Analysis and Commentary on Tax and Economics

The New Tax Law Punishes Blue States: Is That Constitutional?

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf considers whether the new tax law, which disproportionally affects “blue” states as compared to “red” states due to changes to the deductions for state and local taxes (SALT), is unconstitutional. Dorf explains some of the possible arguments against the law but ultimately concludes that due to difficulties of proof, courts probably won’t end up ruling that the SALT deductibility cap violates the First Amendment or a core principle of federalism.

Bitcoins: The Evolution of Money and the Enforcement of the Law

Boston University law professor Tamar Frankel describes the history of money and its role in societies and governments, leading up to today’s bitcoin and the issues governments face in attempting to regulate the cryptocurrency. Rather than purport to provide answer to these pressing questions, Frankel seeks instead to open the door to plain English discussions about the duality of money as asset and as money, the legal control of money transfers to prevent violations of the law, and the government’s control of money supply, which affects the economy and financial systems.

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

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?

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

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

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

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?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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 Co... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan is an economist and legal scholar and a Professor of Law at The George Washington U... more

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell University. Colb tea... more

John Dean
John Dean

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

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

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

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

Marci A. Hamilton is one of the country’s leading church-state scholars and the Fox Professor of Pra... more

David S. Kemp
David S. Kemp

David S. Kemp is an attorney and managing editor at Justia. He received his B.A. in Psychology from... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

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

Anita Ramasastry
Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry is the UW Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of... more

Ronald D. Rotunda
Ronald D. Rotunda

Ronald D. Rotunda is the Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, at... more