Milton Friedman, meet Robert Reich
Milton Friedman introduced the idea of a “negative income tax” in his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom. The idea behind it was a way to provide welfare in the most efficient and least welfare-distorting manner possible. In the New York Times today, Robert Reich drives this point home by looking at the deleterious effects of ...
Milton Friedman introduced the idea of a "negative income tax" in his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom. The idea behind it was a way to provide welfare in the most efficient and least welfare-distorting manner possible. In the New York Times today, Robert Reich drives this point home by looking at the deleterious effects of the alternative policy possibilities -- protectionism and pork-barrel spending:
Milton Friedman introduced the idea of a “negative income tax” in his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom. The idea behind it was a way to provide welfare in the most efficient and least welfare-distorting manner possible. In the New York Times today, Robert Reich drives this point home by looking at the deleterious effects of the alternative policy possibilities — protectionism and pork-barrel spending:
Oil shocks, hurricanes and housing bubbles aside, consumers who are worried about their jobs and wages will be reluctant to buy goods and services, thereby dampening any recovery. But the new insecurity is undermining our national interest in other, less predictable ways by setting off political resistance to economic change, with negative repercussions that ripple beyond the economy. Forty years ago, free-trade agreements passed Congress with broad backing because legislators recognized that they helped American consumers and promoted global stability. But as job and wage insecurity have grown, public support for free trade has declined. The North American Free Trade Agreement, which passed by 34 votes in 1993, was a hard sale for the Clinton administration. But the recent Central American Free Trade Agreement, embracing a far smaller and less populous area, was an even harder sale for President Bush. Despite Republican control of Congress, the trade deal cleared the House in July by just two votes, and then only after heavy White House pressure. The increasing insecurity of ordinary workers also imperils our national defense by handcuffing the Pentagon. It can’t shift the defense budget to fighting terrorism because of local fears that well-paying jobs will be lost. Contrast this with the comparative ease by which the Pentagon downshifted from fighting World War II to the cold war, more than 50 years ago. Its recent base-closing recommendations ignited a political firestorm, causing even the apolitical Base Closure and Realignment Commission to retreat. The commission’s chairman justified its decision to save the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, for example, by noting that the base “is the second-largest employer in western New York.” Consider, finally, the pork that’s been larded into the federal budget. Republicans may collectively oppose wasteful spending, but as individual legislators they’ve created more pork than any Congress in history. The new $286 billion transportation act is bloated with 6,371 “special projects” with a price tag some $30 billion more than the White House wanted. The president reassured the nation that it would, at the least, “give hundreds of thousands of Americans good-paying jobs.” The new $12.3 billion energy bill cost twice what the White House sought because it’s laden with what Senator Pete Domenici, the New Mexico Republican who ushered it through Congress, defends as measures to create “hundreds of thousands of jobs.” According to the conservative watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste, pork programs have risen from fewer than 2,000 a year in the mid-1990’s to almost 14,000 this year.
Read the whole thing — Reich proposes a number of policy possibilities, including the expansion of the modern-day equivalent of the negative income tax, the earned income tax credit. I’m not sure I buy all of Reich’s proposed package, but his analysis of the political economy of the status quo is dead on.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
More from Foreign Policy
Saudi-Iranian Détente Is a Wake-Up Call for America
The peace plan is a big deal—and it’s no accident that China brokered it.
The U.S.-Israel Relationship No Longer Makes Sense
If Israel and its supporters want the country to continue receiving U.S. largesse, they will need to come up with a new narrative.
Putin Is Trapped in the Sunk-Cost Fallacy of War
Moscow is grasping for meaning in a meaningless invasion.
How China’s Saudi-Iran Deal Can Serve U.S. Interests
And why there’s less to Beijing’s diplomatic breakthrough than meets the eye.