Neil H. Buchanan

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

Destroying Our Universities by Turning Us Against Ourselves

Justia columnist, George Washington University law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan discusses the imminent threats to the university as an institution. Buchanan describes how anti-intellectualism, political opportunism, and short-sightedness are putting American greatness at risk. Finally, he highlights some of the myths and truths about tenure and its role in perpetuating the university’s role in society.

The False Choice of Old Versus Young in American Budgetary Politics

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan debunks the common claim that we spend too much money on seniors and too little on children. Conservatives and “centrist” Democrats claim that, because of this supposed disparity, Social Security and Medicare are too generous and must be cut. In fact, Buchanan explains, our country puts a lot more of its resources into children than we generally understand, but most of it is hidden from view.

The Dignity of Work Without End: Do Conservatives Really Want People Never to Retire?

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan points out important advantages of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). For instance, the ACA's decoupling of work and health insurance frees workers who had stayed in their positions simply because they needed the health insurance, rather than changing jobs and/or enjoying some leisure or time with family and friends. Buchanan suggests that freedom-loving conservatives ought to applaud that new freedom which the ACA creates. In addition, on a more theoretical level, Buchanan explains how, in his view, the imbroglio over the CBO’s report exposed the arbitrariness of conservative economics.

The Short, Unhappy Life of a Republican Attack Line, and Its Angry Aftermath

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan thoroughly debunks the oft-cited Republican claim that Obamacare will “kill” millions of jobs. Moreover, Buchanan points to some of the important pluses of Obamacare, such as the end of “job lock,” which occurs when a worker is stuck in a job he or she wants to leave, but cannot do so due to the fear of losing his or her health insurance.

Debt by Any Other Name: Even If the President Were to Default on Our Obligations, He Would Still Violate the Debt Ceiling

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan comments on the latest iteration of the ongoing debt ceiling melodrama. However, Buchanan points out that we need not endure all these iterations, given the basic point that the debt ceiling is flatly unconstitutional. Buchanan contends that President Obama should long ago have simply said that the debt ceiling cannot supersede the spending and taxing laws that Congress has passed. Here, Buchanan and fellow Justia columnist Michael Dorf, a Cornell law professor, offer a new analysis, contending that Congress has already guaranteed that the President will violate the debt ceiling, even if he tries not to do so.

The Great Inequality Debate, and the Reemergence of Distribution as a Respectable Subject of Discussion

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan comments on the subject of income inequality in America, now a key topic once again. Buchanan criticizes President Obama's belated embrace of equality, and the actions of those whom Buchanan describes as the self-styled pragmatists and centrists who dragged Democrats to the right.

President Obama Should Not Put the Fed in the Middle of 2014’s Debt Ceiling Madness

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan argues that, in the inevitable 2014 debt-ceiling fight, unless President Obama changes his approach, the Fed will be forced to spend enormous political capital defending the financial system. The damage that would then ensue, Buchanan notes, could take decades to fix, if it could be fixed at all.

The Next Debt Ceiling Crisis Can Be Prevented If Democrats Learn From Filibuster Reform

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan describes a way in which America can avoid another debt-ceiling crisis in 2014. Indeed, Buchanan points out that there is now a clear political path by which the Democrats could neutralize that threat. Moreover, the Constitution, he points out, is on the Democrats’ side, and their recent experience with the fight over the Senate’s filibuster rules should give the Democrats the confidence they need to move forward.

College Athletes, Full-Ride Scholarships, and Anti-Intellectualism

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan comments on the compensation that college athletes receive, and notes that they would probably do worse under a wage-paying system. He also contends that the reason that people often dismiss the idea that college players are paid is that the payment comes in the form of athletic scholarships. The cynical view is that this payment is not real, with players being deprived of the education that schools pretend to offer them. However, Buchanan notes, it turns out that the reality is different than the cynics’ take on it, and much more nuanced.

Will Extreme Conservatives Ever Break With Ultra-Extreme Conservatives?

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan comments on possible fault lines within the Republican party, specifically affecting extreme and ultra-extreme conservatives. Buchanan also asks an interesting question: What would it take for supposedly “reasonable” conservatives finally to give up on the extreme modern Republican Party? And, on a personal note, Buchanan describes the changes in political leanings in his own family as they related to changes in the Republican Party.

To Prevent Future Debt Ceiling Crises, President Obama Needs a Plan C

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan comments on a remedy for future debt-ceiling crises: The President, Buchanan argues, can—and should—now forestall any future hostage-taking by making it clear that, rather than failing to pay our bills in full when due, he would be willing to order that we borrow enough money to prevent our defaulting on our obligations. Moreover, Buchanan notes that the President can make the case that doing so honors the notion of individual choice, as he explains.

