As I discussed in my last post, the Congressional Budget Office has shown very clearly that the U.S. is on an unsustainable fiscal path which must be reversed in order to avoid calamity. We are spending too much money and not taking in enough tax revenue. In a recent Wall Street Journal Op Ed column, the economist Martin Feldstein describes “How to Create a Real Economic Stimulus”. “A successful growth and employment strategy would combine substantial reductions in the relative size of the future national debt with immediate permanent tax rate cuts and a multiyear program of infrastructure spending…….The only way to reduce future deficits without weakening incentives and growth is by cutting future government spending.”
Mr. Feldstein proposes slowing the growth of benefits of middleclass retirees by gradually raising the full benefit retirement age for Social Security from 67 to 70 and also raising the age of Medicare eligibility to the same level. This would create a budget savings of 1% of GDP, or $200 billion, by 2020. Rather than eliminating such popular tax deductions as the one for mortgage interest or the exclusion of employer payments for health insurance, he recommends limiting the amount by which individuals can reduce their tax liabilities to 2% of adjusted gross income. This single change to the tax code would, for example, reduce the 2013 deficit by $140 billion.
In addition to lowering tax rates for individuals, corporate tax rates should be cut from 35% to about 25% in order to be competitive with other industrial countries. We should also adopt the internationally common “territorial” system which doesn’t tax foreign earnings brought back home.
In short, we decrease spending and raise revenue with entitlement reforms and a limit on tax expenditures thereby creating a framework for tax rate reductions and infrastructure spending. These are the sorts of bold measures needed to produce a real stimulus and thereby get our economy back on track!