The United States is moving toward a possible catastrophic fiscal collapse. The country may not get there, but the risk is unmistakable and growing. The 'fiscal language' of taxes, spending, and deficits has played a huge and under appreciated role in the decisions that have pushed the nation in this dangerous direction. Part of the problem is that by focusing only on the current year, deficits permit politicians to ignore what is looming down the road. The bigger problem lies in the belief, shared by people on the left and the right alike, that 'tax cuts' and 'spending cuts' lead to smaller government, when in fact the characterization of any new policy as a change in 'taxes' or in 'spending' is purely a matter of labeling. This book proposes a better fiscal language for US budgetary policy, rooted in economic fundamentals such as wealth distribution and resource allocation in lieu of 'taxes' and 'spending'.
Daniel N. Shaviro is Wayne Perry Professor of Taxation at New York University Law School, where he has taught since 1995. He previously served on the faculty of the University of Chicago Law School from 1987 to 1996. Professor Shaviro was a Legislation Attorney for the US Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation from 1984 to 1987, and worked on the landmark Tax Reform Act of 1986. His previous books include Who Should Pay for Medicare? (2004), Making Sense of Social Security Reform (2000), When Rules Change: An Economic and Political Look at Transition Relief and Retroactivity (2000), and Do Deficits Matter? (1997). Professor Shaviro has served as a Visiting Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and chaired the Tax Sections of the American Association of Law Schools and the American Law and Economics Association. He has published articles in the Harvard Law Review, University of Chicago Law Review, Michigan Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Law Review and Tax Law Review. His blog Start Making Sense can be found at http://danshaviro.blogspot.com/.
Part I. Labels and Consequences: The Failure of our Fiscal Language: 1. Fiscal language and the fiscal crisis; 2. Taxes, spending, and the size of government; 3. Fun and games with budget deficits; Part II. The Why and How of Long-Term Budgeting: 4. What are we talking about when we talk about budget deficits?; 5. Long-term measures in lieu of the budget deficit; 6. Fiscal gap politics; Part III. Labels and Policies across Budget Categories: 7. Benign fictions? Describing social security and Medicare; 8. Tax expenditures; 9. Welfare, cash grants, and marginal rates; Part IV. Conclusion: 10. Some modest proposals.