Analysis and Commentary on Tax and Economics
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.

The Coronavirus and the Election: Trump’s Fateful Decisions Are Shocking and Disqualifying

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why President Trump’s inept handling of the COVID-19 pandemic should disqualify him from even running for reelection, let alone returning to office. Buchanan argues that it is shocking that we cannot predict the outcome of the 2020 election in light of Trump’s failure to address the biggest health crisis in a century and his consistent efforts to undermine the public response every step of the way.

How in the World Can Republicans Think the Economy Is Their Strong Suit?

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan debunks the Republican claim that Donald Trump and Republican leaders have handled (and are handling) the economy well. Buchanan points out that the only action that Trump and his party had taken on the economy before the pandemic was a two-trillion-dollar tax cut in 2017, which was weighted toward the rich and unpopular among the American public. Buchanan notes that even before the pandemic hit, workers were living in fear that their families would be destroyed by a medical catastrophe, and it is even worse now.

In the Pandemic, Only the Rich Get a Safety Net

Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies debunks the notion that the poor are poor because they are lazy, while the rich are rich because they are industrious. Margulies distinguishes the stock market, in which 84 percent of all stocks owned by Americans are held by the wealthiest ten percent of American households, from the general economy and point out that for the poorest half of Americans—roughly 160 million people—the stock market is meaningless.

Trump Swings His Wrecking Ball at Social Security

Neil H. Buchanan—UF law professor and economist—dispels some common misunderstandings about the future of Social Security but explains why President Trump’s recent comments are cause for concern. Buchanan explains why, contrary to claims by reporters and politicians, Social Security is not at the brink of insolvency, but points out that if Trump were to permanently eliminate payroll taxes, that would doom the program on which tens of millions of retirees depend.

America Has Failed

Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies describes a few of the ways in which America has failed its people—its inability to feed, house, and provide water for its poor, while at the same time finding tools to support and enrich its wealthy. Margulies paints a bleak picture of the number of Americans who will go hungry, be evicted, or lack indoor plumbing and access to clean, affordable water. In contrast, Margulies points out that the stock market—in which 84% of all stocks owned by Americans are held by the wealthiest 10%—has fully recovered.

Economic Theory Shows that People Will Make Choices that Worsen the Pandemic

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan points out some of the ways in which congressional Republicans misunderstand economics to justify withholding unemployment payments from Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. Buchanan argues that economic theory soundly demonstrates that given the opportunity, people will make choices that worsen the toll of the pandemic.

Disaster Relief to States and Cities Is Both Right and Good: Part 2 of 2

In this second of a two-part series of columns, UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan explains why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is incorrect in claiming that the reason Democratic-led states are in trouble is that they are providing excessively generous pensions to retirees who worked for state and local governments. Buchanan then examines a workaround, first described by Professor Darien Shanske of the University of California at Davis, that would allow the Federal Reserve to give assistance to states and cities without interference from Republicans in the Senate or the White House.

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

MARCI A. HAMILTON is the Fels Institute of Government Professor of Practice, and Fox Family... 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