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  • WSJ Vs.WSJ: The Pence Economy

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Wall Street Journal's editorial board praised Donald Trump's running mate, Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN), for economic growth in Indiana during his time in office -- ignoring the paper's own reporting that the state's growth "resembles overall U.S. performance under Obama."

    The Journal’s editorial board heaped praise on Pence’s handling of the Indiana economy on July 20, pointing to the governor’s conservative policies as something “the rest of the country could emulate” -- dismissing President Obama’s economic record as part of the reason for the state’s success and ignoring the paper’s own reporting that the state’s growth “resembles” national trends. The Journal touted the point that under Pence, Indiana’s unemployment rate dropped from 8.4 percent to 5 percent, also noting that he cut income taxes from 3.4 percent to 3.3 percent and has amassed a budget surplus (emphasis added):

    President Obama visited Elkhart, Indiana, on June 1 to tout the state’s economic recovery, taking credit for its success and claiming that it represents the 2016 election’s basic policy choice. He’s right, but the economic lessons speak better of GOP Governor and vice presidential nominee Mike Pence and his predecessor Mitch Daniels than they do Mr. Obama’s policies.

    [...]

    All states have seen declines in the jobless rate, and Indiana’s has fallen to 5% in May from 8.4% in 2013 when Mr. Pence became Governor. The Indiana difference is that the rate has fallen even as the labor force has increased by nearly 187,000. Many states have seen their jobless rates fall in part because so many people have left the labor force, driving down the national labor participation rate to lows not seen since the 1970s. The Illinois workforce has grown by only about 71,000 in the same period, though it is roughly twice as large. Indiana is adding jobs fast enough that people are rejoining the workforce.

    [...]

    Mr. Pence has continued the progress, cutting taxes every year of his tenure even as the state has continued to pile up budget surpluses. He cut the individual tax rate to 3.3% in 2015 from 3.4% and it will fall to 3.23% in 2017, the lowest in the Midwest, according to the Tax Foundation. One reason the tax rate can stay so low and flat is because it applies to a relatively broad base of income with fewer loopholes than more steeply progressive tax codes.

    The Journal’s editorial board claimed the job growth seen in Indiana is “different” because “the [unemployment] rate has fallen even as the labor force has increased,” an idea dismissed by Politico on July 19, which wrote “the drop in Indiana’s unemployment almost perfectly mirrors the national trend. And the labor force has grown in all but nine states.” A report by the Associated Press (AP) also found that the state’s unemployment rate “largely paralleled the national mark.” The parallel unemployment trends can even be seen in the Journal’s own graph from a July 16 article that undercuts Pence's ownership claim of Indiana's recovery:

    The Journal’s rhetoric resembles praise Trump had for Pence’s handling of the Indiana economy -- which so closely mirrors the U.S. economy that MSNBC’s Steve Benen argued if Pence did a “great job producing economic results, by Trump’s own reasoning, it’s hard not to consider Obama an amazing success.”

    The Journal’s editorial board touted Pence’s income tax cut, but upon closer inspection by the AP, that tax cut works out to be a mere $85 for someone making $50,000 a year. The AP also called into question the budget surpluses the Journal praised, reporting that Pence’s surpluses drew criticism after an infrastructure crisis in which opponents blamed “a handful of roadway deaths on Pence’s desire to build a budget surplus at the expense of properly funding infrastructure.” (The willingness of Republican governors to raid infrastructure funding to fill budget gaps created by trickle-down tax cuts has been well-documented.)

    Pence has also been accused of politicizing Indiana’s health budget. On June 6, 2015, the Chicago Tribune reported on one of the Indiana towns facing an opioid crisis and how Pence’s “war on Planned Parenthood” inadvertently created an “exploding HIV outbreak” in his state. When Indiana Republicans cut funding for Planned Parenthood, they cost some parts of the state their only HIV testing centers, leading to an outbreak of the virus among intravenous drug users and their sexual partners and forcing the state to eventually provide emergency funding for needle exchange programs.

    Other Republican-led states have seen their economies falter after implementation of conservative policies; Kansas and Louisiana have been devastated by Gov. Sam Brownback's and former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s trickle-down economics -- Brownback’s Koch-backed tax cut program has been particularly destructive. Like Pence, Ohio Gov. John Kasich claimed his conservative policies led to an economic “miracle” for his state, but it is easy to demonstrate how Ohio’s economic recovery pre-dated his term of office and is also largely following the national trend.

