2 prominent economists say Bush tax cuts must go

At the National Association of Business Economists Conference in Washington, Alan Blinder and Lawrence Lindsey offered some firm opinions on what needs to happen for the U.S. economy to get back on a solid growth trajectory once more.

By The Fiscal Times Mar 27, 2012 3:38PM
By Suzanne McGeeThe Fiscal Times

A hushed, standing-room only crowd of sympathetic fellow economists gathered in a hotel ballroom in Arlington, Va., yesterday to listen to the Bearded One, aka Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, opine on the state of the labor market and reiterate his view that further cuts to the unemployment rate may be harder to come by without a decisive increase in economic growth.

When economists Alan Blinder and Lawrence Lindsey stepped up to the podium after Bernanke, the collective mood at the National Association of Business Economists Conference lightened almost visibly. Unlike prior speeches, their ability to share their views wasn’t constrained by their positions; both are independent. Blinder, who has served on President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors and as vice chairman of the Fed, now occupies an economics chair at Princeton. Lindsey, who had been director of the National Economic Council under President George W. Bush, now runs his own economics advisory firm. Neither man is known to shy away from a controversy or two. And sure enough, both had some firm opinions on what needs to happen for the U.S. economy to get back on a solid growth trajectory once more.

1. Say “buh-bye” to the Bush era tax cuts: This was one topic on which both Lindsey and Blinder agreed. Phase ‘em out, says Blinder; it was clear a decade ago that these were unaffordable, and they’re still unaffordable today. Lindsey agreed on the diagnosis, but suggests a slightly different remedy: Extend them for a year, and then undertake reforms that would eliminate them.

2. Eliminate disincentives to work: Something else that is unaffordable, in Lindsey’s view, is long-term unemployment insurance, at least as it is presently designed. “It’s a lovely thing to do,” he said, but it’s not realistic and creates incentives that can exacerbate long-term unemployment. Why not, he suggests, give beneficiaries a lump sum payment instead?

3. Find new sources of revenue: Government has a revenue issue, says Alan Blinder, and needs to find a way to fix that. He thinks it’s time to put in place a 1 percent to 2 percent carbon tax. (He didn’t offer up any specifics.)

4. Eliminate the income tax: Lindsey favors another kind of tax – doing away with an income-based tax and replacing it with a value-added or consumption-based tax. “Cash is a fact; income is an opinion,” he quipped, pointing out that the measure would simplify the tax code.

Economics may never escape the label of being the dismal science, but that doesn’t mean debating economic issues has to be dull, lifeless or depressing, as Blinder and Lindsey proved.

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Mar 28, 2012 12:28PM

We can comment all we want, and this is good, but our only option to do anything (except a few hundred thousand people marching, in person, in front of the Capitol Building like we did in the 1960s and 1970s) is to VOTE!





Mar 28, 2012 4:14PM
The government has become self serving because the citizens do not vote for a tax change.  Gorvernment employees are paid significantly higher, better benefits, better healthcare, more holidays, more vacation, and less work compared to the private sector. 
Mar 27, 2012 4:59PM

Final consumption sale tax.


When the people buy $100 in groceries and the clerk adds $5 for local tax, $15 for state, $35 for federal tax and $45 to pay off the debt, the s**t will come out of the American peoples head about the cost of government. Socialism well end. Then give the American people the direct right to decide what they are willing to pay for for government. Government will not only be dramatically reduced, it will become considerable more productive.


 We have learned to vote ourselves funds from the public trust until we are bankrupt.

Mar 27, 2012 6:01PM

On the surface, there is a lot of support for tax reform and increased simplification of the revenue code.  However, all of the popular alternatives (flat-tax, consumption tax, "fair-tax", etc.) are popular because most taxpayers assume the result will be a lower personal income tax burden.  Unfortunately, when the stated goal of reform is to increase revenue, most individuals will pay MORE tax.  You don't need to be a CPA to figure that one out. 


And, I have yet to hear an explanation on how a consumption tax would not be horribly regressive.

Mar 28, 2012 9:24AM

How come the "SPEND LESS" option is never an option???

Why does the Government have a revenue issue? Why does it need to fix that?

Bottom line>>> SPEND LESS

Mar 28, 2012 12:18PM
If the government were sleek and efficient with our money, but we still had revenue issues, I'd tend to agree that the tax cuts should be reversed.

But as long as the government is fraught with waste, abuse, inefficiency, and long-term promises that cannot be kept, taxes aren't the problem.

Mar 27, 2012 7:55PM
Everybody pays the same %%%% no exceptions!
Mar 28, 2012 6:57PM
One thing that was not addressed in the article is government overspending. Is there anyone out there that really thinks that the federal government is not spending enough. Also, why doesn't local, state, and federal governments spend money on U.S. goods? The US government had the statue of Dr. King made by a Chinese national artist. What!!! Wasn't there a black artist in the United States? Denver wants to do some major construction at the airport. They paid a Spanish designer a TON of money to come up with a design that could never be afforded. What, no body in the United States are great designers? Our government needs to be realistic with our money. It is not theirs.
Mar 28, 2012 2:51PM
The American people elect them in November ? And the lobbyist OWN them the rest of their terms ! Congress does not work for Americans , they work for wall street and corporations . TheUnited States Supreme Court RULED ,  money is free speech , and corporations are people ! Now i have read the constitution of the USA and i never seen that part? LOL They make it up as they go i guess. The US Constitution says what it says ! And don't say what it don't say ! Only in the USA baby .
Mar 28, 2012 12:30PM

Slower growth, less consumption, more time to enjoy life.

