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

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.

What Happens When Very Few People Own Quite a Few Guns?

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George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan considers the implications of the fact that a very small number of Americans own a very large percentage of the privately owned guns in the United States. Specifically, he considers whether the already-enormous number of guns owned by Americans means that we are doomed to live with gun violence forever, no matter what a future Congress might do, and whether the concentration of guns in the hands of Donald Trump’s supporters raises any special concerns about attempts to impeach the president.

Yes, the Political and Economic Issue of Our Time Really Is Inequality

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George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that economic inequality is the political and economic issue of our time, and now is the perfect opportunity for Democrats to push toward a solution. Buchanan decries the claim that the correct path is to triangulate between the policies of the left and the right and explains why now, more than ever, progressive policies are the best response.

A Republican Reverie: If Only Clinton Had Won!

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George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that a Clinton victory in 2016 would have been better for Republicans than Trump has been. Buchanan explains why Republican obstructionism, if carried into a Clinton presidency, would have meant longer-term wins for Republicans across multiple branches of government.

An Accidental Argument for Progressive Taxation from One of the Marie Antoinettes of the Trump Administration

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George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan comments on the response of Louise Linton, wife of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, to criticism regarding her bragging about wearing expensive clothes in a government jet. Buchanan points out that Linton’s path to fortune is based not on her hard work but largely on circumstances beyond her control, and he argues that simply being a billionaire does not necessarily mean one has positively contributed to society to get there.

Explicit Bigotry and Veiled Racism in the Trump Era

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George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan warns of the false distinction between being racist and supporting racist policies. Buchanan points out racism is not limited to those marching with Nazis and Klansmen; to consistently support policies that invariably harm disadvantaged people is its own form of racism and is itself reproachable.

The Democrats’ Better Way: Positive Messaging or Pandering to Trump Voters Who Are Never Coming Back?

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George Washington law professor and economist praises Democrats for coming up with a message that preserves the party’s commitment to social justice issues, rather than attempting to woo Trump voters by appealing to what Trump appealed to. Buchanan cites evidence supporting the argument that Democrats can retake the House in 2018 without sacrificing principles to win back Trump voters, by instead focusing on those who didn’t vote in 2016.

There Actually Are Some Good Tax Reform Ideas Out There

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George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan continues his discussion of tax reform, suggesting that a starting place for meaningful reform would be to tax wealth more effectively, tax unrealized gains, and eliminate the preferential tax rates for investment income. Buchanan points out that even modest changes in these areas would significantly address the problem of growing economic inequality in our country.

Distractions and Non-Issues in the Tax Reform Debate

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In this first of a series of columns on tax reform, George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan describes a few items that should not be seriously considered in attempting to improve the status quo. Buchanan argues that the notion of a complete overhaul of the tax code, and the proposal that the tax code should be “simpler,” ignore important considerations and distract from real issues.

Doing Nothing About Taxes Is Better Than What Republicans Want to Do

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Neil H. Buchanan, a George Washington law professor and economist, argues that the tax code status quo (imperfect as it is) is better than the changes Republicans are proposing to make. Buchanan explains the difference between the marginal tax rate and the effective tax rate and how Republicans focus only on marginal tax rates in order to mislead the public.

You Know You’re Winning When Your Opponents Are Forced to Rely on Supply-Side Fantasies

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George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan once again explains why supply-side economics does not work to stimulate the economy. Buchanan points out the logical mistake of inferring causation from correlation and points to the consensus among economists across the political spectrum that supply-side economics has no basis in fact or theory.

Politics in the U.S. Will Continue to Be Brutal and Nasty, With or Without Impeachment

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George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan predicts that regardless of the immediate future of President Trump, the foreseeable future of American politics will be dysfunctional. Buchanan argues that everyone who wants to improve the future of our country should look for solutions regardless of whether they support impeachment or not.

The Church of the Perpetual Supply-Side Miracle

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In anticipation of President Trump and congressional Republicans trying to pass severely regressive tax cuts for the rich, George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan preemptively critiques conservatives’ claims that supply-side economics works. Buchanan points out that the great weight of evidence demonstrates that it does not, and only blind belief could lead one to think otherwise.

Sympathy for the Comfortable: The New Conservative Theory of Compassion

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George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains in plain English what Mick Mulvaney meant when he attempted to justify President Trump’s budget proposal that would cut programs that help America’s most vulnerable, such as Meals on Wheels and subsidized school lunches for poor children. As Buchanan explains, Mulvaney’s explanation is based on a false notion that better-off people gain as much utility from each dollar as worse-off people receive from the same amount.