How to Get Our Economy Back on Track III. Tax Reform


Both political parties, both presidential candidates, most prominent economists and economics journalists, in other words, most opinion makers, favor faster economic growth. I have had several recent posts on this topic, here and here, pointing out especially the need to increase the rate of growth of worker productivity which in turn is heavily influenced by the rate of new business investment.
One of the most valuable policy changes in this respect is tax reform, with lower marginal rates paid for by closing loopholes and shrinking deductions. The Republican House of Representatives has developed an excellent plan, “A Better Way,” which includes such extensive tax reform.

The American Enterprise Institute has recently analyzed the House plan and describes the positive impact it would have on our economy:

  • Simplification. The seven current individual tax rates would be reduced to just three: 12%, 25% and 33%. All deductions would be eliminated except for mortgage interest and charitable contributions. The standard deduction would be almost doubled. A 50% exclusion for capital gains, dividends and interest income would lower those tax rates in half.
  • Business taxes. The corporate tax rate would be cut from 35% to 20%, again by eliminating most deductions, and a territorial system adopted whereby taxes are only paid in the country where business is conducted. Immediate expensing for new investment would replace multiyear depreciation.
  • Effects. Base broadening by eliminating deductions will add 6.5 million new taxpayers. The number of taxpayers taking the standard deduction will increase by 37 million (from 70% to 95%). Total tax revenue will decrease by $227 billion over ten years. The effective marginal tax rate is slightly lower for most income groups.

Conclusion. The overall lower tax rates will boost economic growth. The ten year loss of tax revenue, while relatively small, is still a detriment and should be eliminated by shrinking the remaining mortgage interest deduction (which primarily benefits the wealthy).

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How to Get Our Country Back On Track


In my last two posts, here and here, I have said that I like some of Donald Trump’s policy ideas but he is too personally repugnant for me to support and vote for.  Hillary Clinton is morally less objectionable than Mr. Trump but her economic policy proposals are unlikely to have much success.
capture66The best hope for our country is to keep the Republicans in control of the House of Representatives.  They have put together an excellent plan, “A Better Way,” for reviving the American economy and boosting the American spirit.  Its main principles are:

  • Poverty. Every capable person is expected to work or prepare for work. Poverty fighting programs will be directed to get people back on their feet. The poor will have more opportunities to succeed at every stage.
  • National Security. It is a top priority to defeat radical Islamic extremism. We must restore American influence, advance free enterprise and expand the community of free nations.
  • The Economy. We need to take a smarter approach that cuts down on needless regulations while making the rules we do need more efficient, especially for our small businesses.
  • The Constitution. Agencies and bureaucracies should be subject to more scrutiny from Congress. Give Congress more say – and the final word – over what is being spent and why it is being spent.
  • Health Care. Individuals should have more control and more choices in order to improve quality and lower costs. No one should have to worry about having coverage taken away regardless of age, income or medical conditions.
  • Tax Reform. The tax code should be simpler, fairer and flatter while remaining progressive. It should be constructed to create jobs, raise wages and expand opportunity for all Americans.

Conclusion. These principles are widely supported by almost all Republicans in Congress and are more important than specific differences on immigration, trade, or entitlement policy.  Their serious consideration depends upon returning a Republican controlled House in 2017.

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What Should A Fiscal Conservative Do?

From a reader of my blog:

“I personally believe Mr. Trump is grossly unfit to serve as President and if elected, it would be more than a huge problem. Since he lies or changes his mind on most everything, I worry when you say anything such as your comment that he won the debate. He is for the second amendment, he favors tax cuts, etc and there is nothing that sheds light on whether he even understands the complexity of these issues, let alone has any notion of how to create and implement a policy to accomplish these things. I believe many people are making comments that have the effect of normalizing his behavior and candidacy.”

I began writing this blog, It Does Not Add Up, almost four years ago, right after the presidential election of 2012.  By now I have written over 500 posts, mostly on fiscal and economic issues but occasionally branching out into important social issues as well.
As I see it, I have four choices when I vote for president this year.  I can:

  • Vote for Hillary Clinton. She is safe and predictable but the policies she promotes will do very little, if anything, for the faster economic growth which we so badly need. She wants to raise taxes on the wealthy. Fine, but this is only in order to increase spending for new programs, which is likely to lead to even bigger annual deficits and more accumulated debt.
  • Vote for Donald Trump. Like so many others, I assumed initially that his candidacy was a joke and that he would quickly fade away. But now he is a major party nominee and has some good policy ideas as well as some very bad ones! As president he would be constrained by Congress. In particular the Republican House has many excellent ideas on how to get our economy back on track.


  • Vote for Gary Johnson. The Libertarian candidate also has good ideas on how to solve our fiscal and economic problems but has essentially no chance of being elected.
  • Refrain from voting for president.  But voting is a citizen’s first duty. 