  • Politico Finds Problem With Trump’s “Make America Work” Convention Theme: “It's Already Working”

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Politico Magazine reported that while the Republican National Convention is pushing the narrative that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump will “make America work again,” the U.S. economy has actually done well since 2009, with millions of jobs created and a reduction by half of the unemployment rate.

    Make America Work Again” was the theme on July 19, the second night of the Republican National Convention, but Politico pointed out that “one of Trump’s many challenges will be convincing non-Republicans that America isn’t working even though nearly 15 million more Americans are.” Politico interviewed Republican convention delegates about their thoughts on the economy and found “they all seem to agree the Obama economy is a ghastly mess. Except for the economy wherever they happen to live.”

    The publication noted that, rather than giving credit to President Obama, convention delegates and Trump credited Republican mayors and governors for local “economic progress.” That includes Trump’s running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, whom the nominee praised for job gains in that state even though “Indiana’s unemployment almost perfectly mirrors the national trend.” From Politico Magazine (emphasis added):

    Just as most Americans say they hate Congress but routinely vote for their local congressmen, most Republicans seem to detect a national economic malaise while — with some exceptions in places like coal country and the oil patch — touting the economic progress in their local communities. They square that circle in a variety of ways — crediting their Republican mayors and governors, accusing Obama of manipulating data, or citing legitimate weaknesses in the recovery from the Great Recession. But with unemployment down from 10 percent to less than 5 percent since late 2009, one of Trump’s many challenges will be convincing non-Republicans that America isn’t working even though nearly 15 million more Americans are.

    Trump illustrated this problem last week when he introduced his running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence. He said the “primary reason” for his choice was that Indiana’s unemployment had dropped by 3.4 percentage points in four years under Pence, and that its labor force had grown, which he said was “very unusual” for a U.S. state.

    “It’s always bad, down, down, down,” Trump said. “Down 40 percent, 50 percent, 60 percent in some cases.” In fact, the drop in Indiana’s unemployment almost perfectly mirrors the national trend. And the labor force has grown in all but nine states with the worst drop only 3 percentage points in oil-dependent North Dakota. In February 2009, Obama highlighted the free-falling economy he inherited by visiting Elkhart, Indiana, where unemployment was nearly 20 percent; he recently returned to Elkhart to highlight America’s recovery, and unemployment was 4 percent.

    Talking points bashing President Obama and the American economy have been central to the Republican convention. On the first night, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) claimed America is “an economic disaster” because middle-class incomes are down since 1999. Yet Sessions was rebuffed by CNN’s Christine Romans, who noted that middle-class income “began declining actually under George W. Bush” and “more recently, it has started to climb again.” Sessions’ misleading talking point seemed to be taken directly from Fox News, which regularly blames Obama for income stagnation witnessed during the Bush administration and promoted the exact same fallacy just last month.

    The Republican National Convention has come under intense scrutiny from the media for its antics and lack of coherence or coordination. The second night of the convention -- with the theme “Make America Work Again” -- drew ridicule from journalists for not actually talking about the economy, and media denounced the night’s “mock trial” against Hillary Clinton, which featured delegates shouting “lock her up,” as a “mob” and a “festival of hating Hillary.” The first night of the convention saw even more intense pushback, with media calling the evening “disastrous” for its lack of message and saying the plagiarized speech by Trump’s wife, Melania, turned the “night into a catastrophe.” 

  • Journalists Ridicule Lack Of Economic Policy During Trump’s “Make America Work Again” Convention Night

    Day Two Of The Republican National Convention Focused On Emails, Benghazi, And Clinton-Bashing

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    The second day of the Republican National Convention (RNC) was billed as an opportunity to highlight Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s proposals to boost job creation and economic growth. Journalists blasted the RNC and Trump campaign after the speakers ignored the economy and instead attacked Hillary Clinton over issues like the Benghazi attacks and her use of a private email server.

  • Trump Economic Adviser Confirms On Fox Business That Campaign Tax Plan Still Isn’t “Finalized,” But Assures “You Are Going To Love It”

    Adviser Steve Moore Pushes New Round Of Confusing Talking Points About Whether Trump Tax Plan Exists

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Economic adviser to the Trump campaign Stephen Moore responded to critiques of Trump’s published tax plan by underscoring that the campaign’s plan is not “even finalized,” while still pushing a series of confusing claims about the revised plan’s specifics. Moore assured Fox Business’ Charles Payne, however, that he would “love” the new plan.

