James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

Back to recession in 2011? (Even kind of rhymes)

Jun 7, 2010 14:43 UTC

Tax-cut guru Arthur Laffer worries about next year. He attributes the economic rebound this year to workers and business pulling forward economic activity into 2010 to avoid more taxes and regulation in 2011. As he puts it in the WSJ today:

In my view, this shift of income and demand is a major reason that the economy in 2010 has appeared as strong as it has. When we pass the tax boundary of Jan. 1, 2011, my best guess is that the train goes off the tracks and we get our worst nightmare of a severe “double dip” recession.

In 1981, Ronald Reagan—with bipartisan support—began the first phase in a series of tax cuts passed under the Economic Recovery Tax Act (ERTA), whereby the bulk of the tax cuts didn’t take effect until Jan. 1, 1983. Reagan’s delayed tax cuts were the mirror image of President Barack Obama’s delayed tax rate increases. For 1981 and 1982 people deferred so much economic activity that real GDP was basically flat (i.e., no growth), and the unemployment rate rose to well over 10%.

But at the tax boundary of Jan. 1, 1983 the economy took off like a rocket, with average real growth reaching 7.5% in 1983 and 5.5% in 1984. It has always amazed me how tax cuts don’t work until they take effect. Mr. Obama’s experience with deferred tax rate increases will be the reverse. The economy will collapse in 2011.

Me: That is the supply-side version of things. But even Keynesians should worry. Goldman Sachs ran a study awhile back looking at what would happen if all the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts were repealed. As I have written:

Using the respected Washington University Macro Model, Goldman reset the tax code to its pre-Bush status, assumed all tax cuts expired, and watched how the economy reacted as 2011 began. What did the firm see? Well, in the first quarter of 2011 the economy dropped 3 percentage points below what it would have been otherwise. “Absent a tailwind to growth from some other source,” the analysis concludes, “this would almost surely mark the onset of a recession.”


Sub:Appeal to all world citizens.To me world is one country.
Hello Sir/Madam,
Pls do not think its a general recession.Its a tremendous failure of the global administrators(not leaders).They shd not cont. anymore.In global administration only sefless and honest people are required……….and I don’t see any other option.The development and all good things are created by only selfless and honest people,not by those people who are enjoying luxury in unacceptable level.If you pls try to understand what I meant.
thanking you,with kind rgds….Chinmoy Chatterjee from India.

Posted by chinmoy | Report as abusive

Here comes the iPad tax

Jun 7, 2010 14:21 UTC

It’s almost as dodgy a notion as nuking BP’s gusher. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is mulling ways to subsidize the flailing news industry. Paying for it could involve head-scratchers like taxing iPad sales. What the media industry needs is innovation not intervention.

America’s struggling newspapers might like a $35 billion-a-year cash infusion. They have historically drawn 80 percent of revenue from advertising. But Internet competition — from Google to Craigslist — has halved that since 2000. Classified ad revenue alone has plunged to $6 billion from $20 billion.

But the FTC’s “possible policy recommendations” draft paper seems out of sync with a nation wary of more government bailouts and spending. Among the various subsidies: a program to pay young people to work at small-town papers. Federal funding for public radio and television might get a boost from $400 million a year to $7.5 billion, matching the per-capita spending level of Canada. Newspapers could get a tax credit for every journalist they hire. Taxpayers could also elect to donate $200 of their federal income taxes to industry non-profit organizations. (Wisely, no dollar estimate for that is given.)

In this age of austerity, all that spending would at least be paid for. Radio and TV broadcasters would be taxed up to $6 billion a year. A 2 percent sales tax on TV advertising would bring in as much as $6 billion. A 3 percent tax on monthly mobile phone service would be good for another $6 billion.

Then there’s a 5 percent tax on consumer electronics – the iPad levy – which could generate $4 billion. As if all this money weren’t enough, changes to copyright law would make it harder for search engines to make use of newspaper content.

The trouble with all this, is that government support for Old Media at the expense of New Media seems inconsistent with also advocating cutting support of Old Energy (oil) in favor of New Energy (wind and solar.) Instead of addicting newspapers to government handouts — which would also raise issues of journalistic independence from the state – it would be better to keep the playing field level.

New business models will continue to emerge and evolve, especially as the economy and ad climate improves. Journalism has a future even if traditional newspapers may not.