Chances are, you’re going to spend tonight finalizing your taxes, making sure that you ferret every last deduction. And probably pretty pleased to be getting these deductions; but when you dig in a bit deeper, you may not be so sure — at least that’s what Betsey Stevenson and I argue in our latest column.
In fact, tax breaks are no different from either government handouts, or federal mandates, whether evaluated in terms of your finances, the government’s finances, or incentives:
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Instead of looking at all the breaks for mortgage interest, health care, retirement savings and so on as deductions, picture the government writing you a check for each item. This equivalence between tax deductions and government spending leads economists to call them “tax expenditures.” Reformers have hit on an even more pointed description: spending through the tax code.
A lot of us were disappointed in the latest jobs report. Non-farm payrolls grew by only 54,000. By contrast, a good recovery requires growth of several hundred thousand jobs a month. But my dinner table conversations with Betsey helped me put it in perspective. (And yes, given her current job, this explains the somewhat political nature of this post.) Her comparison: Through the entire eight years of the (Dubya) Bush administration, non-farm payrolls grew by an average of only 11,000 per month. OK, the Great Recession explains some of this. But not a lot. Let’s cherry-pick the most favorable sample we can, focusing on the period through to the absolute peak in employment, which occurred in January 2008. This still yields average jobs growth of only 66,000. Read More »
I can’t tell whether I’m writing this as a very proud significant-other, a jealous co-author, or a pleased colleague, but whatever it is, I can’t resist passing on some good news: Betsey Stevenson recently learned that the Labor and Employment Relations Association is awarding her the John Dunlop Scholar Award, typically awarded to a labor economist in the first decade of their careers. The award is “to recognize outstanding academic contributions to research by recent entrants to the field.” It’s a very flattering acknowledgment, and she’s following in the footsteps of Jon Guryan, Alex Mas, Nick Bloom, David Lee, Marianne Bertrand, Armin Falk and David Autor, among other labor luminaries. Read More »
An interesting observation about the potential policy impact of “happiness economics” in this weekend’s Financial Times from the always-astute Tim Harford… Read More »
We recently solicited your questions for Betsey Stevenson, a sometimes Freakonomics contributor and newly minted Chief Economist of the Department of Labor. Your questions were excellent and varied, and Betsey’s responses cover everything from persistent unemployment to parental leave. Thanks to Betsey and everyone who participated. Read More »
The Freakonomics blog will have to do without Betsey Stevenson for the next year as she’ll be serving as the Chief Economist of the Department of Labor (DOL). Betsey has agreed to answer your questions about her new position. Read More »
Jezebel, the blog devoted to “celebrity, sex, fashion,” has just referred to the “hippest-economist-ever Betsey Stevenson.” Read More »
Yale’s business school just published an interesting interview with Betsey Stevenson-my favorite economist. Read More »