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Economic Growth

Analysis of Fiscal Therapy: Conventional and Dynamic Estimates

PWBM projects that the proposals in Fiscal Therapy by William Gale would reduce the debt to-GDP ratio from 188 percent to 17 percent in 2050 and increase long-run economic output by 7 percent.

The Social Security 2100 Act: Effects on Social Security Finances and the Economy

The Social Security 2100 Act: Effects on Social Security Finances and the Economy
  • We project that The Social Security 2100 Act would nearly eliminate Social Security’s conventional long-range imbalance while reducing the program’s dynamic short-range imbalance.

  • The Act reduces annual shortfalls that would otherwise add to national deficits under current policy, but at the cost of new tax distortions. The two effects nearly cancel in the macroeconomy. We project that the Act decreases GDP by 0.7 percent by 2029 and decreases GDP by 2 percent by 2049.

  • Previously, PWBM showed that reforms that combined tax increases with progressive benefit reductions could boost GDP by over 5 percent by 2049.

Official BEA Measure of Real GDP Growth Meets PWBM’s Expectations

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) recently reported that real GDP grew 2.9 percent in 2018, up from 2.2 percent in 2017. This official government measure falls just below the range projected by PWBM in December of 2017 for the year 2018. At the end of December 2017, including the effects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, PWBM estimated that real GDP would grow between 3.1 and 3.6 percent in 2018.

Options to Return Social Security to Financial Balance: The Impact on Economic Growth

Options to Return Social Security to Financial Balance: The Impact on Economic Growth
  • We examine a range of policy options that put Social Security on a sustainable path.

  • The analysis emphasizes the need for analyzing Social Security reforms using deep modeling that reveals important interactions that challenge conventional wisdom.

  • Tax increases generally produce more growth than “current policy” analysis where shortfalls are combined with the standard unified surplus measure. Additional debt can be combined with changes in benefits to produce even more economic growth. Reforms that combine tax increases and progressive benefit reductions produce the most growth.

Experts Debate Impact of TCJA on Growth and Investment

The Economist’s print edition, published February 7th, reports that “Some Fights About the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Seem Over.” Public opinion polls indicate that voters think that “large corporations and rich Americans” are the ones benefiting from the tax law. Meanwhile, policy analysts continue to debate the details.

Growth in Business Investments Tied to Oil Prices, Not Tax Cuts

The New York Times reported Tuesday that the Trump Administration’s “rosy” outlook on the U.S. economy is “increasingly diverging” from economists’ forecasts. The White House predicted that the economy will continue to grow at 3 percent through 2024 (adjusted for inflation), while the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released their forecasts standing at 2.3 percent for 2019, slowing to 1.7 percent in 2020. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve’s forecast also predicts 2.3 percent growth in 2019, and Goldman Sachs suggested a more conservative 2.1 percent growth this year based on consumer confidence figures and regional business surveys.

The Price of Oil is Now a Key Driver of Business Investment

US production of crude oil has more than doubled since 2008. Starting in the mid-2000s, the application of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to tight oil formations led to a surge in US supply known as the shale boom. In this post, I discuss the shale boom’s impact on the relationship between business investment and the price of oil. I then estimate the effect of the recent rise in oil prices on investment in 2018. I find that oil prices might even account for most of the increase in the growth rate of investment in 2018.

Federal Debt Maturity in PWBM’s Dynamic OLG Model

According to USAFacts, in 2015, the federal government paid more than $220 billion in interest, which is six percent of the federal budget and more than one percent of GDP. Thus, federal interest payments are a major component of the federal budget and significantly impact on the U.S. economy. The maturity structure of federal debt--the sizes of, due dates of, and interest rates on federal debt--affects federal interest payments. Longer-term debt issued at higher interest rates increases interest payments but “locks in” those payments for a long time. Shorter-term, lower-interest debt lowers interest payments but increases the impact of changes on interest rates on the federal budget as federal debt is refinanced.

Previously, we analyzed the maturity structure of federal debt back to 1953. Below, we describe how PWBM incorporates the maturity structure of federal debt into our dynamic overlapping-generations (OLG) model to make projections of interest paid on the federal debt.

A Response to the White House’s Recent Critique of PWBM’s Tax Analysis

This past Friday, Dr. Kevin Hassett, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, critiqued Penn Wharton Budget Model’s analysis of the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” (TCJA), signed into law by President Trump in December 2017. Dr. Hassett delivered his remarks at the 2019 American Economic Association meeting. The AEA meeting is the largest annual event of academic and government economists, held this year in Atlanta, Georgia.