If the Debt Ceiling Is Reached, the President Will Be Forced to Go It Alone, But the Fed Could Save the Day

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan clarifies how many people’s—including many journalists’—failure to truly understand the context of the impending debt ceiling disaster causes them to misunderstand both the President’s choice between defaulting and not defaulting, and his possible strategies if he chooses to avoid default. Buchanan also explains how the Federal Reserve could play the ultimate savior’s role in the crisis. He also offers a driving metaphor to explain the situation that President Obama faces, and why he may legitimately need to break the rules to solve it.

Germany’s Election Results Are Bad News for the U.S.

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan expresses very strong disagreement with the economic policies of Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, who recently claimed electoral victory. Buchanan contends that Merkel’s policies are bad for Europe, the United States, and the world, and carefully details the reasons behind his conclusions. Though Merkel is little known by Americans, as Buchanan notes, she will surely exert influence on the U.S., so, Buchanan warns, Americans ought to take more notice of her policies and influence.

How to Succeed in Sounding Impressive When Talking about Budgets and Deficits Without Really Trying: Understanding the Degraded Media Environment When It Comes To Reporting and Discussing U.S. Budgetary Matters

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan sharply questions the competence and knowledge of mainstream media figures who cover economic issues. He illustrates his point with examples in which media figures’ uninformed opinions clash with the much better informed stances of economists regarding, for example, key issues such as budgeting, entitlements, deficits, health-care inflation, and the debt ceiling.

The Next Debt Ceiling Debacle: The Republicans Are Setting an Impeachment Trap, and the Democrats Continue to Misunderstand What Is Happening

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan offers a primer on the debt ceiling; describes the trilemma that Washington faces; and explains how the Republicans are setting an impeachment trap, and the Democrats are playing along. Buchanan also comments on how far the Republicans will take this, and spells out some of the possibilities.

The IRS “Scandal” Turned Out to Be a Non-Scandal, But It Might Not Matter: Why It Is Not Just the Right-Wing Echo Chamber That Will Perpetuate the Myth of Political Manipulation of the IRS

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan comments on a number of “scandals” that, more closely examined, did not prove to be genuine scandals at all. Buchanan focuses in particular on what we know now about the alleged IRS scandal, which he deems a non-scandal in the end that is only being perpetuated to gain partisan advantage—given the fact that the IRS, it turns out, used not just right-wing labels, but left-wing labels, too in its searches. Yet Buchanan notes that false claims tend to have a life of their own, and cites several reasons why that is the case.

Has Behavioral Law and Economics Jumped the Shark? Understanding When a Promising Research Agenda Has Run Its Course—And Why It Matters in the Real World

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan comments on the school of thought known as Behavioral Law & Economics (BL&E) and questions its current and future relevance. Is the writing on the wall for this discipline, which treats people not like rational maximizers, as Economics does, but as fallible humans? Some think so, for, as Buchanan points out, many concepts in BL&E are so broad and open-ended that they can lead in almost any direction. Buchanan's piece contains, among other interesting examples, a notable analysis of the tax/penalty debate that was important to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and the related Supreme Court decision.

Republicans Choose the Dark Ages Over the Enlightenment: The Right’s Agenda Is Even More Reactionary Than It Had Seemed

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan argues that Republicans’ current positions are so extreme and cruel that they shock the conscience, and that one must go deep into history—indeed, earlier than the Enlightenment—to find an appropriate comparison. To support his thesis, Buchanan cites the recent vote to eliminate Food Stamps, on which many children depend; the move to support cuts to financing for student loans for poorer students, the decision to slash spending on community block grants to cities for housing and social programs; and the choice to take a broad anti-regulation stance even when regulation is plainly sorely needed. Modern Republicans, like pre-Enlightenment thinkers, Buchanan argues, are perfectly happy with the idea that the powerful cannot be stopped from imposing their will on workers, customers, the environment, and more.

What Should We Think Now About the IRS? We Are All Paying the Price for Republicans’ Underfunding and Vilifying of the Tax Agency

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan argues that the recent IRS flap should really be considered a non-scandal, for reasons he explains, although he notes that the agency did make a significant mistake regarding conservative political groups. Ultimately, Buchanan urges that we must now give the IRS the tools it needs to once again do its job as well as it has historically. He contends, too, that we will all be better off if Congress puts aside its habitual political grandstanding, and actually allows the IRS to serve the public.