No End in Sight
From James Surowiecki at the New Yorker
The talk in Washington these days is all about budget deficits, tax rates, and the “fiscal crisis” that supposedly looms in our near future. But this chatter has eclipsed a much more pressing crisis here and now: almost thirteen million Americans are still unemployed. Though the job market has shown some signs of life in recent months, the latest figures on new jobs and on unemployment-insurance claims have been decidedly unimpressive. We are stuck with an unemployment rate three points higher than the postwar average, and the percentage of working adult Americans is as low as it’s been in almost thirty years. What’s most troubling is that so much of this unemployment is long-term. Forty per cent of the unemployed have been without a job for six months or more—a much higher rate than in any recession since the Second World War—and the average length of unemployment is about forty weeks, a number that has changed very little since 2010. The economic recovery has now lasted nearly three years, but for millions of Americans it hasn’t yet begun.
Diamond and Saez: High Tax Rates Won't Slow Growth
We're not close to the top of the Laffer Curve. Raising tax rates is part of a sensible deficit reduction
From Peter Diamond and Emmanuel Saez at the Wall Street Journal
The share of pre-tax income accruing to the top 1% of earners in the U.S. has more than doubled to about 20% in 2010 from less than 10% in the 1970s. At the same time, the average federal income tax rate on top earners has declined significantly. Given the large current and projected deficits, should the top 1% be taxed more? Because U.S. income concentration is now so high, the potential tax revenue at stake is large. But will taxable incomes of the top 1% respond to a tax increase by declining so much that revenue rises very little or even drops? In other words, are we already near or beyond the peak of the famous Laffer Curve, the revenue-maximizing tax rate?
Social Security Fund to Run Out in 2035, Trustees Say
The Laffer Curve is used to illustrate the concept of taxable income "elasticity,"—i.e., that taxable income will change in response to a change in the rate of taxation. Top earners can, of course, move taxable income between years to subject them to lower tax rates, for example, by changing the timing of charitable donations and realized capital gains. And some can convert earned income into capital gains, and avoid higher taxes in other ways. But existing studies do not show much change in actual work being done.
The budget outlook for Social Security is getting dimmer, the U.S. government said, with its primary trust fund now projected to run dry three years sooner than anticipated. The fund that helps finance benefits for 44 million senior citizens and survivors of deceased workers will be exhausted by 2035, the program’s trustees said in an annual report yesterday. Aid would have to be cut at that point if Congress doesn’t intervene.
Hiding the Money
From USA Today
"Millions of dollars flowing to independent political groups dominating this year's presidential and congressional contests have come from mystery and hard-to-find donors, newly filed campaign reports show... Using undisclosed or hard-to-track money in politics is legal, under the patchwork of court decisions, campaign-disclosure regulations and IRS rules that govern federal elections." An example: "More than $8 out of every $10 collected during the first three months of this year by two conservative groups associated with Republican strategist Karl Rove, for instance, went to a non-profit branch that does not have to reveal its donors."