A recent report by the Hamilton Project, an economic policy project on whose advisory council I serve, reviewed 23 studies of the impact of tax-rate changes on the propensity to work and found that most of them concluded there was no meaningful effect. Tax expenditure reductions, on the other hand, will not raise nearly the revenues needed for sufficient deficit reduction without increasing taxes on the middle class significantly and are likely to disrupt important social and economic goals, though many economists don’t acknowledge that.
When you compare raising the marginal rates for roughly 2 million Americans to phasing out health insurance exclusions that would affect 150 million Americans — even if some reform should be done — I don’t think it’s a close call substantively or politically.
We should let the Bush high-end tax cuts expire, with an achievable, progressive reduction in tax expenditures. And we should have spending cuts, including entitlement reforms, equally matched by revenue increases. The entire program — including budgetary room for public investment and a moderate upfront jobs package — could be enacted now and deferred for a limited time with a serious mechanism to guarantee implementation.