    Moore, a conservative economist and Fox contributor, appeared on the July 15 edition of Fox Business’ Cavuto: Coast to Coast to discuss criticisms of presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s tax proposals, which were first rolled out in September and are still currently detailed on the campaign’s website. Moore’s defenses of the plan largely consisted of repeating the Trump talking point that the plan is currently being “revised” and “finalized.” Protesting critiques of the Trump tax plan already made public, Moore complained “it’s like declaring the New York Yankees the winner in a game after the fifth inning -- I mean, the game isn’t over yet because we haven’t put [the plan] together.”

    Payne and Moore rehashed that Donald Trump would be “hands off” on entitlements and is not interested in cutting “social security, medicare.” Payne then claimed Trump “is going to double the size of the military” -- an assertion Moore was unsure about.  Moore claimed the Trump tax plan would stimulate the economy “from 2 percent growth to 4 percent” by slashing taxes and that these tax cuts will be paid for by that growth and by cutting federal spending dramatically:

    Moore argued that economists and critics pointing out that the numbers of the current plan don’t add up “don’t know what they are talking about,” because it is being revised. The plan, as it stands now, has been panned by economists.  

    Moore’s claim that tax cuts will be balanced by cuts in spending do not, in fact, add up: The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center (TPC) and the conservative Tax Foundation each scored the current tax plan and found that that it would explode the deficit by $9 to $12 trillion over the next decade, on top of the $9.4 trillion in projected deficits at current spending levels. Trump would need to cut almost one trillion dollars in federal spending per year, which is more than all non-military discretionary spending.

    The Tax Foundation’s analysis concluded that Trump’s current tax plan would boost investment and wage growth while creating up to 5.3 million new jobs, but those figures relied on a so-called “dynamic” scoring model that has been criticized for overestimating the stimulative value of tax cuts. According to a September 2014 report from the Brookings Institution, tax cuts do not necessarily create economic growth and they can even discourage growth by undermining economic incentives to invest. A September 2012 report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), which was suppressed by Senate Republicans, similarly found no correlation between tax cuts and economic growth, but it did caution that tax cuts for high-income individuals “appear to be associated” with rising inequality.

    Moore has a long and well-documented history of distorting facts on the economy. Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who has spent years documenting Moore's repeated failures in economic policy, recently slammed the right-wing commentator’s "impressive lack of even minimal technical competence" upon learning the economist would be involved in re-working Trump’s tax proposals.

  • Fox Business Host Gets Visibly Angry After Guest Debunks His Defense Of The Super Wealthy

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Fox Business host Stuart Varney tried to undermine a guest during a segment lamenting the Democratic Party’s supposed “move to socialism,” but his right-wing rhetoric couldn’t hold up to criticism.

    On July 14, Varney invited Occidental College political scientist Caroline Heldman -- a self-described socialist and strong supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) presidential campaign -- to discuss Sanders’ impact on progressive politics. After a cordial start, the conversation quickly devolved as the host began shouting over his guest when she said that “there hasn’t been a radical shift to the left” in the Democratic Party. Varney became increasingly irate after Heldman argued that “Bernie Sanders isn’t even a socialist, he’s just a New Deal Democrat.” Several minutes of increasingly tense exchanges followed, during which Varney talked down to his guest, claimed that her position on taxation was “totally immoral” and “unconstitutional,” and labeled her opinions “nonsense.” He eventually turned the rest of the segment over to a Republican strategist and lobbyist who attacked Heldman after her appearance was over and she could no longer defend herself:

    This was not Heldman’s first run-in with a rude and overzealous Fox host armed with little more than contempt and partisan talking points. In April 2010, Heldman went after Fox News host Bill O’Reilly for courting “racial fearmongering” in his attacks against progressive policies. In April 2011, Fox host Eric Bolling brushed off her advocacy for expanded worker rights as “a part of our American fabric” with a thoughtless and sexist nickname: “Dr. McHottie.” A few months later, in December 2011, Heldman slammed Bolling for promoting baseless fears about in-person voter fraud. And in a March 2013 appearance on MSNBC’s Politics Nation, Heldman remarked that she had “never met a group of people who is so upset that the economy is rebounding than the folks over at Fox.”

