Are We a 15 Percent or a 19 Percent Society?

Over the long term, federal revenues as a share of GDP have averaged around 18 percent over the past 20 years.  Currently, federal revenues as a share of GDP are about 15 percent.  Some of the difference arises from lower tax collections because of the recession, but most is the result of the Bush Tax cuts.  Obama cut taxes even more (yes, he has cut taxes–payroll tax reduction, housing tax credit, etc.).

The question is, do we want to be a 15 percent society?  I guess the Teapartiers would say yes.  But this would not just mean that we need to do things like slowly extend the retirement age and bend the cost curve on health care–it would mean that to reach long run sustainability, we would have to cut current benefit levels.

Even Paul Ryan’s budget plan presumes revenues would increase to 18 19 percent of GDP–it just doesn’t specify how to get there.  Personally, I think we can afford to spend even more on the sick and the elderly (and children), but we need to be willing to pay for it.  For the time being, I would be happy to return to the long-term revenue average.

If we follow the 15 percent path, we will be kicking grandmothers out of their wheelchairs.  We will be allowing children to be malnourished.  This is not demagoguery.  This is the cost of not being willing to tax ourselves at the level we have for many years taxed ourselves.

About Richard K. Green 102 Articles

Affiliation: University of Southern California

Richard K. Green, Ph.D., is the Director of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate. He holds the Lusk Chair in Real Estate and is Professor in the School of Policy, Planning, and Development and the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California.

Prior to joining the USC faculty, Dr. Green spent four years as the Oliver T. Carr, Jr., Chair of Real Estate Finance at The George Washington University School of Business. He was Director of the Center for Washington Area Studies and the Center for Real Estate and Urban Studies at that institution. Dr. Green also taught real estate finance and economics courses for 12 years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he was Wangard Faculty Scholar and Chair of Real Estate and Urban Land Economics. He also has been principal economist and director of financial strategy and policy analysis at Freddie Mac.

His research addresses housing markets, housing policy, tax policy, transportation, mortgage finance and urban growth. He is a member of two academic journal editorial boards, and a reviewer for several others.

His work is published in a number of journals including the American Economic Review, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, Journal of Urban Economics, Land Economics, Regional Science and Urban Economics, Real Estate Economics, Housing Policy Debate, Journal of Housing Economics, and Urban Studies.

His book with Stephen Malpezzi, A Primer on U.S. Housing Markets and Housing Policy, is used at universities throughout the country. His work has been cited or he has been quoted in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek and the Economist, as well as other outlets.

Dr. Green earned his Ph.D. and M.S. in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He earned his A.B. in economics from Harvard University.

Visit: Real Estate and Urban Economics Blog

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.