Analysis and Commentary on Tax and Economics
Social Security’s Good News is Good News

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan comments on the recent announcement that under one scenario, the depletion date of the Social Security trust funds is now one year later than previously predicted—now 2035. Professor Buchanan explains the significance of this announcement—that Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s visionary program will continue (for now) to protect all generations of Americans despite efforts of Republican autocrats to destroy it.

How Did the Public Discussion About Inflation Become Even More Ridiculous?

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that the political posturing about inflation in this country is becoming increasingly ridiculous. Professor Buchanan points out that we have no idea what is an acceptable (or unacceptable) level of inflation and that despite endlessly criticizing Democrats in power for higher rates of inflation, Republicans have proposed no plan for how to reduce inflation.

Are Activist Judges Efficient? Who Cares? What Matters Is That They Do Justice

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why it is “efficient” (in one sense of that fraught word) for courts to sometimes act like legislatures—i.e., to legislate from the bench. Professor Buchanan points out that deciding cases too narrowly or incrementally causes unnecessary litigation to try to identify where courts will draw the line, particularly when the judges and justices already know where they want that line to be. He emphasizes, however, that efficiency is not the ultimate goal of the law, and minimizing litigation costs should never supersede the pursuit of justice.

Is ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ a Pre-Documentary? The Surprisingly Interesting (and Scary) Financial Side of the Story

In this first of a two-part series of columns, UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why the financial situation in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ (specifically, the TV series version based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel) is entirely possible in real life under current US law. Professor Buchanan points out that currency is merely a construct based on perceived value, and strategic changes in policies by an autocratic government could easily deprive anyone of money they think is “theirs.”

Fighting Lies with Deceptions: Inflation Politics in 2022, Part Two

In this second of a two-part series of columns, UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains that there is nothing a president can do to reduce inflation, but there are certain things a president should do to appear to be doing something. Professor Buchanan argues that Biden administration’s announcement that it will intensify the fight against monopolies serves precisely that purpose and achieves some good in the process.

Fighting Lies with Deceptions: Inflation Politics in 2022, Part One

In this first of a two-part series of columns on inflation, UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that the current concern over inflation is nonsense. He explains that the measured inflation rate is an average of all price changes, and a healthy economy will see some prices rise at any given time.

Repealing the Republicans’ Attack on State and Local Taxes Is Good Politics and Progressive Policy

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains the legal and policy reasons for reinstating the state and local taxes (SALT) deduction that Republicans severely limited in 2017. Professor Buchanan argues that the purpose of limiting the SALT deduction was to harm poor people in states that had robust social spending programs, so Democrats should unapologetically seize the opportunity to undo any unconstitutional provision designed in the first place as a political hit job.

Democrats Should Accept Mitch McConnell’s Debt Ceiling Offer as a Holiday Gift

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf explains why Democrats should accept without further delay Senator Mitch McConnell’s offer of a streamlined process to pass a debt ceiling increase via the reconciliation process. Professor Dorf points out that due to opposition to filibuster reform by Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, this is the only way to avoid an economic catastrophe as a result of the debt ceiling crisis.

Using Legalistic Lawlessness to Protect the Wealthy from the Indignity of Paying Taxes: Part Two of Two

In this second in a series of columns, UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan shows how much of a stretch it would be to say—as conservatives are saying—that all taxes on wealth are unconstitutional and that all progressive taxes are taxes on wealth. Professor Buchanan argues that even if the now-defunct Billionaires Tax proposed by Democrats were a tax on wealth, rather than income, that classification would still not categorically violate the Constitution.

Legalistic Lawlessness and the Strategic Use of Repudiated Supreme Court Precedents, Part One of Two

In this first of a series of columns, UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why, even though Democrats’ so-called Billionaires Tax is not moving forward, there is much to learn from the flurry of commentary published just before it failed. Professor Buchanan explains how easy it would be for a motivated Supreme Court to mangle logic and precedent to make it more difficult for Congress to enact taxes that would collect revenues from the richest Americans, even if the United States soon becomes a one-party autocracy under permanent Republican, non-majoritarian rule.

The Proposed Tax on Billionaires’ Income Is Most Assuredly Constitutional, Unless the Supreme Court Simply Makes Stuff Up

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why Democrats’ proposed tax on billionaires does not violate any part of the Constitution, despite claims to the contrary. Professor Buchanan argues that the U.S. Supreme Court, in normal times, should recognize that there is no constitutional barrier to the proposed tax, but this ultra-conservative majority Court could defy text and logic and create a new law from whole cloth, as it has done before on other issues.