    Conclusion. I fully agree that Donald Trump is a very risky bet for president. But the alternative is to elect Hillary Clinton and hope for a better choice in four years. What should I do? 

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The Democrats Are Half Right (and Half Wrong!) on the Economy


In my opinion both of the two main presidential candidates have overall poor economic plans.  But at least several major Democratic figures such as Hillary Clinton, the NYT columnist Thomas Friedman, and the economist Larry Summers do understand the importance of economic growth.
In particular, says Mr. Summers, “What is unfortunate is that many (progressives), in their eagerness to focus on fairness, neglect the single most important determinant of almost every aspect of economic performance – the rate of growth of total income, as reflected in the gross domestic product.”

  • More growth means more employment. For each 1 point increase in adult male employment, the employment of young black men rises by 7%.
  • More growth reduces the need for desperation monetary policies that risk future financial stability.
  • If U.S. growth continues to have a 2% ceiling, it is doubtful if we will achieve any of our major national objectives. If we can boost growth to 3%, interest rates will normalize, middle-class wages will rise faster than inflation, debt burdens will continue to melt away and the power of the American example will be greatly enhanced.
  • The question is not whether business success is desirable. The question is how it can be achieved.

All of the above is very positive on the part of Mr. Summers. But then he adds, “What is needed is more demand for the product of business.  This is the core of the case for policy approaches to raising public investment and increasing workers’ purchasing power.”  In other words Mr. Summers is ignoring that:

  • Our national debt is huge and growing way too fast.
  • Wages are now increasing fairly rapidly which increases demand by itself.


  • Investment in new business structures, equipment and intellectual property has now fallen for three quarters in a row.


Conclusion. The way to achieve the faster rate of growth which Mr. Summers (and almost everyone else) wants is not more public investment but rather more private investment. The House Republicans have a plan to accomplish exactly this.

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The Presidential Candidates Are Clueless on the Economy


My last several posts, here and here, have discussed the economic plans of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  In short,

  • Ms. Clinton wants “equitable” growth meaning huge new public spending on such things as infrastructure, free public college tuition universal pre-K education as well as increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour nationally and mandating paid family leave. More public spending and new mandates will provide only minimal economic growth.
  • Mr. Trump wants to restrict the labor force with immigration controls and raise the price of imports with new tariffs. He would also cut tax rates across the board (good idea) but in such a way that would increase the national debt by $10 trillion over the next ten years (very bad idea).

They both need to take our actual current economic situation into account as follows:

  • The U.S. is in its weakest recovery since post WWII. The average growth rate of 2.2% for 2012 – 2015 has now stalled in the past year to just barely 1%.


  • Consumer spending has been increasing steadily and rose 4.2% in the second quarter of 2016. In other words, consumer demand is at a high level.


  • The problem is that business investment, i.e. supply, has decreased.


The House Republicans have “a better way.” Their tax reform plan, among many other good features, would

  • Lower the top corporate tax rate from 35% to 20% and establish a territorial system, to encourage multinational corporations to produce in the U.S. as well as bringing their foreign earnings back home for reinvestment.
  • Provide a tax-free return on new investment by allowing, for the first time ever, for full and immediate write-offs.

Conclusion. The House Republicans have a sensible plan for getting our country back on a much faster economic growth track. Regardless of who is elected president, the House is likely to stay under Republican control.  I am waiting to see if either of the presidential candidates will figure this out and adjust their campaign messages accordingly.

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Donald Trump’s Best Chance to Win in November


As I occasionally remind my readers, I am a non-ideological fiscal conservative and a registered independent. In November I will vote for the presidential candidate who has the most credible plan to address what I consider to be our country’s two more serious problems:

  • Slow Economic Growth, only 2.1% per year for the past seven years since the end of the Great Recession in June 2009. Faster growth will create more jobs and bigger wage gains for America’s workers.
  • Massive Debt. Our public debt (on which we pay interest) is now 75% of GDP, the highest it has been since the end of WWII, and likely to keep getting worse unless strong measures are taken to prevent this from happening.

According to current polls, Hillary Clinton is strongly predicted to be elected our next president. However her policy proposals will do little, if anything, to stimulate economic growth and are likely to make our debt much worse than it already is.
Capture8Donald Trump has a strong base of support among working class whites who are suffering in today’s economy and blame illegal immigration and unfair foreign trade for their woes.  However this base of support, while large enough for Mr. Trump to win the Republican nomination, is not nearly large enough to bring victory in November. The only way Mr. Trump can win is to greatly expand his base of support by appealing to moderate Republicans and Independents who are highly concerned about the direction our country is taking.
Capture9The best and most direct way for him to do this is to endorse the reform program, “A Better Way,” developed by the Republican House of Representatives, under Speaker Paul Ryan. This reform program has already unified the fractious Republicans in the House, and could easily serve as a vehicle for unifying the entire Republican party as well as many independents.
In my next post I will delineate how the Trump platform could easily mesh with “A Better Way.”

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