Monday, November 28, 2011

Laffer Curve Primer

In the past week I came across a couple of reminder’s of the Laffer Curve, grabbing my attention enough to cover it in a post here.

First, I just finished reading Dick Cheney’s autobiography, In My Time. I’m sure I’ll have more to say on that in future posts, but this little anecdote was fun: 

It was in the wake of our loss [Ford’s election bid in 1976] that Don Rumsfeld and I had dinner one night at the Two Continents restaurant in the Hotel Washington with economist Art Laffer, a creative guy who certainly captured my imagination with a curve he drew on the back of my napkin. What it showed was that you can raise taxes only so high before people become disinclined to work. On the other hand, it’s possible to create incentive—and economic growth—with tax cuts. The Laffer Curve subsequently became one of the hallmarks of supply-side economics. I wish I had known how historic my napkin would become so that I could have saved it (p. 78). 

I had a similar response when I first heard of the Laffer Curve. Eye opening. 

Then later in the week I came across an article by Daniel Mitchell spelling out a few basics on the Laffer Curve. One of the interesting illustrations shows how much more revenue (about 5 times more) the government took in when Reagan lowered the upper tax rate of 70% down to 28%, comparing 1980 to 1988.  

The article had links to three short videos (about 7 minutes a piece) on the theory and real world evidence for the Laffer Curve, and then the frustration with the way tax bills are measured. They are all informative and clear, but the third one may make you want to do something to change the world. The three together take less time than half a television show without commercials. Definitely worth the time investment. 

The first video gives you the basic theory of the Laffer Curve.

Video II offers real-world examples of the Laffer Curve in action.

The third video covers the frustratingly inaccurate “satic scoring” used by the Joint Committee on Taxation, causing bias toward higher taxes. 

If these concepts make sense to you, share them with a friend.

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