The voices of Tax Policy Center's researchers and staff
Martin Feldstein, who died earlier this week, was an intellectual giant who transformed modern public finance and tax policy analysis. He also was a kind, decent, gentlemanly person. I will miss him very much, both personally and professionally.
Feldstein influenced the economics profession through his research, his teaching (including the famous introductory Ec 10 course at Harvard), and his mentorship of graduate students – many of whom have become the leading lights of economics on the right and the left. He influenced public policy as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Reagan, his role as adviser to presidents Bush and Obama, and his hundreds of op-eds and other writing. On top of all that, he served for nearly three decades as president of the National Bureau of Economic Research, building it into a powerhouse of economic analysis.
He made seminal contributions to numerous topics in public policy, including health care policy, optimal taxation, the impact of Social Security on household finances, the interaction between inflation and taxes of capital income, the nature of international capital flows, and the responsiveness of taxable income to tax rates. His work changed the way economists think about these issues and prompted new bodies of research that are still growing. All of this is testimony to his ability to identify and bring new insights to important questions.
He was a supply-sider in the good sense of the word – namely, that economists need to pay attention to the impact of taxes on the supply of factors of production, not just on aggregate demand.
But he was not afraid to call it like he saw it. In the Reagan Administration, he was a strong voice for deficit control after the 1981 tax cuts reduced revenues. Later that decade, he wrote two papers cautioning that the 1981 tax cut would not boost the economy very much.
On a personal level, Marty was very kind to me and always willing to discuss issues. Just last December, at a conference at the Baker Institute at Rice University, I had the opportunity to have dinner with Marty and his wife Kathleen. It was an uplifting and inspiring evening and we spoke for several hours about economics, our daughters who lived in Los Angeles, and many other things.
Marty’s gentle nature, his intellectual energy, and his passion for linking economics and public policy will be greatly missed. But they continue to set an example for all of us to follow.
Posts and comments are solely the opinion of the author and not that of the Tax Policy Center, Urban Institute, or Brookings Institution.
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