Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan is an economist and legal scholar and a Professor of Law at The George Washington University. He teaches tax law and tax policy, and he has taught contract law, law and economics, and numerous economics courses. His research addresses the long-term tax and spending patterns of the federal government, focusing on budget deficits, the national debt, health care costs, and Social Security. He also is engaged in a long-term research project that asks how current policy choices should be shaped by concerns for the interests of future generations.

Professor Buchanan has held permanent or visiting positions at Rutgers-Newark School of Law, NYU School of Law, and Cornell Law School. Prior to attending law school, Professor Buchanan was an economics professor, specializing in macroeconomics, the history of economic thought, and economic methodology. He has held full-time faculty positions in economics at the University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Barnard College, Goucher College, and Wellesley College.

Professor Buchanan has published articles in the Columbia Law Review, the George Washington Law Review, NYU’s Tax Law Review, Cornell Law Review, Virginia Tax Review, and the Cornell Journal of Law & Public Policy, as well as other law reviews and refereed social science periodicals. He has also testified before Congress about issues related to tax reform. He publishes twice weekly on the legal blog “Dorf on Law,” and he is a featured columnist on Newsweek's Opinion page.

Columns by Neil H. Buchanan

The Supreme Court and Conservatives’ Right Not to Be Associated in Any Way With Disagreeable Things

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GW Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that the pro-business, anti-union expressed during oral argument and in the majority opinion in Janus v. AFSCME, written by Justice Samuel Alito and joined by the other conservative justices including Justice Anthony Kennedy, epitomizes both Kennedy’s right-wing fundamentalism and the direction in which the Court would have continued to move even if he had chosen not to retire. Buchanan points out that the trend among the conservative justices is to insulate conservatives—especially Christian Republicans—from having to be in any way connected to anything with which they disagree, such as collective bargaining, sexual liberation, or provision of contraception.

Kennedy’s Sadly and Unnecessarily Tainted Legacy

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GW law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan comments on Justice Anthony Kennedy’s announcement that he is retiring from the Supreme Court and the legacy he leaves. Buchanan laments that Justice Kennedy’s last term on the bench can only be described as tragedy, as he joined the conservative 5–4 majority on critical cases that Buchanan predicts will have a lasting harmful effect on individuals across the country and the world.

The Supreme Court Is Still Incoherent About Taxes and Finance, But the Conservatives Seem to Know What They Want

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GW law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan comments on two of last week’s decisions from the US Supreme Court that at least nominally involved tax law issues. Buchanan explains why the decisions suggest that the justices remain confused about taxes and financial issues more generally and suggests that the lower-profile case from last week may end up having the most important and negative effects going forward.

Good News About Social Security

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GW Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why Social Security is so important, and why Republicans’ claim that it is “going to go broke” is so dishonest. Buchanan briefly describes how Social Security was designed and why, because of that design, it is performing exactly as expected and intended when it was set up.

Stealth Attacks on People’s Lives via Boring Economics

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George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan debunks the supposedly simple solutions some purported economists have for complex problems. Buchanan explains that regardless of where one is on the political spectrum, complex social and economic issues—particularly the housing crisis affecting many cities across the country—require considering a number of factors and cannot be solved by “simply” assuming away real-life complications.

The Simpsons, Roseanne, and the PC Dodge

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George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan comments on the entrance of popular TV shows into the political fray, especially (recently) “Roseanne.” Buchanan argues that for Roseanne Conner to be portrayed as a Trump supporter is inconsistent with her (fictional) character as developed over the years.

Wait … Was the Sheriff of Nottingham Somehow the Good Guy?

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George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why regressive taxes make Republicans “reverse Robin Hoods” by focusing on the core disagreement between those Republicans and everyone else about the ethics of taxation. Buchanan points out that the Republicans’ argument boils down to the tautology that rich people deserve what they have because they have it.

The Damage in the Wake of the Non-Scandal at the IRS

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George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan describes how Republicans' unjustified war on the Internal Revenue Service and attempts to defund it have incidentally caused all charitable organizations to suffer. Buchanan recounts the non-scandal involving the IRS and highlights the inconsistencies in Republicans' rhetoric as to that incident-which led to dire consequences not just for honest taxpayers but for legitimate charitable groups and the people who would like to support them.