Mar 28, 2012 6:47PM

It seems to me that point one and point two are incompatible. When you raise taxes you ALWAYS de-incentivize work.


Point three "Government has a revenue issue". It seems to me that government has a spending issue and until that is addressed it will ALWAYS have a revenue issue. If the goal here is to cut the nation's debt then spending must be cut. The Mecatus Center studied over 100 historic examples of attempts at debt reduction in 20 different countries and found that increasing revenue never worked to cut debt.


Point four finally something that makes sense. The Fair Tax system is definitely the way to go. We need to adopt it before another nation does and leaves the U.S. in the ash heap of history  

Mar 28, 2012 11:27AM
LOL They just figured that out ? I thought all these tax breaks was to create jobs? Thats what all the REPUBLICANs say ! Every single one ! So where are all the jobs MITT ? BOEHNER , Cantor , Mitch in the Senate? We have had tax cuts after tax cuts from state to state city to city and county to county across this country for over 10 yrs now and where are all the jobs ! LOL Tax cuts do not create jobs !!!! CONSUMERS do !!! This is a 2/3rds consumer driven economy in the USA... If tax cuts work we would have 2% unemployment by now!!! Companies in the private sector are not hiring ! WHY? because they are making huge profits with the reduced work force they have today ! They have FREE MONEY from the FED window on wall street! The stock market is inflated by the FEDs policies ! Int on savings is NON EXISTENT , same with the CDs and the long bonds ! QE3 will do nothing but devalue the US dollar even more with the FEDs running the printing presses more! Costing our debt rate to go up ! The price of oil and food to skyrocket like its doing now! WHY? Because everything on the market is sold in US dollars! That's WHY ...
Mar 28, 2012 7:23PM

It is a total shame when the government tells you that they should raise your young with school systems that are the worst in the developed world. Tell you what to eat while they approve foods full of carcinogens and pesticides. Tell you how you should budget your home financing while they overspend there revenue by 200%.


The hypocrisy of the federal government is so far out of the real world’s understanding of sensible decision making that there is almost no way to bring the snowball back to the top of the mountain. All you can do is try to slow it down.


I agree that the problem is a spending one however if there are no consequences to overspending and there is no mechanism to incentivize the reconciliation of the federal budget the problem will continue to be the driving issue.

Mar 28, 2012 8:56AM

If the boatload of economists in the US are so smart, then why is the Federal Government in near bankruptcy?


Um, because the politicians who write the spending and tax laws aren't economists?

Mar 28, 2012 11:53AM
Angry Won't matter a bit: the Wealthy Class will spend and spin this issue until they brow-beat their mouthpieces in Washington, the media and John Q. Public into submission.  This unprecedented "Transfer-of-Wealth" has been going on since Reagan.  Time to end the inequalities, subsides and free-rides to the folks most well-off in this country.



Suzanne, don't you think the correct title for this article should have been "2 prominent economists say Obama tax cuts must go"?


It is time for the news media and liberals to understand and accept the fact that the Bush Tax Cut expired December 31, 2010. In December 2010 the Democratic controlled Senate and House past the "Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010" bill and forwarded it to the President. On December 17, 2010, President Obama signed this bill into law. When President Obama signed this bill into law he accepted ownership of the tax cut for the rich. However, he, his fellow Democrats and the liberal media continue to blame Bush.



Mar 27, 2012 11:06PM
Tax all income using the same progressive tax rates regardless of source or holding period. Eliminate the US Governments ability to tap Medicare and Social Security Trust Funds unless there's a WW III. Either implement socialized health care or eliminate health care if you can not produce insurance or credit card at time of care providing. Elimnate all tax deductions except the personal exemptions.
Mar 28, 2012 9:24AM

How come the "SPEND LESS" option is never an option???

Why does the Government have a revenue issue? Why does it need to fix that?

Bottom line>>> SPEND LESS

Mar 28, 2012 9:43AM

Items 1, 3, and 4 in their program are all massive tax increases (#4, a VAT, is a plan to hide the tax so it can then be raised some more).  Sucking trillions of dollars out of the economy is not a treatment that will cure the economy (any more than bleeding patients was a good medical therapy).


In addition, these three items violate their second item, as the taxes are a massive disincentive to work.


This isn't a recipe to balance the budget or cure the economy.  In fact, it will only make the budget mess worse, as tax increases never bring in as much revenue as the taxers expect, and tax increases lead to even bigger increases in spending, making the deficit worse.  The economists' proposal would have the USA following the lead of Greece.


The soluition is not diverting ever more of our economy into government, the solution must be reducing government spending (hopefully, that isn't politically impossible at this point).


Mar 28, 2012 12:05PM
I think it's hilarious that Right-Wingers have the stupidity to call the current problem a Democrat spending problem.
Bush doubled the National debt during his presidencey and rubber-stamped spending bills from the GOP house and Senate for 6 years solid.
I hope Romney wins so he can keep the Bush tax cuts, reduce corporate tax rates, slash federal spending on Medicare and Social Security and watch this country spin into a revolution....
Romney will be spending and borrowing just like Bush and Obama until this country starts realizing that it will require both Tax Increases and Reduced Spending to get us out of this hole. 
The Right Wingers think we're sliding into Socialism, I think we're sliding into Fascism where the State and the Corporation are becoming one in the same.  When the corporations talk, Congress jumps................this is the root cause of our debt/spending problem.
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