Clarification in the Fair Tax Proposal Debate
Today, the Missouri Budget Project published a piece that attempts to address the Show-Me Institute study about the “Fair Tax” by Dr. Joseph Haslag and Abhi Sivasailam. There are a number of points of contention that I will identify here.
- The Missouri Budget Project misattributes numbers to the Show-Me Institute.
The Missouri Budget Project claims that the Show-Me Institute revised its number to from 5.11 to 6.25 percent. This second estimated percentage belongs to former state Rep. Ed Robb, not to a Show-Me Institute publication. Furthermore, Robb’s calculations were his independent evaluation of a specific piece of legislation, not a reference to the Show-Me Institute study written by Dr. Haslag and Abhi Sivasailam.
- The Missouri Budget Project takes the exemptions out of the tax base, but they do not take them out of the rebate amount. Also, they don’t communicate why these products and services are inappropriate to tax and should therefore be exempted.
- The Missouri Budget Project ignores the issue of growth rate in its calculations.
Assuming a rate of growth is standard procedure, and the Show-Me Institute study includes one, but Missouri Budget Project does not. Are they assuming a zero percent growth rate?
Dr. Haslag elaborated on this point of contention in his comment responding to “Matt” on a recent blog post by David Stokes:
The strongest case for PCE, in my view, is that reducing the tax rate on income results in faster growth. Neither MBP nor you have offered an alternative that increases the economy’s growth rate. No doubt, the tax on PCE is distortionary. To do the right experiment, we need a model of economic growth that accounts for facts observed in the world. The Ak model does so. Moreover, the economy’s equilibrium growth rate is a function of the income tax rate. By my calculations, reducing the income tax rate adds more than one-half percentage point to the state’s annual growth rate. This growth more than offsets the excess burden associated with the tax on consumer spending.
- After taking exemptions out of the tax base, the Missouri Budget Project applies the the amount of the rebate to a broad base. This is a very big difference.
Dr. Haslag responds to this in the same blog comment:
Along those lines, every time something is exempted, the rebate must shrink since the rebate is based on the concept of a refund on things that people buy that are subject to the tax. If you want to talk about accuracy, you should be aware that MBP and others have fixed the rebate while shrinking the tax base. In other words, they change the definition of the tax base and apply that definition while keeping the old definition of the tax base when they compute the rebate. There are two equations in two unknowns and the definitions must be the same across the two equations. MBP, citing ITEP, violate this definition across the two equations.
- The debate between the Missouri Budget Project and the Show-Me Institute concerns the size of the tax base and the size of the rebate, not the arithmetic.
Dr. Haslag again:
Since my calculations are made as transparent as possible, you can check my math. No one is questioning the accuracy of my arithmetic. Indeed, you are asserting my assumptions are wrong. Under your premises, my assumptions are wrong. I do not accept your premises. I digress, but I want things to be as transparent as possible.
It’s laudable that Missouri Budget Project is increasing its effort at making its analysis more transparent. At least its newest piece provides more detail about how the organization arrived at its estimate.