    As for Varney’s attempt at a substantive critique of Heldman, he claimed at the end of the segment that she could not identify an example of high taxation coinciding with increased economic growth. She had provided that example, the economic boom of the 1990s under President Bill Clinton, when higher taxes did not stymie economic growth. Varney also claimed that the wealthy pay too high a share of income taxes in this country, seemingly citing a Wall Street Journal article from 2015 that says the top 20 percent of earners contribute 84 percent of income tax revenue. But many economists have argued for higher tax rates; Dirk Krueger and Fabian Kindermann even said the “optimal” tax rates for the top 1 percent of U.S. earners could be as high as 90 percent.

  • WSJ Misleads On Obamacare To Blast The "Radicalism" Of A Public Option

    Journal Hypes Co-Op Failures To Show Public Option Cannot Work, Failing To Mention Co-Op Funding Was Slashed

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board assailed President Barack Obama's call for a “Medicare-like” public health insurance option as "radicalism" that would "wipe out anything resembling private insurance," when in reality a public option would likely increase competition, lower costs, and expand access to health care for American consumers.

    In an article published by The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on July 11, President Obama wrote about the accomplishments of his signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or “Obamacare,” since it became law in 2010. The article, the first scholarly work ever authored by a sitting president, noted that the uninsured rate has dropped 43 percent (from 16.0 percent in 2010 to 9.1 percent in 2015), that the law has contributed to greater financial security for Americans and that it has actually led to better public health. But the president also noted that there is still work to be done on health care reform, including the need for a “Medicare-like public plan” that could compete with private insurance. On July 9, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton publicly reaffirmed her support for the “public option,” a policy she has championed since 1993.

    With the Democratic Party coalescing around the public option as the next step for health care reform, the Journal’s editorial board claimed the introduction of a publicly run insurer into the individual health insurance exchanges would lead to a “market exodus” by private insurers and eventually to a “government-run single payer” universal health care system. Hypocritically, the Journal claimed both that the public option would inevitably destroy private insurance and that the failure of several nonprofit health care co-operatives set up by the existing law stood as proof that government-run insurance systems could not work. From the July 12 editorial (emphasis added):

    Mr. Obama is re-endorsing what he had hoped in 2010 would be a way station for government-run single payer that would gradually wipe out anything resembling private insurance. Insurers can’t outbid a “free” program that is open to all or most and has the unlimited access to the Treasury that Medicare enjoys. A market exodus would be inevitable.

    Democrats claim this would merely be another choice, but they tried a trial-run public option with ObamaCare’s co-ops, which were given up-front federal cash infusions and then were supposed to operate like normal companies. Of the original 24 co-ops, only nine are alive—and most of the survivors are ailing.

    [...]

    Even after jettisoning the public option, ObamaCare passed the Senate with a bare 60-vote majority and the House 219-212, though Democrats commanded their largest majorities since the Great Society. Republicans couldn’t stop anything, but they did oppose the public option for the same reasons as the business community and moderate Democrats: Over time, its radicalism would annex all of U.S. health-care finance.

    The Journal’s fearmongering that competition from public option “radicalism” would usurp the private insurance market lacks evidence: Research suggests a public insurance plan would lead to lower premiums and reap enormous benefits for American taxpayers.

    According to Kaiser Health News, increasing competition in individual health care marketplaces has shown to lower prices for consumers, and less competition in a state can lead to “substantially higher premiums.” In an op-ed published by The Hill, Richard Kirsch of the Roosevelt Institute noted that a public option can keep costs down without limiting provider options, since the government already pays for care at most of the country’s doctors offices and hospitals for Medicare beneficiaries. Unlike private insurers with limited provider networks, a government-run plan would already have the infrastructure to provide low-cost competition nationwide.

    In addition to increasing competition and driving down costs, a public option could dramatically decrease government spending on health care, research suggests. According to an October 2009 policy brief by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley's Center on Health, Economic & Family Security, a public option would be so beneficial for the American health insurance market that it would “most likely both expand coverage and reduce costs to employers, individuals, and the government.” The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) came to the same conclusion in a March 2012 working paper, which included “a public insurance option” among progressive reforms that together could save the government an additional $278 billion over 10 years. Likewise, a November 2013 analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicted that adding a public option to existing Obamacare insurance marketplaces could actually reduce federal spending by $158 billion over 10 years.

