Paul L. Caron

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Staudt Presents If Major Wars Affect (Judicial) Fiscal Policy, How & Why? Today at BC

Nancy Staudt (Northwestern) presents If Major Wars Affect (Judicial) Fiscal Policy, How & Why? today at Boston College today as part of its Tax Policy Workshop Series. Here is the abstract:

This paper seeks to identify and explain the effects of major wars on U.S. Supreme Court decision-making in the context of taxation. At first cut, it may not seem obvious why we should expect to observe a correlation between military activities and judicial fiscal policy. After all, the justices have no authority whatsoever to engage in military planning or to adopt laws that relieve the budgetary pressures that tend to emerge in times crisis. The Court, however, is able to contribute to the revenue-raising efforts indirectly by adopting a pro-government stance in the cases it decides in wartime periods. As the probability of a government win increases, for example, the expected revenue to the federal fisc also increases.

Relying on Supreme Court tax decisions issued between the years 1909-2000, this paper identifies a strong and positive correlation between major wartime activity and the probability that the government will prevail. This pro-government bias appears to operate through the judicial belief that Congress and the President are better suited to address national emergencies. This perceived imbalance of expertise, however, does not lead the Court to adopt a strategy of total deference, but rather a restricted form that involves accommodation only on issues that Congress and the President have signaled are important to the on-going war activities. These findings are robust and rule out the possibility that the Court is motivated by short-term irrational exuberance for federal policymakers associated with the so-called “rally-effect” that emerges when Americans feel threatened by forces abroad.

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