If Entitlement Reform is Too Hard, Lawmakers Can Take Baby Steps

The Washington Post reports that the U.S. deficit is headed to $1 trillion this year, the highest level since 2012. Republicans were furious about the large deficits under President Obama while he sought little to no spending constraint, but recently their focus has been elsewhere. How can we steer the fiscal outlook back toward sanity? As I see it, there are two options.

The Political Economy of a Carbon Tax: A County-By-County Investigation

This report investigates the impact of a revenue-neutral carbon tax whereby revenues raised from a $25/ton carbon tax are used to reduce the tax rate on wage income by a commensurate amount. Recognizing that such a reform is not revenue-neutral for every single taxpayer, nor even revenue-neutral in every county, we investigate the degree of spatial variation across all counties and sort results by the historical partisan preferences of those counties.

The Partisan Divide Over the Carbon Tax is all Smoke

Republican lawmakers who oppose a carbon tax are usually motivated by a belief that their constituents will get a raw deal. But standard political commentary on carbon taxation focuses on the higher costs for goods such as gasoline and electricity. Looking at who wins and who loses from a revenue-neutral carbon tax — one that also cuts existing taxes on work — yields a very different answer.

New State-Level Estimates of the Economic Burden of the Opioid Epidemic

No one disputes that opioid abuse has caused an epidemic in our country, one that costs tens of billions, if not hundreds of billions, of dollars per year. Less well known, but of vital importance to policymakers, is how these costs are distributed. Opioid abuse rates and deaths vary considerably from state to state, as do the costs associated with this epidemic. But researchers have generally focused on the economic impact of the crisis in the aggregate, at the US level. In a new analysis, I estimate the cost at the state level and find substantial variation across the country. Here, I offer a preview of my findings, which will be released in full next month.

MGA’s Alex Brill on CNBC’s Squawk Box

“Those with a college degree or more have been enjoying a relatively tight labor market for a long time with unemployment rates near 2%. But it’s those with high school or less than high school degrees that had very high unemployment rates that now have the lowest unemployment rates they have ever seen around 5%. So things are pretty good across the spectrum both geographically and by the education dynamic.”

MGA’s Alex Brill on CNBC’s Squawk Box

“Tax returns aren’t due for about 15 months until April 2019 and in that time IRS is going to put out guidance that is necessary. Particularly for this pass through provision which undoubtedly will involve some complications. But generally speaking, I think [with this tax reform] we are not aware of any loopholes or true drafting errors yet. We will see in the next weeks and months if anything opens up.”

Alex Brill on Bloomberg’s ‘Bloomberg Daybreak: Australia’

“I think it is a historic moment and a fundamental change in the tax system in the United States primarily for one provision in particular – the change in the corporate tax rate from 35% down to 21%. Overall there’s probably close to 100 provisions, there is 500 pages to this bill. So there are lots of changes. I don’t love every single one of them and I am concerned about the deficit impact this bill will have. But I do think it’s going to drive a lot of investment into the United States. It’s going to make a lot of US firms more competitive globally.”

MGA’s Alex Brill on CNBC’s Squawk Box

“There are all sorts of changes, international, regular C Corp, these pass through provisions for smaller businesses, and of course on the individual side. Everyone is going to be affected. The truth is, I think a lot of the middle class are going to be affected by a relatively small degree. The code is changing in many ways. Most of them will be better off, can’t guarantee that everyone will be better off…. I think the complexity of the tax code is shifting from the middle class, they’ll have a simpler system, but it’s shifting up to higher income individuals. And for many high income individuals, this pass-through provision is going to be more complex for them.”