    The Journal claims the introduction of a public option would lead to universal single-payer health care, but it fails to provide either any proof that the public option would do that or an explanation of why that would be detrimental. The Journal does use the problems faced by government-assisted nonprofit insurers -- called co-ops -- as proof that a public option would not work, but it doesn’t mention that Republicans in Congress cut co-op funding. Meanwhile, though the president has not advocated a national single-payer health plan, economist Gerald Friedman estimated that such a system could save the American economy as much as $592 billion a year, most of which would come from “slashing the administrative waste associated with the private insurance industry.”

    In 2009, when Congress was still vetting the public option for inclusion in what would become the ACA, opinion polling often showed large majorities in favor of the provision. Right-wing media outlets assailed the provision for months as part of their coordinated campaign to derail health care reform, but even after several years the abandoned option remains popular.

  • CNN Lets Paul Ryan Push Discredited "Welfare Cliff" Myth During Town Hall Event

    Ryan Hypes Right-Wing Media Fiction About “Benefit Cliffs” As “The Core” Of His Anti-Poverty Agenda

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    CNN allowed Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) to use a town hall event to promote his widely criticized “Better Way” poverty reform agenda unchallenged, including the discredited “welfare cliff” myth long promoted by right-wing media.

    A member of the audience -- a Catholic priest and registered Republican -- asked Ryan what plans he had “to meet the basic human needs of the poor in this country, even if they’re here illegally,” during a July 12 town hall hosted by CNN’s Jake Tapper. The questioner juxtaposed the moral imperative to serve individuals “as human beings” without asking them “for their documentation” with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s “inhumane” stance on immigration.

    Ryan’s initial response was littered with right-wing media talking points about President Obama’s supposed unwillingness to “secure the border” in order to fix the country’s “broken immigration system.” Ryan’s response then shifted to a supposed solution to poverty, which was also focused on myths frequently trumpeted by right-wing media, including how welfare “benefit cliffs” trap recipients in poverty. Ryan incorrectly claimed that the government’s “current approach” to poverty actually “perpetuates” it, and suggested that a “single mom with two kids” earning roughly $24,000 per year (barely above the federal poverty threshold) would rather live in poverty than get a raise “because of all the benefits she [would lose]” (emphasis added):

    PAUL RYAN: Let me get to the poverty point you mentioned. Please take a look at our agenda. This is one of the most important reforms that I think we’re offering. Which is a better way to solve poverty -- “A Better Way To Fight Poverty.” Go to better.gop -- better.gop is where we’ve released our agenda. I spent the last four years going around this country visiting with poor communities, learning about the poor, and the suffering, and better ideas for fighting poverty. We’ve put in a very aggressive plan to go at the root causes of poverty, to try and break the cycle of poverty, and I would argue our current approach at the government of fighting poverty treats symptoms of poverty, which perpetuates poverty.

    Our welfare system replaces work. It doesn't incentivize work. And as a result, we are trapping people in poverty. It's not working. So we think that there's a better way of reigniting what I call upward mobility, the American idea, and getting people out of poverty. Please take a look at these ideas. We have lots of them. I’d love to get into it if you give me time. But this is one of the things that we are talking about. Engaging with our fellow citizens, especially those who have slipped through the cracks, especially those that have no hope, that we have better ideas for helping them get back on their feet and converting our welfare system not into a poverty trap, but a place to get people from welfare to work.

    JAKE TAPPER (HOST): Give me one idea. One poverty idea.

    RYAN: Benefit cliffs. Right now, you stack all these welfare programs on top of each other and it basically pays people not to work. So you know who the highest tax rate payer (sic)? It’s not Anderson Cooper or Jake Tapper; it is the single mom with two kids making maybe -- earning $24,000, who will lose 80 cents on the dollar by taking a job or getting a raise because of all the benefits she loses. So, what happens is, we disincentivize work. We need to taper those benefits cliffs, customize welfare benefits to a person’s particular needs, and encourage work. So, you’ve got so much time to get these benefits, you have to have work requirements or job training requirements. Customize benefits to help a person with their problem. Whether it's addiction, whether it's education, or transportation.

    Catholic Charities, by the way, is the model that I'm talking about. This is basically the Catholic Charities model. Customize support to a person and always make work pay. Make sure that you take the principles that we’ve used for welfare reform in the '90s, which are no longer really working or in place these days, to get people from welfare to work. And that's the core of what we are proposing.

