Home > Uncategorized > Do Tax Cuts Lead to Economic Growth? – NYTimes.com

Do Tax Cuts Lead to Economic Growth? – NYTimes.com

September 17, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

FOR one of my occasional conversations with Representative Paul D. Ryan over the last few years, I brought a chart. The chart showed economic growth in the United States in the last several decades, and I handed Mr. Ryan a copy as we sat down in his Capitol Hill office. A self-professed economics wonk, he immediately laughed, in what seemed an appropriate mix of appreciation and teasing.

One of the first things you notice in the chart is that the American economy was not especially healthy even before the financial crisis began in late 2007. By 2007, remarkably, the economy was already on pace for its slowest decade of growth since World War II. The mediocre economic growth, in turn, brought mediocre job and income growth — and the crisis more than erased those gains.

The defining economic policy of the last decade, of course, was the Bush tax cuts. President George W. Bush and Congress, including Mr. Ryan, passed a large tax cut in 2001, sped up its implementation in 2003 and predicted that prosperity would follow.

The economic growth that actually followed — indeed, the whole history of the last 20 years — offers one of the most serious challenges to modern conservatism. Bill Clinton and the elder George Bush both raised taxes in the early 1990s, and conservatives predicted disaster. Instead, the economy boomed, and incomes grew at their fastest pace since the 1960s. Then came the younger Mr. Bush, the tax cuts, the disappointing expansion and the worst downturn since the Depression.

Today, Mitt Romney and Mr. Ryan are promising another cut in tax rates and again predicting that good times will follow. But it’s not the easiest case to make. Much as President Obama should be asked to grapple with the economy’s disappointing recent performance (a subject for a planned column), Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan would do voters a service by explaining why a cut in tax rates would work better this time than last time.

That was precisely the question I was asking Mr. Ryan when I brought him the chart last year. He wasn’t the vice presidential nominee then, but his budget plan has a lot in common with Mr. Romney’s.

“I wouldn’t say that correlation is causation,” Mr. Ryan replied. “I would say Clinton had the tech-productivity boom, which was enormous. Trade barriers were going down in the Clinton years. He had the peace dividend he was enjoying.”

The economy in the Bush years, by contrast, had to cope with the popping of the technology bubble, 9/11, a couple of wars and the financial meltdown, Mr. Ryan continued. “Some of this is just the timing, not the person,” he said.

via Do Tax Cuts Lead to Economic Growth? – NYTimes.com.

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