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.
Most business economists in the U.S. expect the economy to keep chugging along over the next three months, with rising corporate sales driving additional hiring and wage increases for workers.
The tax cuts, however, don’t seem to be playing a role in hiring and investment plans. And the trade conflicts stirred up by the Trump administration are having a negative influence, with the majority of economists at goods-producing firms who replied to the most recent survey by the National Association for Business Economics saying that their companies were putting investments on hold as they wait to see how things play out.
The Republican tax bill signed into law late last year imposed a 21 percent tax on employees at non-profits who earn more than $1 million a year. According to data from the Chronicle of Higher Education cited by Bloomberg, there were 12 presidents of public universities who received compensation of at least $1 million in 2017, with James Ramsey of the University of Louisville topping the list at $4.3 million. Endowment managers could also get hit with the tax, as could football coaches, some of whom earn substantially more than the presidents of their institutions.
The federal budget deficit rose by 16 percent in the first nine months of the 2018 fiscal year, which began last October. The shortfall came to $607 billion, compared to $523 billion in the same period the year before, according to a U.S. Treasury report released Thursday and reported by Bloomberg. Both revenue and spending rose, but spending rose faster. Revenues came to $2.54 trillion, up 1.3 percent from the same nine-month period in 2017, while spending came to $3.15 trillion, up 3.9 percent.
Pennsylvania’s insurance commissioner sent a letter this week to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma requesting that they “immediately release the funding details for the Navigator program for the upcoming open enrollment period for 2019.” Navigators are the state and local groups that help people sign up for Affordable Care Act plans.
“In years past, grant applications and new funding opportunities were released by CMS in April, CMS required Navigator organizations to apply by June and approved applications and new funding by late August,” Pennsylvania’s Jessica Altman wrote. “The current lack of guidance has put Navigator organizations – and states - far behind in their planning and creates an inability for the Navigator organizations to design a successful plan for helping people enroll during the 2019 open enrollment period.”