    The term "welfare cliff" was popularized by Pennsylvania's Republican-appointed Secretary of Public Welfare in a July 2012 report, which claimed a "single mom" could nearly double her net income by taking full advantage of nine distinct anti-poverty programs. But the concept of a trade-off between welfare and work dates back to a flawed Cato Institute study from 1995. One thing these studies have in common is the base calculation of benefits available to a hypothetical "single mom" with children. Most American workers aren't single mothers, most recipients of government benefits don't enroll in every single available program, and the value of federal benefit programs like welfare is less now than it was in years past -- facts that are not acknowledged in right-wing media discussions of anti-poverty programs.

    Right-wing media outlets have repeatedly promoted the fantasy that low-income Americans would rather live in poverty than risk losing supposedly generous government benefits, and Paul Ryan is known for loyally parroting right-wing talking points about poverty. In fact, Ryan’s entire “Better Way” anti-poverty agenda for 2016 is built on right-wing media myths, including the so-called “benefit cliff” talking point. Journalists and experts slammed Ryan’s poverty plan, calling it a “seriously flawed” approach “based on faulty assumptions,” and concluding it is seemingly “designed to make it much harder for people in need” to access poverty alleviation programs. The same was true of his much-heralded 2014 anti-poverty plan. Ryan is right that there is a better way to fight poverty, but research by actual economists points to a reform agenda more like the factually based plan put forward by the Center for American Progress than the rehashing of right-wing myths endorsed by Ryan.

    View the full exchange on poverty and immigration from CNN’s House Speaker Paul Ryan Town Hall:

  • New York Times Op-Ed Ignores High Cost Of Low Wages In Calling To Expand Tax Credit

    Manhattan Institute Scholar Peddles Right-Wing Media Myths In Call To Increase Taxpayer Subsidies Of Poverty Wages

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    A New York Times op-ed by a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute pushed the debunked claim that raising the minimum wage would hurt business and American workers and promoted the expansion of tax credits for workers struggling with poverty. The op-ed failed to mention the high public cost of pushing more of the burden on taxpayers while letting businesses off the hook from paying workers a living wage.

    Manhattan Institute senior fellow Peter Salins claimed that raising the minimum wage constitutes “playing a kind of economic Russian roulette” in a July 6 op-ed in The New York Times, suggesting that instead of raising wages, policymakers should ask taxpayers to foot the bill for increased subsidies for poverty wages. Salins’ proposal, which is a common refrain among conservatives, would shield employers from paying a living wage to their full-time workers by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Salins claimed that advocates for raising the minimum wage “fail to acknowledge” that low-wage workers have access to the EITC.

    Echoing a myth frequently promoted by right-wing media, Salins alleged that workers would be “priced out of the labor market by an unrealistically high minimum wage” and that the victories advocates for raising the minimum wage have already won may cause “grievous harm.” A $15 per hour minimum wage, in Salins’ estimation, could “reduce the total number of jobs nationally by three million to five million.” From The New York Times:

    In this campaign season, politicians across the country (including the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate and perhaps even the Republican one) have called for raising the minimum wage. Not just marginally, as in the past, but all the way to $15 an hour, more than double the current national level of $7.25. Even elected officials and candidates in states with higher minimum wages like New York have jumped on the $15 an hour bandwagon. Their justification: “You can’t support a family on the current minimum wage.”

    What the advocates fail to acknowledge is that minimum-wage workers with families to support are already eligible to receive a financial boost under a national program called the earned-income tax credit. This program, instituted in 1975 and expanded since then, paid benefits to 27.5 million low-income workers in 2014. (That same year, only three million workers fell at or below the federal minimum wage, so the credit also helped millions of other low-wage workers.) Technically, such payments are classified as “refundable tax credits,” paid to qualifying workers when they file their annual income tax returns.

    [...]

    That is the beauty of the tax credit; it helps low-skilled workers in proportion to their household need, taking pressure off the minimum wage as the only guarantor of a “living wage.” The credit thus performs a crucial function in a national labor market where one size most definitely does not fit all, a labor market that is enormously varied by region, by employers’ needs, by workers’ skills and by the potential for jobs to be replaced by technology. By allowing wages to reflect local economic and industry conditions, the earned-income tax credit makes it possible for all unskilled workers to have jobs — including those not eligible for the credit, like teenagers, single young adults or semiretired older people, who would otherwise be priced out of the labor market by an unrealistically high minimum wage.

