Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers made his distaste for the Trump administration’s tax framework clear last week when he said Republicans were using “made-up” claims about the plan and its effects. Summers expanded his criticism on Tuesday in a blog post that took aim at the report released Monday by the Council of Economic Advisers and chair Kevin Hassett, which seeks to justify the administration’s claim that its tax plan will result in a $4,000 pay raise for the average American family.
Never one to mince words, Summers says the CEA analysis is “some combination of dishonest, incompetent and absurd.” The pay raise figure is indefensible, since “there is no peer-reviewed support for his central claim that cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent would raise wages by $4000 per worker.” In the end, Summers says that “if a Ph.D student submitted the CEA analysis as a term paper in public finance, I would be hard pressed to give it a passing grade.”
One of the authors cited in the CEA paper also has some concerns. Harvard Business School professor Mihir Desai tweeted Tuesday that the CEA analysis “misinterprets” a 2007 paper he co-wrote on the dynamics of the corporate tax burden. Desai’s research has found a connection between business tax cuts and wage growth, but not as large as the CEA paper claims. “Cutting corporate taxes will help wages but exaggeration only serves to undercut the reasonableness of the core argument,” Desai wrote.
A new survey by the Spectrem Group, a market research firm, finds that almost 80 percent of investors with net worth between $100,000 and $25 million (not including their home) say that the U.S. political environment is their biggest concern, followed by government gridlock (76 percent) and the national debt (75 percent).
At least two key Republican senators are unlikely to support an effort to roll back parts of the $1.3. trillion spending bill passed by Congress last month, The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis reported Monday evening. While aides to President Trump are working with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on a package of spending cuts, Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) expressed opposition to the idea, meaning a rescission bill might not be able to get a simple majority vote in the Senate. And Roll Call reports that other Republican senators have expressed significant skepticism, too. “It’s going nowhere,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said.
David Kostin, chief U.S. equity strategist at Goldman Sachs, said in a note to clients Friday cited by CNBC that companies in the S&P 500 can expect to see a boost in return on equity (ROE) thanks to the tax cuts. Return on equity should hit the highest level since 2007, Kostin said, providing a strong tailwind for stock prices even as uncertainty grows about possible conflicts over trade.
Return on equity, defined as the amount of net income returned as a percentage of shareholders’ equity, rose to 16.3 percent in 2016, and Kostin is forecasting an increase to 17.6 percent in 2018. "The reduction in the corporate tax rate alone will boost ROE by roughly 70 [basis points], outweighing margin pressures from rising labor, commodity, and borrow costs," Kostin wrote.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the tax cuts and economic environment are prompting U.S. companies to go on a buying binge: “Mergers and acquisitions announced by U.S. acquirers so far in 2018 are running at the highest dollar volume since the first two months of 2000, according to Dealogic. Thomson Reuters, which publishes slightly different numbers, puts it at the highest since the start of 2007.”