Analysis and Commentary on Tax and Economics

Trump Channels Nixon Again: This Time, His Target Is the US Economy

GW Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan describes why President Trump’s recent attacks on the nation’s independent central bank, the Federal Reserve, is dangerous and worrisome. Buchanan explains the reason the Fed is independent of politics and highlights the importance of its continued existence and independence, regardless of who is in the White House.

Accountable Capitalism and Progressive Prosperity

GW Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why the notion of a completely “free” market is nonsensical and argues that Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposed Accountable Capitalism Act would make capitalism in this country work better. Buchanan points out that there is not a baseline of “no rules” in any society; rather, the government has already simply set certain rules, and those who disproportionately benefit from those rules do not wish them to change.

Why Elizabeth Warren Is Right That Capitalism Should Be Great

GW Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why it is a false equivalence to say (as some journalists have said) that while Republicans have embraced increasingly extremist positions, so too have Democrats. Buchanan argues that true capitalism does not mean lack of rules altogether but simply a collection of rules that promote competition and fairness.

Trump’s Unilateral Tax Cut Proposal for the Rich is a Political Gift to Democrats

GW Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan discusses why the recent announcement by the Trump administration that it is considering a unilateral tax cut for the rich would be a political gift to Democrats. Buchanan describes what the tax cut would do and explains that no one thinks that such legislation could pass, which is why Trump’s people are talking about this executive workaround.

The Supreme Court Is Still Incoherent About Taxes and Finance, But the Conservatives Seem to Know What They Want

GW law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan comments on two of last week’s decisions from the US Supreme Court that at least nominally involved tax law issues. Buchanan explains why the decisions suggest that the justices remain confused about taxes and financial issues more generally and suggests that the lower-profile case from last week may end up having the most important and negative effects going forward.

Good News About Social Security

GW Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why Social Security is so important, and why Republicans’ claim that it is “going to go broke” is so dishonest. Buchanan briefly describes how Social Security was designed and why, because of that design, it is performing exactly as expected and intended when it was set up.

Stealth Attacks on People’s Lives via Boring Economics

George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan debunks the supposedly simple solutions some purported economists have for complex problems. Buchanan explains that regardless of where one is on the political spectrum, complex social and economic issues—particularly the housing crisis affecting many cities across the country—require considering a number of factors and cannot be solved by “simply” assuming away real-life complications.

Wait … Was the Sheriff of Nottingham Somehow the Good Guy?

George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why regressive taxes make Republicans “reverse Robin Hoods” by focusing on the core disagreement between those Republicans and everyone else about the ethics of taxation. Buchanan points out that the Republicans’ argument boils down to the tautology that rich people deserve what they have because they have it.

The Damage in the Wake of the Non-Scandal at the IRS

George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan describes how Republicans' unjustified war on the Internal Revenue Service and attempts to defund it have incidentally caused all charitable organizations to suffer. Buchanan recounts the non-scandal involving the IRS and highlights the inconsistencies in Republicans' rhetoric as to that incident-which led to dire consequences not just for honest taxpayers but for legitimate charitable groups and the people who would like to support them.

Whose Tax Is This?

Guest columnists Igor De Lazari, Antonio Sepulveda, and Judge Sergio Dias describe how Brazil recently addressed an issue currently before the US Supreme Court-an issue of when (and whether) a state may collect taxes on goods that originate out of state. De Lazari, Sepulveda, and Dias suggest that perhaps the issue is better resolved, as it was in Brazil, through the legislative process rather than by court decision, so as to ease what is likely to be an abrupt transition.

If Republicans Really Wanted a Middle-Class Tax Cut, They Could Have Passed a Much Better (and Cheaper) Tax Bill

George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that Republicans could have achieved a middle-class tax cut a fraction of the cost of the Republicans' tax bill. Buchanan points out that while the middle class may see a few thousand dollars in the short-term, Republican donors and wealthy corporations will benefit from significantly reduced taxes year after year, indefinitely, causing yet another surge in economic inequality.

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.

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 the C.S. Wong Professor of Law at Cornell University. Colb teaches courses in con... 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 the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program Professor of Practice, and Fox Family Pavi... 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

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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