    Salins advocated for policies similar to those recently endorsed by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and identified Ryan in the op-ed as a supporter of expanding the EITC (Ryan’s proposals also ignore the possibility of raising wages or strengthening worker rights). Salins suggested that a hypothetical working mom in a minimum-wage job with multiple dependent children already stands to benefit from the EITC, even though those income supports combined with her low wages would still leave her entire family in poverty. Salins did not mention that progressive groups such as the Center For American Progress (CAP) support raising the minimum wage and expanding the EITC along with other tax credits targeted at low-income families. The EITC has been shown to assist families in poverty, but it alone does not solve the problem of poverty, which is why CAP supports a multipronged approach to assisting low-income families: expanding EITC, raising the minimum wage, increasing educational opportunities, and strengthening worker protections.

    While the EITC program can correctly be called “the most progressive” part of the tax code, expanding the credit would not be free -- and the federal government already spends $68 billion per year on the program. Whereas expanding the EITC would cost taxpayers money, simply raising the minimum wage would actually save money and shift the responsibility of paying a living wage onto businesses. According to a June 2016 report jointly produced by Oxfam America and the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), raising the federal minimum wage to $12 per hour would reduce federal spending on anti-poverty programs like the EITC by $17 billion.

    Low-wage industries create burdens on taxpayers; the notoriously low-wage fast food industry alone costs taxpayers nearly $7 billion annually. Salins’ claim that the American economy would lose millions of jobs from a $15 per hour wage is also suspect because he based his numbers off a model that did not predict jobs losses, but rather the potential for a slightly lower rate of job growth. Right-wing media have a long history of pushing the same unsubstantiated arguments that Salins parroted in the Times -- claiming raising the minimum wage will kill jobs, hurt low-wage workers, and harm the economy -- all of which economists have repeatedly debunked.

  • Wall Street Journal’s Argument For Trickle-Down Tax Cuts Debunked By Its Own Citations

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH & CRAIG HARRINGTON

    The editorial board of The Wall Street Journal cited two working papers from 2015 as proof that the United States needs to lower its top marginal tax rates to keep and attract successful workers and “help the economy grow.” But one of the studies the editorial referenced debunked the paper’s trickle-down economic argument while the other study stopped far short of hailing tax cuts as a silver bullet solution for economic growth.

    The Journal grumbled that the United States needs to cut federal income tax rates to keep and attract talent in a July 4 editorial titled “Why Everyone Needs A Tax Cut.” The Journal cited two working papers that investigated how top income brackets affected the migration patterns of the world’s top inventors and scientists -- one put out in March 2015 by economists with the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), and another released in December 2015 by economists with the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco -- to claim, “Lower marginal rates improve incentives and help the economy grow.” From The Wall Street Journal:

    The authors, in hilariously dry academic fashion, dare to note that these “migratory responses to tax policy might represent a cost to tax progressivity.” Imagine trying to attract the top 1% of earners instead of driving them away.

    [...]

    All of this is worth keeping in mind the next time you hear Hillary Clinton attack Donald Trump or House Republicans for their tax-reform plans. Lower marginal rates improve incentives and help the economy grow.

    The Journal failed to mention that its conclusions are not supported by the research it cites. The United States has the lowest top tax rate of the developed countries NBER researchers surveyed. Additionally, while the San Francisco Fed did conclude “that state taxes matter” in terms of the interstate migration of top-tier workers and corporations, there is little evidence that the “[l]ower marginal tax rates” the Journal supports would actually “help the economy grow.”

    NBER Research Shows Little Incentive For U.S. To Cut Taxes

    The NBER researchers the Journal referenced broke down their findings in a blog for the London-based Centre for Economic Policy Research, noting that they looked at the effect tax cuts had on retaining and attracting “superstar inventors” in eight developed countries -- Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Of these eight countries, the U.S. had the lowest top tax rate and, according to the researchers, would experience the smallest gains in terms of newly attracted workers from cutting taxes. The authors argued that “labour, like capital, might be internationally mobile and respond to tax incentives,” but “language, distance to one’s home country, and career concerns” are other factors to consider when workers are choosing where to live:

    According to data compiled by the CIA, the United States ranks among the bottom quarter of countries in the world in terms of how much taxation it collects as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP). The U.S. ranks 171st out of 219 countries, with just 18.1 percent of GDP going toward income taxes, consumption taxes, and tariffs. By this metric, taxation in the United States looks more akin to the Caribbean tax havens of the Bahamas (172nd) or Bermuda (176th) than to the developed economies of France (12th) or Germany (24th).

