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Publications By Author

Author: Gale, William G.

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Effects of Income Tax Changes on Economic Growth (Research Report)
William G. GaleAndrew Samwick

This paper examines how changes to the individual income tax affect long-term economic growth. The structure and financing of a tax change are critical to achieving economic growth. Tax rate cuts may encourage individuals to work, save, and invest, but if the tax cuts are not financed by immediate spending cuts they will likely also result in an increased federal budget deficit, which in the long-term will reduce national saving and raise interest rates. The net impact on growth is uncertain, but many estimates suggest it is either small or negative. Base-broadening measures can eliminate the effect of tax rate cuts on budget deficits, but at the same time they also reduce the impact on labor supply, saving, and investment and thus reduce the direct impact on growth. However, they also reallocate resources across sectors toward their highest-value economic use, resulting in increased efficiency and potentially raising the overall size of the economy. The results suggest that not all tax changes will have the same impact on growth. Reforms that improve incentives, reduce existing subsidies, avoid windfall gains, and avoid deficit financing will have more auspicious effects on the long-term size of the economy, but may also create trade-offs between equity and efficiency.

Published: 09/09/14
Availability:   PDF

Student Loans Rising: An Overview of Causes, Consequences, and Policy Options (Article)
William G. GaleBenjamin H. HarrisBryant RenaudKatherine Rodihan

The share of households with student loans rose from 9 percent in 1989 to 19 percent by 2010, while inflation-adjusted median student debt rose by more than 50 percent. Rising debt burdens can affect numerous outcomes. For those in school, loans may affect completion rates, choice of major, and academic performance. After students graduate, debt can impact career choice and pursuit of a graduate education. Loan burdens can also affect decisions later in life, such as homeownership, marriage and saving. The costs of having higher student loan debt should be weighed against the well-documented economic returns to acquiring more education.

Published: 05/14/14
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Forgotten But Not Gone: The Long-Term Fiscal Imbalance (Article)
William G. GaleAlan J. Auerbach

Over the past few years, the U.S. long-term fiscal situation has improved somewhat and short-term deficits have come down. Perhaps as a result, policy makers have largely turned their attention away from dealing with fiscal issues. The fiscal problem may well be forgotten, but it’s not gone. Current debt/GDP ratios are the highest in U.S. history except for a few years surrounding World War II. The ratio is projected to rise further over the next decade, even if everything goes right from an economic and political viewpoint. And reasonable projections indicate continuing growth in the debt/GDP ratio, to unsustainable levels, over the long term. Even if boosting the economy is a short-run priority, policy makers should also be offering concrete plans for an eventual, substantial fiscal consolidation.

Published: 03/06/14
Availability:   PDF

Fiscal Myopia (Research Report)
Alan J. AuerbachWilliam G. Gale

While political leaders remain tied up in discussions of government shutdowns and debt ceiling increases, we focus on the medium- and long-term budget outlook, where more serious challenges lie. With the passage of the American Taxpayer Relief Act, the imposition of the sequester, and changes in health care cost projections, some observers are claiming that fiscal issues have been resolved. The release of several new reports provides an opportunity to re-examine these issues. Our overarching conclusion is that, while the nation faces many other pressing economic and social issues, we are still far from attaining a sustainable fiscal policy.

Published: 10/01/13
Availability:   PDF

Don't Let Them Fool You, We Still Have Debt Problems  (Commentary)
William G. Gale

Your uncle, Sam, has ignored his chronic health condition – let's say he's diabetic – for a long time. Then he suddenly has a heart attack, followed by a long, slow painful recovery. As he is recovering, he is feeling good about his health – after all, he got though a crisis. But he is not actually healthier than he was before. He's still diabetic, and now he has to deal with the cautions of being a heart attack victim as well. I think of a situation like that whenever I hear or read people saying that our debt problems are behind us.

Published: 06/01/13
Availability: HTML

Small Business, Innovation, and Tax Policy: A Review (Research Report)
Samuel BrownWilliam G. Gale

Small businesses occupy an iconic place in American public policy debates. This paper discusses interactions between the federal tax code, small business, and the economy. We summarize the characteristics of small businesses, identify the tax provisions that most affect small businesses, and review evidence on the impact of tax and other policies on entrepreneurial activity. We also examine evidence suggesting that it is young firms, not small ones, where job growth and innovation tend to occur. Policies that aim to stimulate young and innovative firms are likely to prove different than policies that subsidize small businesses.

Published: 04/08/13
Availability:   PDF

Carbon Taxes as Part of the Fiscal Solution (Research Report)
Samuel BrownWilliam G. GaleFernando Saltiel

The U.S. faces substantial and unsustainable budget deficits, which will require tax increases and spending cuts to resolve. A carbon tax could raise revenues, with several positive effects: it would improve environmental outcomes, increase economic efficiency, and allow the elimination of selected tax subsidies and spending programs. While a carbon tax imposes a larger burden on lower-income households, the opposite applies for many of the other options like scaling back tax expenditures. A long-term deficit reduction package that included a reduction in income tax expenditures as well as a carbon tax and offsetting payments could provide a balanced distributional effect.

Published: 03/12/13
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Fiscal Fatigue: Tracking the Budget Outlook as Political Leaders Lurch from One Artificial Crisis to Another  (Research Report)
Alan J. AuerbachWilliam G. Gale

With the passage of the recent tax act, many observers are claiming that fiscal issues have been, essentially, resolved and that the nation should move on to other issues. The February 2013 release of the Congressional Budget Office’s Budget and Economic Outlook provides an opportunity to re-examine these issues and to provide new estimates of the fiscal status of the country. Our overarching conclusion is that, while the nation faces many other pressing economic and social issues – including boosting the strength and pace of the current recovery – we are still far from attaining a sustainable fiscal policy.

Published: 02/28/13
Availability:   PDF

Creating an American Value-Added Tax (Research Report)
Benjamin H. HarrisWilliam G. Gale

In this chapter, we propose a value-added tax (VAT) to contribute to the U.S. fiscal solution. A 5 percent broad-based VAT, paired with subsidies to offset the regressive impacts, could raise about 1 percent of GDP per year. International experience suggests that the VAT can raise substantial revenue, is administrable, and is minimally harmful to economic growth. Additionally, a properly designed VAT might help the states deal with their own fiscal issues. Although a VAT would be regressive relative to current income, this regressivity can be easily offset by transfers that would make the net burden progressive.

Published: 02/26/13
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What You Should Know About the Budget Outlook (Research Report)
William G. Gale

The Congressional Budget Office released its latest Budget and Economic Outlook earlier this week. As always, the Outlook provides insight into the fiscal status of the federal government. The Outlook shows that, while we do not face an imminent budget crisis, we are not out of the woods. The 10-year budget outlook remains tenuous. Even if seemingly everything goes right – in economic terms and in political terms – we are still on the edge of dangerously high debt and deficit levels with little room to spare.

Published: 02/08/13
Availability:   PDF

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