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Pepperdine University School of Law

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

WSJ: Tax Policy and Morning in America

Interesting Wall Street Journal editorial:  Still Morning in America:

On tax policy, Reaganomics has also carried the day, if somewhat less completely. Tax rates in the U.S. are on average half as high now as they were in the 1970s, and almost every nation has followed the Reagan model of lower tax rates. Even Bill Clinton only dared to raise the top marginal income tax rate back to 39.5%, not 50% or 70%. Nonetheless, tax cuts still stand in disrepute among most of the media, academics and Democrats in Congress, albeit for shifting reasons....

The Gipper's critics have written an economic history of the 1990s that they portray as a repudiation of Reaganomics. In this telling -- known as Rubinomics -- the Clinton tax hikes of 1993 ended the budget deficit, which caused interest rates to fall, which produced the boom of the mid- to late-1990s. In fact, the budget deficit hardly fell at all in the immediate aftermath of the tax hike, and while long-term interest rates fell in 1993, they shot back up again in 1994 almost precisely through Election Day (rising by some 230 basis points from October 1993 to November 1994). On that day, voters repudiated the Clinton tax hikes and the specter of HillaryCare and gave Republicans control of Capitol Hill to govern on the Reaganite agenda of lowering taxes and shrinking runaway government. Both the stock and bond markets turned upward precisely on Election Day in 1994, beginning a whirlwind six-year rally. By 1998, growth and fiscal restraint delivered a budget surplus for the first time in nearly 30 years. In 1997 President Clinton signed a further reduction in the capital gains tax, which propelled investment and the stock market to even greater heights.

The latest chapter of this story is the 2003 income and investment tax cuts enacted by the current President Bush. As in 1981, opponents insisted those tax cuts would harm the economy by increasing the deficit and driving up interest rates. But in the two and a half years since those tax cuts passed, the economy and tax revenues have both surged....

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