robert reich: “the way to prevent the looming recession” September 17, 2007Posted by KG in econ, news, politics.
With the economy heading for recession, all eyes are on Ben Bernanke and the Fed, and the question everyone is asking is how much the Fed will cut short-term interest rates to stimulate the economy. But a Fed rate cut won’t stimulate the economy. That’s because lending institutions, fearing their portfolios are far riskier than they assumed several months ago, won’t lend lots more just because the Fed lowers interest rates.
Average consumers are already so deep in debt — record levels of mortgage debt, bank debt, and credit-card debt — they can’t borrow much more, anyway. With average home prices dropping faster than they’ve dropped since the Great Depression, many can’t even refinance. And given last Friday’s report showing the first employment drop in four years, people are not in the mood to keep spending.
So if a Fed rate cut can’t prevent a recession, what can? Putting more money into American pockets by cutting their taxes. Yes, I know: Tax cuts have gone out of style ever since Democrats became born-again deficit hawks, and George Bush squandered the $5 trillion surplus he inherited in 2000 mainly by cutting taxes on the rich.
But with a recession looming, Democrats need to stop being the party of Herbert Hoover economics. And the Republican need to understand tax cuts for the rich won’t help because the rich don’t increase their spending when their taxes are cut. They already spend as much as they want to spend. That’s what it means to be rich.
It’s middle and lower-income Americans who spend more when their taxes are cut. And because the biggest tax they face is the payroll tax, the payroll tax needs to be cut in order to keep them spending and avoid a recession.
I say exempt the first $15,000 of earnings from payroll taxes for a year, starting as soon as possible. Sure, this may cause the budget deficit to widen a bit. But if the economy goes into the tank, the deficit will be far bigger.