Money, Law, and Other Noble Lies

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf critiques the suggestion that the Treasury might instruct the Mint to create high-value platinum coins to pay federal obligations and avert a debt ceiling crisis. Professor Dorf argues that such action risks eroding public confidence in the very idea that money has value. He recognizes that in a democracy, government should generally trust the People with the truth but says there is sometimes a need to promote a “noble lie” for the good of society.

Only the Most Extreme Debt Ceiling Insanity Could Turn the ‘Big Coin Option’ into the Least-Bad Choice: So, Be Prepared!

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan responds to proposals that the so-called Big Coin option could alleviate the debt ceiling crisis. Professor Buchanan argues that this option, by which the Treasury would mint a platinum coin and designate its value at some arbitrarily high number to allow the government to continue paying its bills, is likely not the best solution to the contrived problem of debt ceiling.

The “Americans Are Not Deadbeats Act”: Republicans Have Given Democrats a Gilded Political Path to Killing the Debt Ceiling

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that Democrats have a clear path to eliminating the debt ceiling crisis once and for all. Professor Buchanan explains that the Democrats should employ the so-called Gephardt Rule, under which the debt ceiling is increased automatically as part of every taxing and spending bill that Congress passes.

Dear Young People: You WANT Congress to Kick the Can Down the Road on Social Security

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why there is not an impending Social Security crisis, and in fact, anything Congress might do over the next decade or so in response to this nonexistent crisis will actually make matters worse, especially for young people themselves. Professor Buchanan describes why and how journalists misunderstand the Social Security Trustees’ 2021 annual report and argues that if Congress reacts by changing Social Security, it would essentially guarantee that today’s young people would be harmed, even if the Trustees’ forecasts turn out to be wrong.

The Worst Sequel of 2021: “Debt Ceiling Zombies Attack!”

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan comments on the (again) impending debt ceiling crisis if Senate Republicans (again) do not adjust the federal debt ceiling by the end of this month. Professor Buchanan reiterates the reasons the debt ceiling is unconstitutional and calls upon President Biden to instruct the Treasury Department to pay all bills in full, using exactly as much borrowed money as Congress’s duly enacted laws require, and to immediately announce that he will do so.

The Intensifying Madness on America’s Political Right: A Decade-Long Perspective

UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan reflects on the evolution of America’s political right over the past decade, from his first Verdict column almost exactly ten years ago to today. Professor Buchanan points out that his first column discussed the problem of the debt-limit crisis, which he argues was a portent for Republicans’ abandonment of ideas, now turning instead to stoking cultural clashes and fomenting grievances.

Will Biden Finally Neuter Republicans’ Debt Ceiling Demagoguery?

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan responds to apparent plans by some Republicans to bring back the debt ceiling to obstruct the Biden administration. Professor Buchanan explains why that would be a bad idea and also why, if they do, President Biden might be able to kill the debt ceiling as a political issue.

Investing in Our Future: Labels vs. Substance in the Infrastructure Debate

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why President Biden’s infrastructure spending bill is inexpensive and necessary, given the long-term positive effects of such spending. Professor Buchanan puts the two-trillion-dollar price tag into context and argues that we actually need much more public investment than that.

How Not to Criticize the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf responds to three broad-based objections by Republican opponents to the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021: (1) that the already-recovering economy doesn’t need stimulus; (2) that many of the Act’s provisions have nothing to do with COVID-19; and (3) that there will be waste, fraud, and abuse. Professor Dorf explains why these objections ring hollow and argues that while the Act is not perfect legislation and will likely face challenges in implementation, it is a much better option than anything Republicans were offering.

Meet our Columnists
Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and legal scholar, holds the James J. Freeland Eminent Scholar... more

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is the C.S. Wong Professor of Law at Cornell University. Colb teaches courses in... more

John Dean
John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973.... more

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He... more

Samuel Estreicher
Samuel Estreicher

Samuel Estreicher is the Dwight D. Opperman Professor, Director, Center for Labor and Employment... more

Leslie C. Griffin
Leslie C. Griffin

Dr. Leslie C. Griffin is the William S. Boyd Professor of Law at the University of Nevada, Las... more

Joanna L. Grossman
Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

Professor Marci A. Hamilton is a Professor of Practice in Political Science at the University of... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of... more

Austin Sarat
Austin Sarat

Austin Sarat is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

Lesley Wexler is a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately... more