The United States is slowly but surely headed toward a federal debt crisis certain to inflict serious economic hardship on future generations. Today, the amount of federal debt held by the public stands at $14.8 trillion (all figures in this paper are in US dollars). While the US economy is expected to grow 76 percent in the next 30 years, that debt burden will, in inflation-adjusted terms, increase by over 240 percent during that time. Returning to a sustainable fiscal outlook will require hard choices and a clear understanding of both what led us to this point and the economic consequences of inaction.
“The House bill and the Senate bill are not identical but are very much on the same page, according to Alex Brill, a resident fellow at AEI, a conservative think tank. Most changes will be technical in nature and carried out by the conference committee. According to Brill, reconciliation might take longer than lawmakers have predicted, but he is confident that the differences will ultimately get resolved.”
Federal fiscal reform in the United States is increasingly necessary but over the last two decades has remained elusive. Part of the reason for the inaction reflects different political preferences and priorities. Part of it reflects differing views about the possible economic and social effects of controlling public spending and fiscal deficits. The result is that the US federal debt continues to grow unabated, which poses an increasing threat to future generations of citizens.
Both the House’s tax bill and the Senate Finance Committee’s bill slash the corporate income tax rate from 35 to 20%, a much needed reform that will pull capital into the United States and grow the economy. Thankfully, both bills cut the corporate rate on a permanent basis.
Opportunities for Tax Reform: Remarks From House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX)
Following his remarks, Chairman Brady joined AEI’s Alex Brill for a discussion on the potential opportunities and impacts of tax reform. Mr. Brill asked Chairman Brady about the features of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and the ways in which the act would affect different individuals. Mr. Brill discussed the significance of the corporate tax rate cut and the change in standard deduction that tax reform would bring. Chairman Brady concluded by emphasizing the importance of moving to a simpler tax system.
I believe that the current US tax code imposes drag on US economic growth and alternatives to the current system could result in an increase in the capital stock, a boost in worker productivity, and thus an increase in wages. This positive economic result would occur slowly over time as new investment is deployed and workers adopt to new opportunities.
The prospect of major tax reform that broadens the tax base and lowers tax rates has the residential housing industry in panic mode. The National Association of Realtors recently called the House tax bill “an outright assault on homeownership in America.” Separately, a study commissioned by the Realtors warns that comprehensive tax reform would result in an average drop in home values of 10%. But the reality is that the housing market will be fine if the House Republican tax plan is enacted.
We are scholars at the American Enterprise Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit policy research entity. Dr. Satel is a practicing psychiatrist who has studied and researched a broad range of matters related to mental health policy and addiction, including tobacco harm reduction. Mr. Brill is an expert in public finance and health economics, with a concentration in the economic and public health implications of smoking and its alternatives. The views expressed here are ours alone and may or may not reflect the views of our colleagues.
MGA’s Alex Brill Serves as a Panelist for Cato Institute’s Capitol Hill Briefing on “Home Stretch for Major Tax Reform?”
While speaking as a panelist, Alex Brill says, “we can have a tax reform that is net positive for the overall economy. With a better system, one different from the system we have today, the size of the US economy will be larger than it otherwise would be. It will take time from the day of enactment to the day that that effect is fully realized. And during that period of time, the economy will grow faster and then it will reach this new higher level that it otherwise wouldn’t reach and we will all be better off as a result of that.”
“[Alex] Brill explained that it might be the right moment for tax reform. He expected a bipartisan bill to emerge early next year to serve as the latest in a cycle of tax policies that should help stimulate the US economy, but added that he isn’t holding his breath. “It’s been 31 years since lawmakers did something called tax reform,” Brill said.”