Skip to main content

Tariffs or sales tax and corporate tax reduction?

The announcement, and backtracking, on a 20% tax on Mexican imports caused a lot of confusion yesterday. I assumed like most that this was a proposal for a tariff, which would both ditch NAFTA rules and run afoul of the WTO rules. The wall and the tariff led to a cancellation of the Mexican president's trip, and a souring of the diplomatic relations. But in all fairness, it seems that this had little to do with Mexico.

The Republican Tax Plan basically is to eliminate the corporate income tax, and to substitute if with a destination based cash flow tax (DBCFT, is the clumsy acronym of the beast; on this see Jared Bernstein). The idea is that this would reduce the incentive of US corporations to relocate abroad to scape the income tax, and to basically introduce a national sales tax. The tax is border adjusted, so to speak, since imports sold in the US would pay taxes, but exports wouldn't.

So it seems to me that Trump was trying to use the GOP tax plan, that already existed, and is still in place, as far as I understand, and use it to claim that as Mexican imports will be taxed, they will be paying for the wall, that it seems he really plans to build. They seem to at least temporarily backtracked on the proposal, mainly I think to avoid jeopardizing the tax plan, which seems to me to be regressive, sales taxes after all hit everybody, and solving the problem of corporate tax evasion, by making the US a tax haven, and shifting the burden to consumers (just a hunch, I'll wait for tax exports to do the hard work of calculating the effects).

The impact of such a policy, by the way, is less clear than one would think. Josh Mason wrote something about it here. Like him I'm skeptical that a sales tax on imports would bring a lot of manufacturing jobs back. But even if this reduces the trade deficit, with Mexico and other countries (China?), which again I doubt, the problem of the quality of jobs here (and manufacturing matters among other things because of the quality of jobs) in the US does not depend fundamentally on the trade deficit per se. On that front, what will be done with labor regulations, the minimum wage, and the overall macroeconomic picture seems to be more relevant, and there are reasons to be concerned.


Popular posts from this blog

A few brief comments on Brexit and the postmortem of the European Union

Another end of the world is possible
There will be a lot of postmortems for the European Union (EU) after Brexit. Many will suggest that this was a victory against the neoliberal policies of the European Union. See, for example, the first three paragraphs of Paul Mason's column here. And it is true, large contingents of working class people, that have suffered with 'free-market' economics, voted for leaving the union. The union, rightly or wrongly, has been seen as undemocratic and responsible for the economics woes of Europe.

The problem is that while it is true that the EU leaders have been part of the problem and have pursued the neoliberal policies within the framework of the union, sometimes with treaties like the Fiscal Compact, it is far from clear that Brexit and the possible demise of the union, if the fever spreads to France, Germany and other countries with their populations demanding their own referenda, will lead to the abandonment of neoliberal policies. Aust…

A brief note on Venezuela and the turn to the right in Latin America

So besides the coup in Brazil (which was all but confirmed by the last revelations, if you had any doubts), and the electoral victory of Macri in Argentina, the crisis in Venezuela is reaching a critical level, and it would not be surprising if the Maduro administration is recalled, even though right now the referendum is not scheduled yet.

The economy in Venezuela has collapsed (GDP has fallen by about 14% or so in the last two years), inflation has accelerated (to three digit levels; 450% or so according to the IMF), there are shortages of essential goods, recurrent energy blackouts, and all of these aggravated by persistent violence. Contrary to what the press suggests, these events are not new or specific to left of center governments. Similar events occurred in the late 1980s, in the infamous Caracazo, when the fall in oil prices caused an external crisis, inflation, and food shortages, which eventually, after the announcement of a neoliberal economic package that included the i…

What is the 'Classical Dichotomy'?