Wednesday, November 10, 2010

One hand clapping for the Deficit Commission Co-chairs' powerpoint

It is not much of a report, but it emphasizes two things that do matter:

(1) Tax expenditures are about $1.1 trillion, and deficit reduction requires scaling them back.  While there has been gnashing of teeth about a proposed top marginal tax rate of 23 percet, the powerpoint contemplate this only in the context of full elimination of tax expenditures.  This would surely be more efficient--it is also possible that it would be more progressive, as the biggest tax expenditures (exclusion of the employer contributions for health care, exclusion of employer contributions to pension contributions, and the mortgage interest deduction) tend to go to those with higher incomes.  It is an empirical question as to how these things net out, but it is an empirical question worth answering (a similar analytical exercise was done in the middle-1990s, but the world is now different).  If someone can create a tax code that brings in more revenue under static assumptions (i.e., is not projecting revenue based on Voodoo economics), is more progressive, and has lower rates because of the phase out of tax expenditures, I am all for it.  FWIW, as someone who has a California mortgage and pays California state income taxes, this is probably not in my personal self-interest.

(2) I do think we need to do something about the retirement age, but it should somehow be linked to occupation.  I have a cushy job, and there is no reason why I can't keep doing it until I become demented.  But those who do physical labor just wear out, and it is not reasonable to ask a 60 year old lineman (the telephone kind, not the football kind) to "retrain."   

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