Can Biden Build Back Better?


Levy Economics Institute of Bard College has the paper Can Biden Build Back Better? Yes, if he abandons fiscal “pay fors” by Yeva Nersisyan and L. Randall Wray.

From the preface too the paper comes these two paragrahphs

Instead of matching an expenditure price tag with the revenue that can be raised, Nersisyan and Wray urge policymakers to evaluate spending and tax proposals on their own terms, according to the goals each is intended to meet. On the expenditure side, for instance, one of the motivations behind Biden’s physical infrastructure plan is to make progress in transitioning to a green economy. Nersisyan and Wray note, however, that the Biden plan falls short of what would be required for significant progress on this front. Their concern is that tethering the spending to tax increases means the former will be limited to the political feasibility of the latter.

On the tax side, there are a number of purposes one might want to achieve through tax policy changes, such as reducing income inequality, discouraging undesirable activities, or reducing private demand to head off inflationary pressures. In the pay-for game, however, “raising funds” becomes the central objective and, as Nersisyan and Wray illustrate, simply matching the spending number to the revenue number does not ensure any of these other purposes will be served effectively. For example, budgetary offsets for new spending could be desirable if the economy were at full employment. However, if tax policy is going to play a role in curbing inflation, then we would need to choose the appropriate instruments for this task. Nersisyan and Wray argue that the tax changes being proposed are poorly suited to relieving inflationary pressures. In this context, the types of tax increases—those that will free up real resources to be mobilized by some new public initiative—are more important than the total revenue number. They also stress that there are other proven means, beyond the tax system, of controlling inflationary pressures.

Here is the link to the pdf of the paper.

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