Analysis and Commentary on Tax and Economics

A Conservative Law Professor Points the Way Out of the IRS Scandal-That-Never-Was

Neil Buchanan, a law professor and economist at George Washington University Law School, critiques the so-called IRS scandal of 2013 and one conservative law professor’s persistent attempts to paint it as something it is not. Buchanan explains why the story never amounted to a scandal at all and posits that a recent op-ed by that professor arguing otherwise undermines the reputation of that that professor’s blog as a nonpartisan source of tax-related news.

Freedom, Taxes, and Forced Labor: A Strange Brew of Libertarianism and Marxism

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan sharply critiques the notion of “Tax Freedom Day” and the underlying idea that paying taxes constitutes forced servitude to the government. Buchanan describes the origins of that line of thinking and explains why, if taken to its logical conclusion, it makes no sense.

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.

Should Mt. Gox Be Bailed Out? What Should Regulators Do in Light of a Major Bitcoin Heist?

Justia columnist and U. Washington law professor Anita Ramasastry comments on recent headlines that caused a panic in the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency world: The largest Bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox, was reporting a loss of nearly 750,000 Bitcoins currency units. (Prominent Bitcoin blogger Ryan Selkis made a post to his blog in which he described an unverified report of the loss.) This figure would be worth above $400 million at current prices. As of now, Mt. Gox, which is incorporated in Japan, has filed for insolvency protection there. Ramasastry comments on key events, and possible future reforms that could be put in place so that this situation does not recur.

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.

Bitcoin: If You Can’t Ban It, Should You Regulate It? The Merits of Legalization

Justia columnist and U.Washington law professor Anita Ramasastry comments on the question whether Bitcoin—a so-called virtual peer-to-peer currency—should be regulated by the U.S. and/or States within it. (Along with the Treasury Department, California and New York are also contemplating possible legal or regulatory measures regarding Bitcoin.) Ramasastry looks at recent attempts to extend legal recognition to Bitcoin, and explains why she believes this is a good thing. She adds that while it may be good to clarify that legitimate businesses and consumers may use Bitcoin, it may be too early now to determine what, if any, further measures are needed to provide consumers with needed safety with respect to their Bitcoins.

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.

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.

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