Analyzing the Budgetary and Incentive Effects of Senator Kamala Harris’s Proposed LIFT Act

Senator Kamala Harris recently announced a proposal to establish a new refundable tax credit. This proposal (henceforth referred to as the “LIFT credit”) would be similar in design to the existing Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), providing large payments -- up to $6,000 annually for married filers -- to low- and middle-income households. The LIFT credit would be available to households with either labor earnings or Pell grants, and would offer an option to receive benefit payments monthly rather than yearly. PWBM’s preliminary analysis suggests that on a conventional scoring basis, this policy would cost nearly $3.1 trillion over the ten year budget window (2019-2028), and would substantially change effective marginal tax rates for certain households.

The Economic Boost from the Tax Bill is Temporary

On October 11, 2018, the CNN show, “Quest Means Business” features a heated debate about the recent rate hikes by the Federal Reserve and President Trump’s disapproval of them, in which he cites recent economic growth. Opinion columnist for “The Washington Post”, Catherine Rampell, cites PWBM — alongside the Congressional Budget OfficeInternational Monetary Fund, and Federal Reserve — as finding that the economic boost from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is temporary.

As Predicted TCJA Isn’t Paying For Itself: Confirmed by Figures from the Treasury Department

Jim Tankersley emphasized how recent tax reform will not pay for itself in his New York Times article, "No, Trump’s Tax Cut Isn’t Paying for Itself (at Least Not Yet)." Even though federal revenues increased marginally in 2018, it will not be enough to cover the tax cut. On October 15th, the Treasury Department announced that despite economic growth and low unemployment, the federal budget deficit grew by 17 percent.

Tax Reform 2.0 Projected to Cost $614 Billion Over 10 Years

In Yes, the Tax Cuts Have Cost the U.S. Treasury Money Bloomberg’s Justin Fox describes how tax revenue in 2018 is lower than tax revenue in 2017. Over the first six months of 2018, the cost of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was generally in line with PWBM’s December projections.

Analysis of "Tax Reform 2.0"

Analysis of "Tax Reform 2.0"
  • Recently, the House Ways and Means Committee introduced “Tax Reform 2.0” that includes new incentives to start up a business, enhanced savings accounts and makes permanent the individual tax cuts in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

  • In April of 2018, PWBM anticipated and estimated the effects of the largest piece of this legislation that makes the TCJA individual tax cuts permanent.

  • This brief updates that analysis for the new 10-year budget window and incorporates the rest of the provisions in “Tax Reform 2.0.”

Estimates of TCJA Repatriation of Foreign Earnings on Investment and GDP

An important part of the discussion surrounding the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) was the accumulation of untaxed profits in U.S. corporations’ foreign subsidiaries, which were estimated to be as high as $2.8 trillion in 2017. Before 2018, these earnings were generally not subject to U.S. taxes unless they were paid to the U.S. parent corporation as a dividend (“repatriated”), leading many companies to accumulate profits abroad. The TCJA introduced a deemed repatriation provision, which provides a tax “holiday” for foreign earnings by taxing them at a reduced rate of 15.5 percent on cash and eight percent on other assets. Speaker Paul Ryan argued that the TCJA’s tax holiday for foreign dividend payments directly affects the economy because, “money will come back and that will help economic growth.” Indeed, many companies have already committed to significant repatriation amounts, with Apple notably pledging to pay $38 billion in tax on repatriated income.

For Every Gain, a Loss: New IRS Regulations Reduce the Cost of Tax Cuts For Pass-Through Business Owners

The passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act brought with it a new 20 percent deduction for income earned from a pass-through business. The IRS recently released proposed regulations that clarify some of the issues associated with the new deduction. Our model suggests that depending on the effectiveness of the regulations, the overall cost of the deduction could be reduced between $54 and $65 billion over the 10-year budget window.

No Bang for the Bucks - Indexing Capital Gains Doesn’t Lead to Economic Growth

In this blog entry, we use PWBM’s OLG model to explore the dynamic effects of capital gains indexation, which includes the impact of the proposed policy change on economic growth. We project that this policy change will produce no meaningful economic feedback effect over the next decade.

Strong 2018 Q2 Economic Growth Unsustainable

Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell uses Penn Wharton Budget Model’s analysis of tax reform to delve into the implications behind strong second quarter U.S. economic growth in The economy’s great. That doesn’t mean Trumponomics is.

Public Infrastructure: Avoiding the Bridge to Nowhere

This June, PWBM’s First Spring Policy Forum discussed what real world evidence has to say about public infrastructure policy. PWBM’s Jon Huntley looked at how infrastructure plans can be designed to maximize growth while Ernst & Young’s Mike Parker shared a broad picture of the impact of federal spending on infrastructure.

Recent Rise in Gas Prices Offsets Some Households’ Gains from Tax Cuts

As noted in our brief, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reduced the direct tax liability of individuals by an estimated $1.3 billion, before considering macroeconomic feedback effects, over the period 2018-27. This reduction was achieved through a number of provisions that changed the individual income tax structure. Table 1 presents the average tax cut received by Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) percentile in 2018. The overall median tax cut is $401, with larger cuts going to groups with larger AGI.