On Monday, June 18, I will be participating in the 6th Annual Columbia-Ono Conference, which is being held at the Ono Academic College in Tel Aviv, Israel. A link for the conference is available here. The morning sessions will be discussing corporate governance, while the afternoon sessions will be discussing taxes and social justice. Though I'm interested in corporate governance, readers may not be surprised to learn that I am speaking in the afternoon.
I won't be presenting a formal paper, but my twenty-minute talk (to be followed by ten minutes of discussion) has the working title "Taxing High-Income Individuals: Should We Aim for the Peak of the Laffer Curve?" I will argue that there are several reasons for answering this question "yes," which I certainly would not have said ten years ago.
The other presenters in the PM session are David Schizer, Reuven Avi-Yonah, Sagit Leviner, Yoram Margalioth, and Yariv Brauner. The papers by Schizer and, I believe, Avi-Yonah (if it's the one that's co-authored by Ohrn) are available on SSRN. I must confess I find myself less than wholly sympathetic with either, although both of the authors are good friends.
Schizer argues that we should refrain from directly addressing the horrendous damage that is being inflicted by the ongoing global economic slump, given the "uncertainties and challenges with traditional Keynesian stimulus," and instead seek to boost employment and growth by ... wait for it ... cutting the U.S. corporate tax rate! While I happen to agree that we should do this under the right overall circumstances, it certainly makes life easier for authors if the answer doesn't have to depend on the question. (Note also that another of the big motivating concerns that the paper mentions up front is the budget deficit, which a stand-alone corporate rate cut would make worse. The paper notes this problem and suggests corporate base-broadening, but is also open to 'mak[ing] up the revenue in other [unspecified] ways.")
To my mind, the fact that macroeconomists disagree does not absolve one of the responsibility to look a bit more deeply into the ongoing under-employment crisis, the seriousness of which really needs to be appreciated. The paper distresses me because I find its analysis facile and convenient. People who believe that academics in the economics and business fields (including related tax law) are overly in the tank to Wall Street will view this paper as confirmatory of their hypothesis (indeed, I know of several who do so view it).
The Avi-Yonah paper is on the other side politically, likely to be congenial to Democrats rather than Romney supporters, as it opposes recent arguments for moving at least somewhat in the direction of consumption taxation. [UPDATE: I previously had a critique of the paper in this blog post, but it's been brought to my attention that I was commenting on a draft that wasn't supposed to be public, as only the abstract has been posted on SSRN. My apologies for this error.]