A tax shift not a tax cut

Several years ago in an op-ed I wrote:

I favor a much smaller government but I do not favor the Bush tax cut.
Or, to be more precise, I would support a tax cut if one had been
proposed. But so far President Bush has neither proposed nor
implemented a tax cut–only a tax shift.

Brad DeLong nicely explains the difference:

I, full professor Brad DeLong, am having lunch with lecturer Dariush Zahedi
today. After lunch, I presume Dariush will say we should split the bill–$10
each. Suppose I say: "That isn’t fair. Berkeley pays you less (a lot less: what
we do to our lecturers is shameful) than it pays me. I should lay out more cash
for this lunch. How about this: I put down $5 cash, you put down $0, and we put
the balance on your credit card. That would be fairer, wouldn’t it?"

Dariush would then be an unhappy camper. He would think–correctly–that I
was mocking him.

Back in 2000 the U.S. government was running a surplus of some $200 billion a
year–a broadly appropriate fiscal policy, given the state of the business cycle
and the looming health care costs dilemma. Today we’re running a deficit of
$300-$400 billion a year. Relative to what would be a sane, reality-based, and
appropriate fiscal policy, the Bushies are putting $500-$600 billion this year
on our collective national credit card. That bill will come due: somebody has to
pay it. To pretend that it won’t…well, that would be the equivalent of me telling Dariush that only cash matters:
that when we talk about who paid for lunch, we should count only cash put down
now, and we shouldn’t count the fact that his credit card bill will show an
extra $15 due next month.


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