Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bartlett on Economic Growth

Former Reagan budget official and conservative blogger Bruce Bartlett offers a recipe for economic growth in The Fiscal Times.

The bottom line is that neither taxes nor spending by themselves are the most important government contribution to the investment climate; it’s the budget deficit. Consequently, a reduction in tax revenue which raises the deficit is unlikely to stimulate domestic investment because more money will have to be borrowed from abroad. Conversely, a tax increase dedicated to deficit reduction could well be stimulative, as was the case with the 1982 and 1993 tax increases. Contrary to Republican dogma, rapid growth followed on both occasions.

A big cut in the budget deficit would be destabilizing in the short-run, but a reduction in the long-term deficit would free up more national saving for private investment. But if taxes are cut at the same time, as Republicans insist, then the economic consequences are ambiguous. With federal taxes at a historical low – they are currently just 14.8 percent of GDP versus a postwar average of about 18.5 percent – it’s implausible to argue that further tax cuts will stimulate growth.

If we want to raise the long-term rate of growth, we have to go back to the textbook and increase saving and investment, channel more public investment into education and basic infrastructure, and do everything in our power to promote scientific research and technological advancement. It’s not sexy and it takes a lot of time, but it works.

--Ballard Burgher

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