Paul L. Caron

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Shelf Project Goes to Washington, D.C.

Shelf Project University of Texas School of Law Alumni Magazine, Professor Calvin Johnson’s Shelf Project Seeks to Provide Congress with Efficient Revenue Options:

Calvin Johnson has fifty ways to raise $1 trillion in taxes without raising rates, and he wants to convince Congress to adopt them. Now, he may get his chance. Johnson, the Andrews & Kurth Centennial Professor at the Law School, was recently awarded a fellowship at the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan joint venture of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution based in Washington, D.C. The Tax Policy Center provides analysis for both policymakers and the public, and has a team of world-class budget and tax economists.

“It’s a chance to talk tax intensely with very good people,” Johnson said of his colleagues. “They are at the top of their profession, so I can’t tell you how much fun I think that opportunity will be.”

Johnson will use his fellowship, which began May 1 and runs through December 31, 2011, to continue his work on the Shelf Project. This is a collaborative effort with other tax professionals to develop proposals that Congress can simply “pull off the shelf” when it needs to increase revenues.

“I’ll be spending a lot of time talking to staff on both the Republican and Democratic sides,” Johnson said. “They will help me reshape the Shelf Project to be of maximum service to Congress when it’s ready to raise taxes. It’s not ready to raise taxes yet, but the time is coming—there is an impending budget catastrophe. Now is the time that the staffers should be doing the legwork, [preparing] the contingencies.”

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This is a nonpartisan plan to increase revenues at at a time when only one party favors increases? That doesn't sound very nonpartisan to me.

Posted by: mike livingston | Jun 16, 2011 6:33:34 AM

The Brookings Institute and the Urban Institute are about as non-partisan as Heritage and the NRA. The characterization of them as such reveal much about the author's worldview.

Thanks for the chuckle.

Posted by: James | Jun 16, 2011 9:44:58 AM

Calvin Johnson: “The Shelf Project is [designed] to raise revenue by making the tax base more efficient by more comprehensively describing taxpayers’ standard of living. Everybody agrees that the best tax system is low and wide, and unavoidable. That creates the fewest distortions.”

The President doesn't agree. It doesn't play into his wealth envy card.

Note, also, that Obama is ignoring recommendations from his own deficit reduction panel.

Deficit Plan Matches $3.8 Trillion Math With Tough Politics

A plan offered by the leaders of President Barack Obama’s commission to reduce the federal deficit might work. It just won’t happen.

The co-chairmen proposed a $3.8 trillion deficit-cutting plan yesterday that would trim Social Security and Medicare, reduce income-tax rates and eliminate tax breaks including the mortgage-interest deduction. It would reduce the annual deficit from $1.3 trillion this year to about $400 billion by 2015 and start reducing the $13.7 trillion national debt.

Posted by: Woody | Jun 16, 2011 10:40:52 AM

Have you ever met a tax professor who had ideas about cutting taxes? No, they all seem to think more and different taxes are better. How about a "shelf project" on cutting government spending?

Posted by: TexEcon | Jun 16, 2011 11:45:41 AM

I respect the idea, but "tax expenditures" are generally put there by very expensive industry lobbyists.
Tax exemption of life insurance? Check
Depletion rules? Check
Accelerated Depreciation? Check

Not to be crass, but they would get more bang for the buck if they spent the $4 million not on tax professionals but campaign contributions or on hookers and blow to use on members to get them to vote on the proposals.

Posted by: Justin the part time lawyer | Jun 17, 2011 7:25:40 AM