Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Expiring tax cuts - early notice of NYU Law School event

Readers in the NYC area may be interested in an upcoming event that I've been helping to organize at NYU Law School, to take place of Wednesday, October 27, from 12:20 to 1:50 pm. Every week in this slot, we have a "Forum," aimed mainly at law students, discussing various legal topics of professional or intellectual interest. A typical session has about 30 minutes of panel discussion, followed by an hour of Q & A with the audience. On October 27, the topic will be the expiring tax cuts for individuals.

While typically a mainly in-house event, I've been told that non-NYU people, such as those who might attend a session of our Tax Policy Colloquium, are welcome. (But they should probably send me word that they are interested, so I can make sure the front desk at the law school has their names.)

Our panelists will be Diane Lim Rogers of the Concord Coalition, Alan Viard of the American Enterprise Institute, and myself as moderator and discussion facilitator. It's possible we'll be adding one more speaker, depending on a particular individual's availability. But Diane and Alan alone should make this a great event. Among other virtues, they are both intellectually honest but have different points of view.

Here's the event description that we'll be officially disseminating shortly:


"The United States tax system is on a collision course with reality. Experts on the left and right agree that the U.S. is on an unsustainable fiscal path, and it is difficult to deny sharply increasing income inequality. Yet the only debate between Democrats and Republicans regarding the expiring Bush era tax cuts is whether to repeal those cuts for the very highest income tax bracket. Will this work as a long-term answer? What about the mushrooming budget deficit? Or income inequality? We have a remarkable panel of experts to address these issues – and plenty of time for your questions! Please join us for what promises to be a terrific forum."

And here's a more detailed event description that we won't be disseminating officially, as reliable sources told me it sounded too wonky or geeky (I'm not sure which, as said sources were being polite to me):

"Tax rate cuts for individuals that were enacted in 2001 will expire at the end of this year, unless and until Congress acts. This would cause all taxpaying individuals’ income tax rate brackets to rise back to their pre-2001 levels, with the top rate rising from 35 percent to its prior level of 39.6 percent.

"Both the Obama Administration and Congressional Republicans agree that all of the expiring rate cuts, other than that for the top bracket, should be extended indefinitely. Thus, the only dispute in Washington concerns the expiring top bracket rate cut, which the Republicans but not the Administration want to extend.

"Despite this tax-cutting consensus, however, responsible experts on both the left and the right generally agree that the U.S. is on an unsustainable long-term fiscal path, and that this is likely to lead to significant tax increases at some point soon, even though neither party is currently willing to address this issue.

"The question of what to do about the expiring tax cuts also is complicated by the fact that the U.S. economy is currently (at best) just out of a severe recession, with a threat of relapse, and with persistent, extremely high unemployment levels. It also is complicated by differing views about U.S. income inequality, which has increased over the last twenty years by reason of the relative gains enjoyed by people in the 99th percentile (and particularly its upper reaches)."

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