The Laffer, popularized by Reagan administration economist Art Laffer, says that certain high tax rates restrict growth and therefore if rates were lowered, growth would pick up and more than make up for any lost revenues. The reduction in rates leaves the government and taxpayers wealthier than before. Dan Mitchell has regularly explained the effects of the Laffer Cruve, but here he details how journalists especially don’t seem to get it.
Seven years ago, I wrote about the “Butterfield Effect,” which is a term used to mock clueless journalists.
A former reporter for the New York Times, Fox Butterfield, became a bit of a laughingstock in the 1990s for publishing a series of articles addressing the supposed quandary of how crime rates could be falling during periods when prison populations were expanding. A number of critics sarcastically explained that crimes rates were falling because bad guys were behind bars and invented the term “Butterfield Effect” to describe the failure of leftists to put 2 + 2 together.
Journalists are especially susceptible to silly statements when writing about the real-world impact of tax policy.
They don’t realize (or prefer not to acknowledge) that changes in tax rates alter incentives to engage in productive behavior, and this leads to changes in taxable income. Which leads to changes in tax revenue, a relationship known as the Laffer Curve.
Here are some remarkable examples of the Butterfield Effect.
- A newspaper article that was so blind to the Laffer Curve that it actually included a passage saying, “receipts are falling dramatically short of targets, even though taxes have increased.”
- Another article was entitled, “Few Places to Hide as Taxes Trend Higher Worldwide,” because the reporter apparently was clueless that tax havens were attacked precisely so governments could raise tax burdens.
- In another example of laughable Laffer Curve ignorance, the Washington Post had a story about tax revenues dropping in Detroit “despite some of the highest tax rates in the state.”
- Likewise, another news report had a surprised tone when reporting on the fully predictable news that rich people reported more taxable income when their tax rates were lower.
And now we can add to the collection.
Here are some excerpts from a report by a Connecticut TV station.
Connecticut’s state budget woes are compounding with collections from the state income tax collapsing, despite two high-end tax hikes in the past six years. …wealthy residents are leaving, and the ones that are staying are making less, or are not taking their profits from the stock market until they see what happens in Washington. …It now looks like expected revenue from the final Income filing will be a whopping $450 million less than had been expected.
Reviewing the first sentence, it would be more accurate to replace “despite” with “because.”
Read more from Dan here.