    Federal Reserve Paper Doesn’t Actually Account For Economic Growth

    On several occasions throughout the text, the San Francisco Fed paper makes the point that “[w]hile there are many other factors that determine where innovative individuals and innovative companies decide to locate … relative taxes matter.” This might seem to support the Journal’s embrace of the misleading “tax flight” myth commonly deployed by right-wing media against states like California and New York, which are known for their high taxes and Democratic-led state governments. Yet, as Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman argued in a July 29 blog for The New York Times, the high-tax states often targeted by conservative outlets are not being outperformed by low-tax states in terms of economic growth:

    Attracting such individuals as those the Fed paper deems to be “star scientists” is important, but the number of people likely to be involved is extremely small. The authors estimate that a 2006 tax cut in New York increased the number of “star scientists” in the state by 28 total individuals in a state with 19.3 million residents and more than 8.6 million workers.

    Right-wing media outlets, including the Journal, frequently complain about the high tax rates imposed on American workers and businesses, but the facts lead to the opposite conclusion. It is not clear why the Journal chose these papers as the basis for its argument, but the conclusion of most independent research on the economic effects of cutting taxes reveals no evidence that it spurs economic growth.

  • Slate Highlights How Trickle-Down Economics Wreaked Havoc In Kansas

    Kansas Transportation Secretary Resigns After Tax Cuts Put Agency In Financial Peril

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Slate has joined The New York Times and The Kansas City Star in highlighting what’s wrong with Kansas’ “insane right-wing experiment” of drastically cutting taxes, explaining that the Republican-led state “is about to destroy its roads.”

    In 2012, Republican Kansas lawmakers led by Gov. Sam Brownback enacted a series of tax cuts -- described by the Star editorial board as “disastrous” and the Times editorial board as “ruinous” -- that deeply cut revenue streams without generating the strong economic growth conservatives promised would follow. Instead, the state has fallen into financial crisis leading to a painful credit downgrade, a massive budget shortfall, and a “negative” credit outlook for the future. Brownback’s tax cut policies were nonetheless endorsed by right-wing media personalities and created a model for other conservative politicians to follow.

    On June 30, Slate reported that Brownback had announced the resignation of his state’s secretary of transportation, Mike King, marking the latest casualty of Kansas’ failed experiment with trickle-down economics. According to Slate, the reason King is leaving may be that the state has taken $2 billion from the Kansas Department of Transportation’s reserve funds to close gaps elsewhere in the budget. Former Kansas transit secretary Deb Miller cautioned that the “weakened revenue stream” would be “more subject to political whim.” From Slate (emphasis added):

    Kansas has had trouble paying for much of anything since 2012, when conservative legislators decided to implement a bevy of right-wing economic policies—and lead their state into a fiscal crisis.

    In order to keep funding its government despite dramatically decreased tax revenue, the legislature has flipped all their piggy banks. One of them is the Kansas Department of Transportation—or what sarcastic Kansans now call “the Bank of KDOT,” for the stupendous quantity of money that has been diverted from its coffers to the Kansas general fund and state agencies.

    [...]

    On Wednesday, Brownback announced that Mike King, the secretary of KDOT, would be resigning this month. King, who was appointed in 2012, has presided over a rather unusual period in Topeka finance.

    Since 2011, according to the Kansas City Star, the state has diverted over $1 billion in “extraordinary” transfers from KDOT. If you include “routine” transfers, from 2011 through the 2017 budget year the total diversion from the Bank of KDOT will amount to more than $2 billion.

    That’s more than KDOT’s annual expenditures. It’s as if the state, which has the fourth largest number of public road miles in the nation, had taken away a full year of road funding.

    [...]

    King’s predecessor, Deb Miller, told the Topeka Capital-Journal this week that King “started as KDOT secretary at a time when the agency had a well-defined and solidly financed statewide highway program. He exits an agency deeper in debt and with a weakened revenue stream more subject to political whim.”

    Brownback’s legacy will be grander, but we could call this the Mike King doctrine: Plugging holes in the budget; leaving holes in the road.