Did Trump Inadvertently Make Banning Dreamers Unconstitutional?

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George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan comments on the apparent conflict between President Trump's declaration that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is unconstitutional and his decision to delay ending it. Buchanan considers whether the inconsistent positions with respect to the program actually affect the constitutional options available to him.

Do Law Faculties Need to Cover the Range of Fields in Scholarship or Only in Teaching?

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George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why a law faculty needs to cover the range of fields not only in teaching, but also in scholarship. Buchanan argues that if a law school is truly committed to covering specific courses, it should also be committed to hiring faculty with deep scholarly expertise in those subject matters. A professor who is not engaged with the subject matter both inside and outside the classroom is less effective in both realms.

If Republicans Really Wanted a Middle-Class Tax Cut, They Could Have Passed a Much Better (and Cheaper) Tax Bill

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George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that Republicans could have achieved a middle-class tax cut a fraction of the cost of the Republicans' tax bill. Buchanan points out that while the middle class may see a few thousand dollars in the short-term, Republican donors and wealthy corporations will benefit from significantly reduced taxes year after year, indefinitely, causing yet another surge in economic inequality.

Spin Class: The Press Inexplicably Scorns the Democrats After the Government Shutdown

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George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan calls out media outlets for blaming Democrats (or at least calling it a Democratic failure) for the government shutdown. Buchanan describes the generally favorable political environment for Democrats but the dangerous terrain they face, and he reiterates the point that the press unfairly applies different rules when covering Democrats and Republicans.

Damning Democrats With False Equivalence Is Bad, But This Is Worse

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George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan describes several instances in which supposedly neutral (or even liberal) sources are unjustly criticizing Democrats for everything they do, characterizing them as hapless losers. Buchanan explains why this criticism is not only unfair but worse than even false equivalence arguments.

Liberals Should Readily Condemn Sexual Misconduct by Democratic Men

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George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan discusses allegations of sexual misconduct aimed at Democratic men in power and the opposing views progressive writers have taken as to whether these men should resign. Buchanan considers arguments for and against resignation, and reasserts his stance that these men should not be allowed to remain in office. Moreover, Buchanan argues, Democrats should be less fixated on defending these men against Republican attacks (especially those who have not been in office for years) than they are on issues that truly matter in current United States politics.

The Economists Who Support the Republicans Are as Dishonest as Their Patrons

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George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan provides political context for the latest Republican-backed tax reform package. He highlights how the authors of an “open letter” to “Senators and Representatives” that recently made the rounds, and which attempted to solicit signatures of other Republican economists, deliberately misused numbers and employed sleight-of-hand wording to declare that corporate tax cuts would stimulate economic growth, lead to more jobs, and increase American wages. Buchanan counters each of the letter’s assertions in turn, illustrates how its stated economics is ultimately faulty, and fixes a critical eye on the economists who so willingly set aside intellectual integrity to appease the well-financed Republican powerbrokers who support these tax cuts.

Right Thing, Wrong Reason: Killing the Republican Tax Plan with Anti-Deficit Arguments Is a Bad Idea

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George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan discusses politicians' current fixation on the budget deficit and argues that Democrats who take an anti-deficit stance to attack the Republican tax bill are playing right into Republicans’ hands. Buchanan explains why blanket declarations about decreasing the budget deficit as a tax reform fix-all are problematic and cautions Democrats (along with journalists who report on tax reform issues) to be mindful of the arguments they choose when countering Republicans.

Reflections on Insurrections

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George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan considers the irony of the (hopefully remote) possibility that people might resort to violence to keep President Trump in power. Buchanan explains the “insurrectionist view” of the Second Amendment, which has never been credited by the Supreme Court, but which holds that the founders included the gun-related amendment in the Bill of Rights to prevent the federal government from running roughshod over the people. Buchanan points out the circular logic that under the insurrectionist view, the reason people need guns is to prevent the government from taking their guns.