Trade and Inequality Within Countries

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January 5, 2018 — Inequality has been on the rise within the United States and other advanced countries since the 1980s and especially since the turn of the century.  The possibility that trade is responsible for the widening gap between the rich and the rest of the population has of course become a major political preoccupation.

This long-standing debate can be illuminated by the latest international statistics on income distribution brought to us by the World Inequality Report 2018Continue reading

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Biggest Bang for the Buck in Charitable Contributions

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Dec. 30, 2017 — Charitable contributions postmarked by year-end (or credit-card-charged online)  are tax deductible. Next year probably not.  So I have tripled my (modest) usual year-end contributions.

I did it mostly by adding GiveWellContinue reading

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Recap: What History Says about the New Tax Bill

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December 13, 2017 — Evidently House and Senate Republicans today agreed on a tax bill.  It is really awful.  If you want to understand why economists are confident that the tax cuts will not pay for themselves and why Republicans are disingenuous to claim otherwise, I recommend what Jason Furman and Larry Summers have been writing, e.g., in this column in the Washington Post.

The angle I have focused on over the last two weeks is the light shed on the tax plan by the historical precedents of several decades.  Here is a Table of Contents, with links for potential watching, listening or reading.

  • Podcast:Measuring the GOP’s Tax Plan,” Project Syndicate, Dec.12.
    The current tax bill strikes out by all five criteria: 1) Fiscal responsibility (it’s budget-busting); 2) Income distribution (the benefits go to the rich); 3) Process (rushed and partisan); 4) Economic efficiency (it widens more corporate tax loopholes than it cuts); and 5) Timing (both cyclically and otherwise).
  • Video (60 seconds):When is the Right Time to Cut Taxes?”  HKS, Dec. 3.
    This is probably the worst-timed major tax cut in history. At least the tax cuts of 1981 and 2001 came in a year when some fiscal stimulus was appropriate.
  • Written: To Understand the Tax Reform Bill, Use Good Old Math and History,” The Hill, Dec.10. 2017. Continue reading
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