that purpose, the effective marginal tax rate is most apt. That is, how much tax do we pay on an additional dollar of income. This is important because marginal rates affect the incentive to work that extra hour or to engage in tax avoidance.

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