Analysis and Commentary on Tax and Economics

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.

A Tax Deduction for Unborn Children: Should Pro-Choice Advocates Have Worried?

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Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb considers a provision of the proposed statute in the House version of the latest tax reform bill that would have allowed expectant parents to take a tax deduction on college fund investments for their offspring. Colb notes the negative response to this provision among pro-choice advocates as a result of how the provision’s language equates a fetus with a child. While acknowledging the worry among abortion rights proponents that such wording might provide a legal foundation for future attempts to restrict women’s rights to terminate their pregnancies, Colb counters this concern by explaining why it is unlikely that the language in the tax bill would have any effect on the legal status of abortion.

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.

Trouble in Paradise? The Paradise Papers and the Ethics of Lawful Tax Avoidance

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University of Washington law professor Anita Ramasastry comments on the recent release of records known as the Paradise Papers, which reveal the identities of thousands of individuals and corporations using offshore jurisdictions as a tax avoidance strategy. Ramasastry argues that while such actions may in many cases be legal, they are also unethical. She points out that if we focus on the harm of tax avoidance to society, rather than how it is legally defined, then we can see that it contributes to growing inequality and increases tax burdens on resident taxpayers who cannot change their citizenship or move their money.

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.

Who Pays for Sex Abuse?

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Marci A. Hamilton, a professor and resident senior fellow in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, describes the enormous costs associated with child sex abuse that fall on the victims’ families, government welfare programs, and society. Hamilton points out that there is no comprehensive metric that considers all of the costs, but the ones that have been measured are staggering.

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.

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.

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.

Another Excuse for Possible Constitutional Overreach by Trump

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George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explores how President-elect Donald Trump could seize upon, or even create, a debt ceiling crisis as a way to enhance his executive powers. Buchanan explains that Trump could put himself into a “trilemma” on purpose, giving himself no choice but to pick and choose which of the government’s debts he would pay and which he would not.

Can and Should States Mandate Tax Return Disclosure as a Condition for Presidential Candidates to Appear on the Ballot?

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Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar considers whether states have the authority to mandate tax return disclosure in order to appear on the presidential election ballot—and if they do, whether exercising that authority is a good idea. Amar explains why the legal authority for enacting such laws is unclear and argues that they could potentially undermine the democratic process, whereas a national popular vote would strengthen the process.

Republicans Always Lose the Tax Fairness Debate, and Trump Turns It Into a Rout

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George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why, with the information that we currently have, there is no way to determine whether Donald Trump’s tax strategies were legal or illegal. Buchanan argues that regardless of the answer to that question, there are still too many special provisions for people like Trump—particularly with respect to the real estate sector.

Meet our Columnists

Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately prior to taking the position at Illinois, Amar served as the Senior Assoc... more

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... more

Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell University. Colb teaches courses in constitutional criminal procedure, evidence, and animal rights. She has published a... more

John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973. Before becoming White House counsel at age thirty-one, he was the chief minority counsel to the Judiciar... more

Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He has written hundreds of popular essays, dozens of scholarly articles, and four books on constitutional la... more

Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School of Law.  She is an expert in sex discrimination law. Her most recent book,  more

Marci A. Hamilton

Marci A. Hamilton is one of the country’s leading church-state scholars and the Fox Professor of Practice and Fox Family Pavilion Resident Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion in the... more

David S. Kemp

David S. Kemp is an attorney and managing editor at Justia. He received his B.A. in Psychology from Rice University and his J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall)... more

Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of Record in Rasul v. Bush (2004), involving detentions at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Station, and in more

Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry is the UW Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, where she also directs the graduate program on Sustainable International Developmen... more

Ronald D. Rotunda

Ronald D. Rotunda is the Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, at Chapman University, Fowler School of Law. He joined the faculty in 2008. Before that, he was Univ... more